My Take on the GOP Insurance Commissioner’s Race.

The further we get down the ballot, the less research people are willing to do in order to make informed decisions. By default, the lack of influence and information circulating about the lower ballot races often leaves us with elected officials we wish weren’t elected. Offices like Insurance Commissioner and Public Service Commissioner are often less exciting, as even the jobs are boring, but they’re important. So hang in there and continue seeking information before you head to the polls.

Current Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced in June of 2017 that he would not seek re-election. He was first elected in 2010 and has served two four-year terms. The Office was chastised last year for going over the budget and forcing layoffs and furloughs and his office garnered a lot of negative publicity over the years for repeatedly approving the premium hikes for health insurance companies and automobile companies. And we’ve been ranked nationally as the first or second in most recent years when it comes to rate increases. In fact, few good things have come out of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and most are happy to see Hudgens off to do something else. The bar here is set very low.

Unfortunately, two of the candidates seeking to replace Hudgens, who also happen to be the frontrunners, worked for Hudgens during his tenure.

The candidates running on the Republican ballot for Insurance Commissioner include Jim Beck, Jay Florence, and Tracy Jordan.  At one point. Shane Mobley, a middle Georgia Republican, was also running, but he departed the race and is seeking a State House seat instead. If you planned on voting for him for Insurance Commissioner, you’ll have to find another option.  One of the three Republicans will face one of the two Democrats – Janice Laws or Cindy Zelden – in November.

Jim Beck

Visit his website

Beck is a former Deputy Insurance Commissioner, has a degree in marketing, and served as the Chief of Staff to Hudgens. He’s also worked at an independent insurance agency and a casualty insurance company. He serves as a guest editor for STAND UP GEORGIA, an entity that has been used to advance his message throughout the campaign through email blasts. He also worked for the Georgia Underwriting Association – a state-created insurance company that was created to help people get insurance when they can’t in the open market. He resigned after a Fox I-team investigation which highlighted his work at the Association while working full-time at the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s Office.

He’s married to his wife, Lucy, with whom they have one son – Jimmy Beck, Jr. They live in Carrollton.

 

FUNDRAISING:

As of the March 31 fundraising deadline, Beck had raised $1,163,593.00 with $44,928.82 in in-kind non-monetary donations. He’s raised thousands more, as reported on his two-day reports, since the March 31 reporting.

ON THE ISSUES

  • “He knows where fraud occurs and how to stop it in its tracks.” per his website
  • He promises to “deploy four rolling regional offices, where one can sit down across the table and talk face-to-face with an investigator.”
  • On his website, he promises to double the penalties on insurance companies guilty of victimizing veterans and the elderly.
  • He will make complaint statistics public for all insurers doing business in Georgia.
  • Beck promises to hold tele-town halls on insurance premium hikes
  • His website lists him as a grassroots conservative who “ is often seen speaking on Fox News, CNN, and other nationwide stations defending our Georgia values.”

PROS: He knows the industry.

CONS: He worked for Hudgens and he’s raised over $1,000,000 for this race, meaning he likely “owes” people. Additionally, doubling penalties for certain classes of people is similar to hate crime legislation – it creates some classes of people that are more equal under the law than others. That’s not a conservative ideal.

Jay Florence

Visit his website

An Athens resident, Florence is an attorney and is listed as the former Georgia Deputy Insurance Commissioner. His website touts that he was the campaign manager for the Hudgens re-election campaign, that he served as an Enforcement Attorney for the office, partnered with the Georgia General Assembly as an employee for the Office of Insurance, and spent time working for Senator David Shafer. He bounced around on jobs, campaigns, and eventually returned to the Department of Insurance in January 2017, about six months ahead of Hudgens’ announcement to resign.

FUNDRAISING:

As of the March 31 filing deadline, Florence had raised $731,614.00. His two-day reports indicate that since March 31, he’s collected more than $50,000 in donations since the reporting period.

Florence is also backed by an independent political action committee, Insuring America’s Future, which is littering mailboxes with pro-Florence literature. The PAC has $224,000 in donations (as of May 8) from insurance companies.  Former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has also donated $6,600 to Florence.

On this issues: 

  • “He will put the insurance Department on an equal footing with the big insurance companies and make sure that you have someone that will look out for you.”
  • “Insurance Fraud costs all of us money.  Jay will make sure that criminals are prosecuted and has a history of doing so.”
  • “Jay will work to make sure that Georgia has the most competitive insurance marketplace in the country and ensure that Georgia’s consumers have choices.”
  • He touts catching $7 million in fraud while working at the Office.

His website also highlights that he was endorsed by UGA Coach Ray Goff and radio host Erick Erickson.

