Investigative report .. an overview
By: Vinson Fox
Reporter of Georgia Weekly Post
As the 2016 presidential campaign gathers candidates and momentum, the stars over Georgia are foreshadowing change. Signs are pointing to a political chaos rife with political challenges to established norms.
In addition to all congressional and state legislative seats up for grabs, there are rumblings of a challenge to Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, the Republican incumbent, who is seeking a third term. And on the local front, residents of DeKalb County and some of its cities are confronted with
candidates against the backdrop of scandal and runaway government.
Republican candidates for president. Georgia loves Cruz!
So far, there are just over two dozens declared Republican candidates for president. Another three, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, have publicly stated they are exploring a bid. Add to that, the GOP is touting another five potential candidates, including four current and former governors.
▲ Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Jeb bush, Marco Rubio. Georgia seems to go GaaGaa over Ted Cruz! A lot of money. Many are paying $25,000.00 to have coffee with Jeb Bush in Buckhead.
Such a crowded field presumes an equally crowded array of ideas. And that is correct. Despite the national media attention on a single conservative thread, ideas among declared GOP candidates run a wide spectrum.
For example, Chris Hill, a former combat pilot in Desert Storm, is a “pro-union” candidate who champions a “Living Wage” for workers based on their age and the cost of living. Brooks Coleman, an Illinois businessman, espouses Christian values as a cornerstone of the country while advocating more attention be paid to education and homeless shelters.
▲ Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Bernie Sanders, Christopher R. Hill
Mainliners in the GOP race, however, are elbowing their way for a chair to the right of center on most issues, from immigration to the repeal of ObamaCare. Names like, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have harmonized on a chord of conservatism aimed at capturing the base of the GOP. The latest entry to the choir, Donald Trump, performed a solo on immigration in his declaration speech that called for constructing a wall at our southern border that would be funded by Mexico.
There are 13 other Democrats in the race with Clinton
▲ Donald Trump and Jesse Ventura. the elephant in the room meets the two tons guerrilla.
The year is 2000.
Only once since 1984, have Georgia voters backed a Democrat for president – Bill Clinton in 1992. And the fervor among Peach State Republicans appears to have settled for the moment around Ted Cruz. The Texas senator brought down the house at the recent Georgia Republican Party Convention in Athens by espousing Second Amendment rights, protection from government seizures and a flat tax.
While much smaller in size, the Democrat field of candidates for the White House is even broader in its political array of ideas. Front runner Hillary Clinton has stated her support for environmental issues, from cap-and-trade to promoting alternate energy sources. She is also an advocate of minimum wage assurances for workers and has repeatedly voiced concerns with big business running unbridled.
So far, there are 13 other Democrats in the race with Clinton, most relative unknowns and most with agendas keyed to environmentalism, prison reform and securing a spot at the table for the disenfranchised. The most prominent among the field behind Clinton are former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Of those three, it is Sanders who has received the most attention due to his far-left agenda. He advocates a restructuring of the tax code by which the wealthiest Americans would pay more in taxes, and he wants to eliminate big money in politics.
Closer to home, Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson faces a challenge within his own party. Stone Mountain minister Derrick Grayson is running on a platform of conservative values and getting government out of the way of individual progress.
Senator Isakson is vulnerable. Congressman Price faces rival.
But Isakson may have more to worry about than Grayson. The state’s senior senator announced in June that he suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive nerve disorder. Although the senator says the affliction has not interfered with his work on behalf of Georgia – and he has doctors’ statements attesting to his fitness – political pundits have suggested Isakson, 70, could be vulnerable for the first time in his 11-year career in the Senate.
Nevertheless, it will take a strong effort to unseat Isakson, who is known for accumulating a campaign war chest sizeable enough to ward off rivals. In the first three months of 2015, Isakson raised $1.6 million, giving him $3.75 million total so far for his re-election bid.
▲ Johnny Isakson, Tom Price, Derrick Grayson, Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Equally daunting will be a challenge to Georgia’s incumbent 6th District Congressional Rep. Tom Price, who has trounced what little opposition has surfaced since his election to the House in 2004. In 2014, the Roswell Republican easily defeated Democrat Robert Montigel by a 2-1 margin, outspending his poorly funded opponent by nearly $900,000.
