Political Notes: October 2010

The Race Is On: Georgia’s successful pursuit of some $400 million in federal “Race to the Top” education funds presented something of a dilemma for state officials and candidates. Nobody seriously suggested giving the money back, but many found themselves having to parse their comments carefully. Republicans didn’t want to say too many nice things about the Obama Administration’s Department of Education, which selected Georgia as one of nine winning states; Democrats didn’t want to say too many nice things about the Perdue Administration’s achievement in securing the funds.

Gov. Sonny Perdue called the federal grant “a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”

Republican state school superintendent candidate John Barge, a critic of the “Race” application, nonetheless indicated he would administer the program, should he be elected.

Democratic superintendent candidate Joe Martin issued a statement congratulating “the people at the State who have worked so hard to obtain this grant,” but warned it is “only a Band-Aid for the huge cuts in State funding to our schools in recent years.”

Macon Sen. Robert Brown, Geor-gia’s Senate Democratic leader, came out swinging. He offered congratulations to Georgia educators but zinged Republicans for their simultaneous criticism of federal stimulus funds and celebration of the mega-million-dollar federal grant.

“Republican leadership at the Capitol has erected a stunning monument to hypocrisy,” Brown says in a press release. “Despite their full-throated opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Georgia’s Republican leadership is today celebrating the award of $400- million federal stimulus dollars in the Race to the Top Program. Their sudden embrace of the federal government is a prime example of Republican hypoc-risy under the Gold Dome.

“When the public is watching, Republicans rail against the President, but when the cameras are off, the same politicians run to the phone to call Washington and beg for more stimulus money.”

Distinguished Georgian: George T. Smith, a former state Supreme Court justice, lieutenant governor and Speaker of the state House of Rep-resentatives, died in August at the age of 93. Smith was the only person ever to win contested elections in all three branches of Georgia’s government.

Reporting on a luncheon held by former governors Carl Sanders and Roy Barnes (now, of course, the Democratic candidate for his old job), to celebrate Smith’s 92nd birthday, Tom Crawford wrote in the October 2008 issue of Georgia Trend that Smith kept a picture of a farmer plowing behind a mule on the wall of his Marietta law office after he retired from public life. When Barnes asked him why, Smith replied, “I keep it there to remind myself that no matter how bad it gets in the law office, it’s a lot better than behind that mule, where I started.”

Home Cooking: Gov. Sonny Perdue has appointed two former staffers to statewide boards. Attorney Joshua B. Belinfante of Sandy Springs, the governor’s former executive counsel and a lawyer with Robbins Freed, LLC, was named to the State Ethics Commission. Belinfante is a member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Federalist Society and the Political Leadership Institute. Laura Loftis Lanier of Statesboro is a new appointee to the Jekyll Island State Park Authority. She is a former executive appointments director for Perdue and was a campaign manager for the late Rep. Charlie Norwood. Lanier owns three clothing stores in Statesboro.

Endorsements, Anyone? The current election season has brought debate on a lot of things, including the value of endorsements, especially those from outside Georgia.

Americans for Legal Immigration’s Political Action Committee, or ALIPAC, which opposes illegal immigration and amnesty for undocumented workers in the country, apparently believes in the power of the endorsement and regularly endorses Senate and Congressional candidates in a number of states, including Georgia. On their website this summer, the group posted endorsements of several Georgia Republicans, including John Linder for the Seventh Congressional District. Trouble is, Linder isn’t running, having announced his retirement. Republican Rob Woodall from Lawrenceville and Doug Heckman, a Democrat from Norcross, are vying for that seat.

ALIPAC also has endorsed Nathan Deal – but the endorsement was for Ninth District Congressional Rep- resentative, not for governor. Deal resigned his seat in Congress and is in a heated gubernatorial race with Roy Barnes. Republican Tom Graves won the Congressional seat in a special election last summer and is unopposed in November.

Among those actually running for office who received ALIPAC endorsements are GOP Representatives Jack Kingston, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey.

Categories: Political Notes