Political Notes: November 2013
New Economic Development Head: Chris Carr, former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, takes over this month as the new commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Develop-ment. He succeeds Chris Cummiskey, who left in October to take a position with Southern Company.
Carr, who has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia, has worked for Georgia-Pacific, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird.
“Chris Carr is respected throughout the state,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a press release announcing Carr’s appointment. “I trust he will pick up where Chris Cummiskey has left off and bring more economic expansion to Georgia.”
In Isakson’s office, well-regarded Capitol Hill veteran Joan Kirchner, who has worked for the senator since 2005, becomes Chief of Staff; she previously held that position with former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller.
Balfour Indicted: State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) has been indicted by a Fulton County Grand Jury on 18 charges related to his Georgia General Assembly expense vouchers.
The indictment includes 16 counts of Making A False Certificate, one count of Theft By Taking and one count of False Statement and Writing.
A news release from Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says the charges arise from “expense vouchers indicating that he was entitled to reimbursement for mileage and per diem expenses to which, it is alleged, he was not entitled.”
The charges could result in a maximum of 95 years in prison and/or fines up to $17,000.
Assistant Attorney General Laura Pfis-ter and Senior Assistant Attor-ney General Da-vid McLaughlin are prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Georgia.
Balfour has previously said he made inadvertent errors on his expense reports; he was fined earlier by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Balfour, a former head of the Senate Rules Committee, was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992. Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint a three-judge panel to determine whether or not Balfour can continue to serve in the legislature while his case is resolved.
Getting Fit: The new Capitol Hill Fitness Center, for state employees, opens for business Nov. 4 at 2 Peach-tree. The center is operated by the Georgia Department of Public Health, which says the facility is funded entirely by membership fees.
Filling Seats: One state senate seat and three house seats will be filled by voters in a special election Nov. 5.
According to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, Democrat Dewey McClain of Lawrenceville is the sole candidate for the State House District 100 seat, to succeed Brian Thomas, who resigned to take a job out of state.
Four candidates, all Republicans, qualified for House District 104: Teresa Cantrell, Dacula; Chuck Efstration, Auburn; Tim Puckett, Buford; and Todd Tyson, Dacula. They will vie for the seat vacated by Donna Sheldon, who resigned to run for the U.S. House.
In House District 127, three Democrats are running to succeed the late Rep. Quincy Murphy, who died in August; they are Diane Evans, Avera; Dianne Murphy, Augusta; and Brian Prince, Augusta.
The race for Senate District 14 has drawn five candidates: Democrat Christopher Nesmith, Adairsville, and Republicans Matt Laughridge, Car-tersville; Nicole Ebbeskotte, Wood-stock; Bruce Thompson, White; and Dwight Pullen, Canton.
The winner replaces Barry Louder-milk, who resigned to run for Congress.
Under Fire: Georgia’s State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, has been sharply criticized by Democrats and others for statements indicating he is trying to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. His comments, made at a Floyd County Republican meeting, were widely disseminated via YouTube: “The problem is Obamacare. We got to now determine what we can do to solve the problem. Let me tell you what we are doing – everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”
Hudgens told the audience his office is using a test for insurance agents to license healthcare navigators, even though the federal government says navigators cannot be required to be insurance agents.