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Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens

In Memoriam: Veteran reporter and columnist Tom Crawford, who covered Georgia politics with wit and insight for more than 30 years, died this summer after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 67.

Crawford, the dean of the Capitol press corps, was editor of Georgia Report, widely read by politicians and lobbyists. For several years, he wrote a monthly column for Georgia Trend.

He was a Georgia native, UGA Grady College graduate and former editor of The Red & Black student newspaper.


The Race Is On: It didn’t take long for Georgia’s bruising primary election season to morph into a bruising general election season.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp beat fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle convincingly in the July runoff to determine the GOP gubernatorial candidate. He won with 69 percent of the vote just days after President Donald Trump endorsed him. Kemp now faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the November general election; she is vying to become the first African-American female governor in the country. The contest has garnered national attention.


More State Races: In the runoff for lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan narrowly defeated state Sen. David Shafer and will run against Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico, a political newcomer who is a Cobb County businessperson.

In the secretary of state runoff, Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger beat former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle; he will run against Democrat John Barrow, a former U.S. congressman, and Smythe DuVal, the Libertarian candidate.

The only statewide Democratic runoff race saw Otha Thornton defeat Sid Chapman for the right to run for state school superintendent; he faces incumbent Republican Richard Woods in November.

New Faces In Congressional Contests: In the Democratic primary runoff, Lucy McBath defeated Kevin Abel and will face Republican incumbent Rep. Karen Handel in the 6th Congressional District race in November. The district includes portions of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties.

Carolyn Bourdeaux beat David Kim in the 7th District race and will face Republican incumbent Rob Woodall. That district takes in portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.

Both McBath and Bourdeaux are political newcomers.


Grant To Appeals Court: Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, by a 52-46 vote, to serve on the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta.

Grant, a native Atlantan, previously served as solicitor general for the state of Georgia and was a law clerk for Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Supreme Court.

Grant worked in the White House during the George W. Bush Administration and was on the staff of Gov. Nathan Deal when he was in Congress.


Leaving Early: An ill-considered appearance on a TV show ended former state Rep. Jason Spencer’s tenure in office. The Woodbine Republican resigned, under pressure from House Speaker David Ralston and Gov. Nathan Deal, after he appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime program, Who Is America? On the show, Spencer used the n-word several times, bared his buttocks, offensively portrayed a “Chinese tourist” and took an “upskirt” photo of a woman wearing a burqa.

Spencer, who was slated to leave the General Assembly in January – having lost in the May Republican primary to Steven Sainz – apologized and claimed he was duped into the appearance. Nonetheless, he responded to calls for his resignation and gave up his seat early.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway noted that “upskirting” is a crime in Georgia, as a result of a 2017 law that Spencer himself voted for.

Sainz has no Democratic opposition in November and will represent Georgia’s House District 180.


Ports Reappointments: Gov. Nathan Deal has reappointed three members of the 13-member Georgia Ports Authority board: Ben H. Hall Jr., William D. McKnight and Joel O. Wooten.

Hall, of Dublin, is chair of Dublin Construction Co. Inc. and B.H. Hall Ready Mixed Concrete; he is a former chair of the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority and former board member of Associated General Contractors of Georgia.

McKnight, from Augusta, is president of McKnight Construction Co., a former president of the Augusta Country Club and former board member of Associated General Contractors of Georgia.

Wooten, from Columbus, is an attorney and managing partner of Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP. He is a former chair and member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

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