The Georgia Weekly Post has confirmed that a serious challenger to Price is on the verge of declaring. The candidate has a war chest to match Price, an exemplary record and a formidable organization.
Through his long political career spanning over two decades, the only election Price ever lost was in 2012 when he fell short in a bid to become chair of the Republican Conference, the No. 4 post in the U.S. House, losing to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Political insiders blamed Price’s rallying of ultra-conservative elements within the House as the reason the established leadership denied him the post.
Even if no major opposition surfaces against Isakson and Price, there’s still plenty of turmoil at the local levels of government.
Price’s wife, Elizabeth, resigned her seat on the Roswell City Council this spring to make a bid for Georgia’s District 48 House seat vacated with the death of Harry Geisinger in May. Mrs. Price has one Republican challenger, Dave McCleary, and Jimmy Johnson is running as a Democrat.
Also at the state level, the race for the 40th District Senate seat has become more interesting with the recent news that businessman and political newcomer Paul Maner will challenge long-time incumbent Fran Miller in the Republican Primary.
Maner and political operatives are in the process of reaching out to GOP leaders and noted political personalities, such as former Dunwoody mayoral candidate Bob Dallas. Maner has already assembled a team, which includes people from outside the district.
Insiders say Maner is “determined with a take-no-prisoners attitude,” unlimited resources and has won favor from some key conservative legislators.
Four candidates vying to replace former Rep. Mike Jacobs
Another state race sure to draw attention is in the 80th House District where north DeKalb County voters will vote in a special election July 14 from a field of four candidates vying to replace Rep. Mike Jacobs who resigned earlier this year for a seat as DeKalb State Judge. The field includes Republicans J. Max Davis, who resigned as Brookhaven’s first mayor in June, and attorneys Catherine Bernard and Loren Collins. Former Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett is running as the lone Democrat.
▲ With twisting some arms for hours, The City Council of Brookhaven appointed Rebecca Chase Williams, the wife of the publisher of The Crier, a local publication. Her appointment will expire at the end of this year. Most Council members were appointed.
Bernard, who mounted an unsuccessful bid to unseat Jacobs in the 2014 GOP primary, is making waves in Brookhaven, calling out former Mayor Davis for allowing “waste and cover-ups” to establish a beachhead in the young city. Her political battles over the past decade have given her a reputation for speaking out against the “politics as usual” mindset she says permeates state and local government.
Democrat Bennett, who earned a law degree after several years in professional football, is also calling for political reform in a somewhat milder tone. He says Georgia’s pursuit of commercial growth and a business-friendly climate has ignored the working class. He proposes a policy aimed at attracting business while ensuring workers are not left behind.
Max Davis was Brookhaven’s first mayor, but he carries some baggage with him. He endorsed the hiring of the metro area’s highest paid city manager, Marie Garrett, with a starting salary of $170,000 a year, plus consulting fees of $200 an hour after her 40-hour week. Davis also presided over a vote to raise Garrett’s salary to $214,000 last year.
Meanwhile, Davis’ resignation as Mayor of Brookhaven has left a void in the city that has seen more than its share of political turmoil, from repeated resignations of PR managers to accusations of a cover-up involving alleged sexual misconduct by the former mayor.
Soon after Davis’ resignation, the City Council appointed District 1 Councilwoman Rebecca Chase-Williams to complete the term, which expires at the end of the year. The new mayor is the wife of publisher Dick Williams, and the two own the Dunwoody Crier newspaper, which circulates through much of north DeKalb County.
The newspaper - Owned by the new Mayor of Brookhaven and her husband - has shown little interest in the race outside of mentioning Max Davis. The other candidates receive virtually no ink.
The race for Brookhaven mayor has yet to heat up, but qualifying begins in August, and, if the past two years are any indication, residents should have plenty to talk about.
Dennis Shortal vs. Mike Davis - Paul Manor vs. Fran Millar
The heat is, however, already on in Dunwoody, where incumbent Mayor Mike Davis would face a challenge from long-time City Councilman Dennis Shortal. A retired Marine Brigadier General. Shortal is running on a position of more open and positive government.