PROS: Having served as the Deputy Insurance Commissioner under Hudgens, he’s already familiar with the office. He’s worked in several departments in the office as well.

CONS: He’s endorsed by current Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, which means he’s likely to carry on the legacy of destruction we’ve seen out of the office in the last 8 years. Florence is the top recipient of campaign donations for auto and health insurance companies. And, did you read those positions points? There’s very little substance. No meat. I recognize that insurance can be complicated, but voters aren’t so dense that they can’t comprehend basic policy positions.  On a petty note, I found it odd that his website refers to him as “Mr. Florence,” as if he is some kind of superior before even being elected.

Tracy Jordan

Visit her website

Jordan is a Pharmacist, a full-time Realtor and a Hoschton City Council member. She also owned her own business, West Jackson Medicine Center, for 19 years before merging with another company. She touts her time as a pharmacist and her work to help people fight their insurance companies for claim payments and timely reimbursements as one of her qualifications for office.

FUNDRAISING:

As of the March 31 filing deadline, Jordan raised $40,570.00.

On the issues:

  • Jordan wants to “End “File and Use” which would repeal the Legislation from 2008 which has allowed for the escalation of Automobile Insurance Premiums.
  • She pledges to reform reimbursement policies which often lead to “Delayed payments, ridiculous Prior Authorization Practices, and unfair reimbursements” that have “caused many Independent Pharmacies and Private Practice Physicians to close or merge their practices.”
  • Jordan pledges, on her website, to protect consumers and make filing complaints a more simple process
  • She’s also quoted as saying she would ban insurance and small loan executives from giving to candidates for insurance commissioner.

PROS: She hasn’t worked for Hudgens. She’s also served in elected office before but isn’t a career politician. Her low donations mean she isn’t accountable to insurance companies on Day 1.

CONS: She’s underfunded. She also comes from the industry side of pharmaceuticals so she could be limited in her knowledge elsewhere. The Office is

 

God willing, one of the first things the next Commissioner will do is get a new website. The Primary Election is May 22…if you haven’t already heard.

 

Advertisements

My Take on the GOP Secretary of State Race

AllOnGeorgia has not conducted on-camera interviews with candidates in this race, but I do know all of the candidates personally and have known them all since well before they decided to seek statewide office.

The race itself is an anomaly and somewhat of a popularity contest. The office, which is charges with handling our state’s elections and state licensing, but most people don’t know that unless they’ve had some specific interaction with the office or have read some headline about some goings on. The office has been held by Brian Kemp since 2010, but he will be leaving office as he is running for Governor.

As Republicans, the candidates are – by and large – saying the same thing.They’ve all held various levels of political office before, but none long enough to classify as ‘career politicians.’ Three of the four candidates have served in the Georgia legislature. It is, by far, the most difficult race to distinguish platforms.

David Belle Isle

Attorney, Former Mayor of Alpharetta
Visit his website

David Belle Isle served as a Alpharetta City Councilman before he decided to run for the State Senate in Georgia’s 56th district in 2010. I met him during that election, where he was defeated in a three-way primary and I worked on his mayoral election campaign when he ran successfully in 2011. He served as the Mayor of Alpharetta – my hometown – until April 2018, when he resigned his seat to officially run for Secretary of State. He and his wife, Candice, have a son and a daughter.

ISSUES: His platform, according to his website, focuses on ‘Defeating Voter Fraud and Championing Georgia Jobs.’ He says defeating voter fraud is the number one priority for the office and will require photo IDs be provided with absentee ballots. Additionally, Belle Isle says he’ll implement the Proof of Citizenship Act, which ensures only U.S. citizens vote in elections. For businesses, Belle Isle says he wants Georgia to be the easiest place to start and grow a business. He’s relying on the growth and job creating in the city of Alpharetta during his tenure as a template for the state in terms of a business-friendly environment.

FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31, 2018 filing deadline, Belle Isle had raised $459,715.00 and spent $265,659.14. His campaign donations are, understandably, heavy in the Alpharetta area and from developers in the region. The majority of his donations were over $1,000. His expenditures are mostly campaign consulting, advertising, mailers, and credit card processing fees.

PROS: I know David Belle Isle to be an honest man and I know the decisions he makes are rooted in what he believes. He has been the underdog in an election before (in both the Senate race and the mayoral race) and he prevailed through extremely hard work in the mayoral election with the support of grassroots folks in the community. He knows how to build a network.

CONS: Though he has run for more offices than anyone else in the state, the only record we can look to to learn who he is as an elected official is tailored in Alpharetta. I have concerns with his governance being exclusive to an area of the state that does no resemble most other places in Georgia. Additionally, the City of Alpharetta came under fire in the past 18 months for issues over transparency and whether or not the city was following its own ordinances.

