ups, downs and in-betweens
Primary Colors: Georgia’s 2012 Presidential Preference Primary will be held Tuesday, March 6 – making it early, but not early enough to ruffle any national Republican feathers. Only four states – Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina and New Hampshire – are officially allowed to hold primaries or caucuses before the first Tuesday in March. Those that jump the gun – like Florida – with the hope of having a stronger say in the selection of President Barack Obama’s 2012 Republican opponent risk losing half of their delegates to the Republican National convention.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp set the date after conferring with Georgia’s Republican leadership and finding no strong desire to buck the national GOP by setting an earlier date.
In a statement, Georgia Republican Party Chair Sue Everhart indicated that Georgia Republican voters would like some attention from the candidates vying for their party’s nomination.
“Any candidate wishing to receive our state’s support in next year’s election must first earn it,” she says. “I trust that the Republican presidential candidates will consider this an open invitation to visit the Peach State.”
Money Men: Steve McCoy is the new state treasurer, and State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) is the new deputy state treasurer. The appointments were made by Gov. Nathan Deal. McCoy is moving up from the deputy role, which he has held since August; Seabaugh served in the Senate since 2000 and has been CFO of a company in Newnan.
Special Elections: Elections to fill two state house vacancies (Districts 25 and 10) and two senate vacancies (Districts 50 and 28) will take place Tuesday, Nov. 8. These are non-partisan elections with no party primaries, although the candidates’ party affiliations will be noted on the ballot.
If a run-off election is needed, it will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Brand-New District: The new North Georgia Congressional district, the 14th, has already drawn two announced candidates, both Gaines-ville Republicans: State Rep. Doug Collins, a lawyer and chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and Martha Zoller, a radio talk-show host. The 14th District includes all or portions of 20 counties in North Georgia, including the Gainesville area.
Stormy Weather: Georgia’s well-regarded state climatologist David Stooksbury, a UGA professor, was replaced abruptly in September by the Deal Administration in favor of Bill Murphey, an employee of the state Environmental Protection Division.
Stooksbury, who had been Georgia’s climatologist since 1999, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he received no notice from the governor’s office about his termination. He will continue to teach in Athens.
Health Honors: State Senator Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-Pooler) was named 2011 Legislator of the Year by the Georgia Rural Health Association (GRHA). The association awards the honor to the General Assembly member “who demonstrates wisdom and foresight in dealing with rural health issues, understanding of rural health and exemplary leadership in addressing the needs of rural areas and resolution of their health problems.” The GRHA is celebrating 30 years as an association.
Bipartisan Vote: The U.S. Senate passed unanimously a bill introduced by Georgia’s Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican, and California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 is named for a Peace Corps volunteer from Georgia who was murdered in 2009 while she served in Africa. The legislation seeks to provide better security and protection measures for Peace Corps members. A House version has passed in committee and awaits action by the full House of Representatives.
Puzey, from Cumming, was killed shortly after she reported a colleague for allegedly molesting young girls the volunteers were teaching. Isakson has been working with Puzey’s family to achieve justice and to pass a law that would offer more protection for the volunteers.
“Kate Puzey was an extraordinary young woman who lived her life in service to others and strived to make a difference in parts of the world that are desperate for hope.” Isakson says in a press release. “She is an inspiration to me and to many others.”
The new legislation essentially provides Peace Corps volunteers the same sort of whistleblower protection available to federal employees. It also requires the Peace Corps to develop sexual assault risk-reduction and response training tailored to the countries where volunteers serve.
College Retirements: Two more University System of Georgia college presidents have announced their retirements and will step down at the end of the calendar year. Dr. John Randolph “Randy” Pierce will leave Georgia Highlands College, and Dr. John Bryant Black will retire from East Georgia College.
Meanwhile, the Board of Regents has formed committees to conduct national searches for top-level vacancies at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and at Valdosta State University. Dr. Dorothy Leland was the former Milledgeville school president, and Dr. Patrick Schloss was the Valdosta president. Both left last summer.