The city has weathered several storms under Davis, who is in his first term as mayor. Not long after taking office, Davis launched an investigation into information leaks from City Council executive sessions. The probe, which ultimately cost the city more than $50,000, fractured the leadership and led to the resignation of City Attorney Brian Anderson and City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser to forfeit a bid for re-election.
Anderson has gone on to become DeKalb County GOP chairman and is in the midst of a two-year term.
Mike Davis also pushed a plan to revise improvements to Brook Run Park to include wider paths made of concrete, rather than the original plan passed by the council which called for natural trails. The change prompted organized protests at the park involving hundreds and a lawsuit filed by nearby residents.
The biggest public furor came two years ago, when the city’s Charter Commission considered revamping the charter paving the way for Dunwoody to raise taxes in certain instances without approval of the voting residents.
Residents turned out in droves to protest the change, even calling for the removal of City Manager Warren Hutmacher, who later resigned to take a position in Johns Creek. Upon leaving, Hutmacher was quoted as saying he hoped Dunwoody would move beyond “divisive politics.”
The skirmishes led a coalition to mount a “Clean Sweep” campaign to take over control of the City Council two years ago. That campaign met only marginal success when only one of the three candidates, Jim Riticher, won a seat on the council by defeating the mayor’s former campaign manager, Heyward Wescott. Clean Sweep candidates Sam Eades and Henley Sheldon fell short on their bid.
As Shortal resigns his Post 1 seat to run for mayor, community volunteer and Dunwoody Homeowners Association member Pam Tallmadge has stepped forward to vie for the post.
Tallmadge is chair of the Education and Workforce Development Committee for the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce, treasurer of the Dunwoody High School Community Association Board and a volunteer grant writer for Stage Door Players. Tallmadge made her support of Dennis Shortal in his race to replace Mike Davis
Dunwoody - a young city - is only a microcosm of some of the political turmoil brewing in DeKalb County.
The County Commission is still reeling from corruption charges that have forced one member to resign and another to be removed. As a joke was made, during a meeting of DeKalb GOP, attended by Senator Fran Millar "I am happy to report of no new state or federal indictments in DeKalb County." He told the laughing memebers.
Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis - for the second time - is in the midst
of his retrial on charges of extorting campaign contributions from vendors.
But Ellis is not without friends. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young appeared in court as a character witness for Ellis, stating he would trust the suspended CEO with his life.
Some political pundits speculated Ellis may survive this second trip through the courts and reemerge in the political limelight in the near future. It was a wishful thinking.
Missing on the fourth of July parades and BBQ, he has been convicted of four of the nine charges laid against him.
Ellis has been found guilty of three counts of perjury and a single count of attempted extortion for his attempts to coerce county vendors into contributing to his re-election campaign and then attepting to cover-up the plot.
At the same time, his appointed successor, Lee May, has hired former Attorney General Mike Bowers to investigate corruption throughout the county government apparatus.
May, himself, took some flack earlier this spring when he was accused of receiving preferential treatment by the county for a sewer repair at his home five years ago. May says he had no idea the arrangement for repairs were out of line with what a typical resident would receive. He said he would have objected to any special treatment had he known it was proffered.
There are rumblings of a challenge to May’s seat. Former DeKalb School Board member Paul Womack, is considering a run, as is another prominent former DeKalb official who has lined up funding but remains unnamed at this time.
While Ellis fights for his political life, residents of the county’s District 1 have a new commissioner, Nancy Jester, who won a special election last fall to replace longtime Commissioner Elaine Boyer who resigned amid charges she swindled taxpayers out of close to $90,000. Boyer later pleaded guilty to federal wire and mail fraud charges and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.
Boyer’s aide, Bob Lundsten, was recently indicted on state charges of theft and making false statements. Meanwhile, Jester has hit the ground running. She calls DeKalb County a “broken government,” and she decries the idea of “reform by indictment.”
Some insiders say she has brought in some of her own campaign workers to work in her office, and she is using every opportunity to retain her seat when it comes up for challenge in 2016.
◀ Catherine Bernard seen dressing the part, marching in Dunwoody's Fourth of July parade. Will Candidate Bernard become the spoiler and hand the Republican seat in the house to a Democrat? This is her second attempt in two years. Will she do it this?