Political Notes: November 2014
Election Update: After a long, hot summer and early fall that filled the airwaves with political ads and the air with controversy, it all comes down to what happens Tuesday, Nov. 4 – how many voters turn out to cast their ballots, what issues resonate with them and whose names gets tapped most often on the voting booth screens.
The lengthy campaign season saw some ethics commission hijinks; controversy over voter registration efforts and Sunday voting; and charges, counter charges and more charges. A lot of money got spent. We’ll find out soon who wins the big prizes.
Polls have consistently had the top two races – for U.S. senator and for governor – pretty close, and both contests have attracted interest and money from well beyond Georgia’s borders.
Michelle Nunn, the Democratic nominee for the Senate, is a long-time nonprofit foundation leader and the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn; businessman David Perdue, the Republican nominee, is a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat and former State Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of former President and one-time Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, is challenging incumbent Republican Nathan Deal.
The Ethics Beat: After a short but tumultuous term as head of the state’s ethics commission – a big hot mess of an agency officially named the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission – Director Holly LaBerge was fired by commission members at the end of the summer.
LaBerge was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal after the ouster of previous ethics chief Stacey Kalberman – who won a $700,000 judgment from a Fulton County jury over her dismissal. LaBerge was publically chastised by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville, who fined her $10,000 and called her “dishonest and non-transparent” in the matter of email communications that were not disclosed in the Kalberman whistleblower case over issues involving Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Attorney General Sam Olens also came in for his share of criticism and a $10,000 fine over the email documents, which his office determined did not have to be made public during the trial because, he says, they did not meet the criteria of documents required as part of the suit.
Both LaBerge and Olens are appealing the Glanville ruling and fine.
Cityhood Efforts: State lawmakers have given three DeKalb County cityhood groups – City of Briarcliff Initiative, Lakeside Yes and Tucker 2015 – a deadline of Nov. 15 to agree on a map that may include one, two or three cities.
Last year, DeKalb cityhood efforts stalled when proponents could not agree on boundaries.
If the groups fail to reach a consensus this year, the House Governmental Affairs committee chair will appoint a panel of five members to determine city boundaries and produce a boundary map no later than Dec. 31. The final plan would then be voted on by the House. If it passes, it would have to go to the Senate, then to the governor for his signature and then would still have to be approved by voters in the proposed city areas.
New USG Appointment: The University System of Georgia is stepping up its communications effort. Chancellor Hank Huckaby has named Charlie Sutlive to the new position of Vice Chancellor for Communications, responsible for marketing, public relations and communications.
Sutlive, who was a Coca-Cola vice president before assuming his new position, is a University of Georgia graduate who lives in Atlanta.
The new position puts Sutlive in charge of the department formerly called the Department of Media and Publications that was headed for several years by John Millsaps, who had the title associate vice chancellor. Millsaps now has a new role at Georgia Perimeter College.
Just in Case: The date for a General Election runoff for state and local races is Dec. 2. For federal races, it’s Jan. 6, 2015.