Political Notes: Ups, Downs and Inbetweens
Fitzgerald at CDC: Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, an obstetrician-gynecologist who was commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, is the new director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
Fitzgerald, 71, succeeds Tom Frieden, who headed the CDC for eight years.
In her new role, Fitzgerald oversees an agency charged with protecting Americans’ health and safety, combatting infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika and dealing with a growing opioid crisis; but it faces sharp budget cuts proposed by the Trump Administration.
“I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead,” Fitzgerald said in a press release, “yet I am confident that the successes we have had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC.”
Fitzgerald ran unsuccessfully for Georgia’s 7th District Congressional seat in 1992 and in 1994. She has an undergraduate degree from Georgia State University and an M.D. from Emory University, and she served as an Air Force officer before going into private practice.
Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal succeeds Fitzgerald as interim commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Lively Insurance Race: Now that incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has said he will not run for a third term, the race is heating up.
On the Democratic side, health advocate Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, has announced her candidacy. Tomeka Kimbrough, an insurance agent, has also filed paperwork required to make a run.
On the Republican side, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence and Shane Mobley, a healthcare provider, are in. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Jim Beck, an aide in the insurance office, and Jim Kingston, an insurance executive and son of former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, are also considering runs.
New Ports Authority Member: Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Doug Hertz, president and CEO of United Distributors, to the Georgia Ports Authority board of directors. Hertz, from Atlanta, is the founder and chairman of Camp Twin Lakes and sits on the Georgia Power board of directors.
Deal re-appointed board members Jimmy Allgood, from Dublin, chairman of Allgood Pest Solutions, and Tifton’s Julie Hunt, president of J.H. Services Inc.
Judicial Nominations: President Donald Trump has nominated three men for U.S. district court judgeships in Georgia. They are Court of Appeals judges Tripp Self and Billy Ray, and Atlanta attorney Michael Brown. All must be confirmed by the Senate.
U.S. Attorney Nominees: Former state Rep. B.J. Pak and Albany attorney Charlie Peeler have been selected as U.S. Attorneys for Georgia by President Trump and await confirmation. Pak would head the office in Atlanta, and Peeler would head the Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office.
Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, have expressed their support.
Taking Elections Work In-house: The Georgia Secretary of State’s office will soon handle work that has been farmed out to the Kennesaw State University elections center for 15 years. The office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp and KSU have signed an agreement that will terminate the working relationship at the end of June 2018, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
KSU’s center experienced security lapses involving a server that reportedly exposed more than 6 million voter records; the lapses were cited in a lawsuit filed in Fulton County this summer over the results of the special election held in June to fill the 6th District Congressional seat.
In Memoriam: Charles “Hugh” Hardison, former commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Public Safety, died in July after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
New Leader: Neal Weaver is the new president of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, named by the Board of Regents. He comes from Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where he was vice president for university advancement and innovation.
Wray Heading FBI: Atlanta attorney Christopher Wray is the new FBI director, after winning Senate confirmation by a vote of 92-5, with five Democrats opposed. He earned unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to the full Senate vote.
Wray was a partner with the King & Spalding law firm at the time of his confirmation and is a former federal prosecutor. He replaces former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump in May.