Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens
Bethel To High Court: Appeals Court of Georgia Judge Charles “Charlie” Bethel is the newest Georgia Supreme Court justice, appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. He fills the vacancy left by former Chief Justice P. Harris Hines’ retirement.
Bethel, from Dalton, previously served as a state senator from the 54th District and a Dalton city alderman as well as director of corporate affairs for J&J Industries.
He was selected in 2008 as one of Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40 leaders and has been named five times to the magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians list.
Chief Justice Harold Melton called Bethel “a dedicated public servant and an exceptional jurist.”
Bethel has a bachelor’s degree from UGA’s Terry College of Business and a law degree from the university’s School of Law.
No Paper Ballots: Georgians who took advantage of early voting and those who head to the polls on Nov. 6 for the 2018 General Election are voting the old-fashioned way – using electronic voting machines.
U.S District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled in September that Georgia can continue to use the machines, despite concerns that they might be hacked.
The ruling came in response to a request for an injunction from a group of individuals and organizations concerned with the integrity and safety of the machines. Such an injunction would have required Georgia’s nearly 7 million voters to switch to paper ballots.
Totenberg’s ruling was critical of the defendants – including secretary of state and candidate for governor Brian Kemp – saying they “have delayed in grappling with the heightened critical cybersecurity issues of our era posed for the state’s dated, vulnerable voting system that provides no independent paper audit trail.”
She also noted that the plaintiffs did not bring their motions in time “to allow for thoughtful, though expedited, remedial relief despite the important, substantive content of their evidentiary submissions.”
Coomer To Appeals Court: Former House Majority Whip Christian Coomer, a Cartersville Republican representing the 14th District, has been named by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Coomer, an attorney, is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a part-time Air Force judge advocate. He was named Legislator of the Year in 2017 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He is a graduate of Lee University and has a law degree from the UGA School of Law.
Primary Election Do-over: State Rep. Dan Gasaway (R-Homer) will have another shot at retaining his General Assembly seat. His apparent loss to Republican challenger Chris Erwin in the May primary was called into question when it was determined that Habersham County officials had incorrectly put some voters in the wrong districts and that 70 of them had voted in the election. Gasaway lost by 67 votes.
Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat ruled that the new primary election will take place Tuesday, Dec. 4, which is the date set for any general election runoffs needed. There is no democrat in the race, so the primary winner will represent House District 28.
New Airport Head: The former deputy general manager of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, John Selden, has been named general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He succeeds Balram Bheodari, who served as interim general manager and will return to his previous deputy general manager job.
Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport, has had several top management changes in the last few years and a state Senate committee is studying the possibility of a state takeover of the airport.
Graduation Rate Up: Georgia’s high school graduation rate increased to 81.6 percent in 2018, an all-time high, up from 80.6 percent in 2017.
The Georgia Department of Education says 74 school districts in the state had graduation rates at or above 90 percent. The calculation uses a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, as required by federal law.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release, “Georgia’s graduation rate continues to rise because our public-school students have access to more opportunities than ever before” and cited “an unprecedented emphasis on supporting the whole child and making sure every single student understands the relevance of what they’re learning.”
Preczewski Retiring: Georgia Gwinnett College President Stanley “Stas” Preczewski is retiring in May. He has held the office since 2014; prior to that, he served as vice president for academic and student affairs at the college and on the faculty of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Georgia Gwinnett is the newest of the state’s public colleges, with an enrollment of 12,500.