Buzz Brockway

State Representative (Gwinnett) & Small business owner
Visit his website

Buzz was active in his local Republican Party for years before he ran for office in 2010 and won. He served the 102nd district, which encompasses much of Gwinnett county. He and his wife, Christa, have 3 daughters, Elizabeth Hope, Grace Kathryn and Emily Joy.

While he was in the legislature legislature in 2010, he has worked on legislation to fight human trafficking, reform election law, protect student data privacy, and allow college students to protect themselves with stun guns on campus. Of the candidates running, it is my opinion that he has the most conservative and limited government voting record. Even as a no-voter and someone who stood against the political game in the House, he was well-respected enough to earn the endorsement of more than 70 of his elected colleagues.

ISSUES: Brockway has committed to serve as SOS and says his decision to seek the office was rooted in service, not political expediency or a less crowded field, per his social media account. He plans to lead the effort to purchase new voting machines, move to an instant runoff system (eliminating the two month runoff period we have now), and to purge the database of Social Security numbers in the interest of securing data. With regard to licensing, Brockway has pledged to enforce the Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council’s duty to periodically review licensing practices for occupations, a practice that has not been done in recent years.

FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31 deadline, Buzz had raised $124,305.79 and spent $87,599.60. His campaign donations have been from other lawmakers and those in his Gwinnett community. He has spent the majority of his money on consulting, yard signs, and grassroots campaign staffers.

PROS: Brockway sports an ‘Appeal to Heaven’ pin, which means he aligned himself with the ATH caucus under the Gold Dome – a group dedicated to principles over politics. During my own time working at the Capitol, I had in-depth conversations about the elections process, how it could be more efficient, ballot access, and so many other non-SOS related issues. There were times that we disagreed vehemently, but he was always more concerned about understanding why someone felt a certain way than he was with being ‘right.’

CONS: Buzz is the underfunded candidate and he has struggled to get his message out. To be blunt, my concern with Buzz is that he is actually too nice to everyone, even those who have burned him politically. Perhaps that isn’t a con, perhap it is. That’s a personal decision. He also supported SB 133 in 2015, to give the Governor the power to takeover failing school districts.

Josh McKoon

State Senator (Columbus) & Attorney
Visit his website.

McKoon, who has been a state Senator since 2011, knows people in every corner of the state. Whether he helped someone with a legal issue in his capacity as an attorney or if he spoke in front of a crowd on his religious freedom legislation, McKoon is a household name in many places. His stances, while they are his own, are divisive. His religious stances have angered, maybe enraged, those on the left side of the aisle. He is married to Jacqueline and they live in Columbus.

ISSUES: His campaign platform includes preventing illegal aliens from improperly voting, requiring Photo ID for every vote cast, reforming the licensure process to make it easier for Georgians to start and grow their own business, and implementing a database to track all state expenditures.

FUNDRAISING: According to the March 31 reporting paperwork, McKoon had raised $215,385.09 and spent $91,384.99. His funding is comprised of lawmakers, citizens, and organizations with a good blend of each. His money has been spent on consulting, staffers, advertising, and signs.

PROS: You know where Josh McKoon stands on every issue. He is vocal and explanatory in his stances. When I don’t agree with him, I can almost always count on understanding why he believes something. He also doesn’t have a track record of flipping back and forth on issues and he will stay the course (his course), even in heat of public blowback.

CONS: His last session in the General Assembly was a rough one. He voted for and co-sponsored some pretty abysmal legislation, including co-sponsoring SB 336 which allows the GBI to access information from electronic and communication service providers (like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc) and prohibits those companies from acknowledging to their customers that their information has been subpoenaed by law enforcement. He’s also co-sponsored legislation in the past to collect DNA for persons arrested, not convicted, of felony crimes.

 

Brad Raffensperger

Former State Representative (Johns Creek), Business Owner
Visit his website.

Brad is CEO and owner of Tendon Systems, LLC, a specialty contracting and engineering design firm. He also owns and operates specialty steel manufacturing plants based in Columbus, GA and Forsyth County, GA. He also served as State Representative in District 50, which encompasses Johns Creek. He touts his legislative record of never voting for a tax increase on his website, which offers very little information. His recent mailer distributed says he was A-rated by the NRA, earned a 100% rating with the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and an A-rating by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He and his wife, Tricia, live in Johns Creek.

ISSUES: His website has no information on his issue positions, but the mailer I received last week says he believes only American citizens should vote, he supports paper ballots for verification of votes, he would like to reduce regulation and eliminate unnecessary licensing, and he will ‘lead a statewide crackdown to stop sex trafficking in Georgia.’

FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31 campaign finance report, Raffensperger collected $343,845.00 in donations and spent $220,768.36 of that money on consulting, campaign staffers, legal fees, and advertising through his consultant team. On April 17, Raffensperger put $500,000 of his own money into the campaign as a ‘loan,’ meaning he expects to pay the money back to himself by campaign donations at a later time.

PROS: Raffensperger is very reasonable and open-minded. He is, by every definition of the word, conservative.

CONS: His campaign has a focus on sex trafficking. I received a mailer from his campaign just last week that says he will “lead to shut down corporations laundering money for sex trafficking and illegal drug operations that prey on our children.” This is a bit of inside baseball here, but our state has, in recent years, made some mega-strides to crack down on human trafficking, but in doing so, our lawmakers have sacrificed liberty, limited government, and quite frankly, the proper role of government in order to pass these measures. Raffensperger has supported all of those measures. And…sex trafficking is not an issue for the Secretary of State – it’s a law enforcement issue.

(A search was made on Facebook, the campaign website, and YouTube for a video of the ad running on TV right now by Raffensperger, but could not be located. The article will be updated should it appear on the interwebs)


All four of the candidates used their fundraising money to pay the $3,719.10 qualifying fee to the Georgia Republican Party in order to run for office. Brockway, McKoon, and Raffensperger are all pushing their endorsement by Georgia Right to Life, though the endorsement has nothing to do with the office.

A con across all four is that they all live in metro areas of the state and each have spent very little time in rural Georgia. While the Secretary of State’s office is operational and bureaucratic in nature, access is a huge thing. If the campaign trail is an indicator of their representation of the state south of Macon, they all have work to do as little time has been spent in our most southern counties. Kemp, as Secretary of State, has repeatedly visited all 159 counties in Georgia in his official capacity. The next SOS will have large shoes to fill in terms of visibility and accessibility.

The upside is that all four of the people running are actually good humans, which is something we don’t usually see across the board in a primary race.

All four will be on the Republican ballot on May 22. As promised, I won’t use this platform to sway your decision. I urge you to do further research if you have more questions and pick the person you feel is most qualified to serve, not the one you feel has the best chance at winning.

 

My Take on the GOP Race for Lt. Governor.

The Lieutenant Governor is the second-highest ranking position in the state and will be charged with the day-to-day operations of the Senate. The race has actually garnered more media attention over the last several months due to heavyweight endorsements and negative campaigning,

The nice thing about all three candidates is that they’ve all served in public office before, so we have records to look to when comparing what they’re saying on the campaign trail. This is a good thing because only one of the candidates has outlined issues on his website. The worst thing about all three is that neither have roots in rural Georgia, leaving much concern for Georgians who face different battles than those in metro Atlanta.

For me, the most exciting thing about the Lieutenant Governor’s race is that I will actually have the opportunity to cast a vote. Unfortunately, since I have been old enough to vote, Casey Cagle has been in office and I have never cast a vote for him. I always had to skip the race or write someone in. So 2018 is a big year!

Here’s my breakdown of the three Republican candidates seeking to be our state’s next Lieutenant Governor.

Pictured LEFT to RIGHT: Geoff Duncan, Rick Jeffares, David Shafer

Geoff Duncan

Businessman, Former State Representative – Home in Forsyth County.
Visit his website

Duncan was elected in 2012 and sworn in to the Georgia House in 2013. He served on the House Banks & Banking, Information & Audits, Interstate Cooperation, Science & Technology, and Ways & Means committees. He and his wife, Brooke, have three sons.

His website is light on detailed information, whether biographical or policy positions, leaving much to the imagination and instead focuses on higher-level positions of the role of government, specifically saying his goals are to empower job creators, empower parents (and limit bureaucracy), fight for innocent life, and dismantle government programs.

While in the legislature, he was responsible for ‘Michael’s Law,’ a bill that spawned from  an accident in Bulloch County that led to the death of a student in a bar. The legislation expanded government oversight for bars and limited the types of people who could work in them. The legislation had a direct impact on college towns. He also co-sponsored legislation on programmable thermostats, a bill to eliminate drugs and over-the-counter drugs from the state sales tax exemption, and he tried to reform the income tax deduction for doctors, nurses, and PAs. Duncan was also the lead sponsor on legislation to call for a Constitutional Amendment to allow for secret ballots of elections of public officers (for instance, when public employees or officers have to vote on something that could affect their employment if the ballot was not secret).

PROS: He was the lead sponsor of the income tax credit for donations to rural hospitals. The legislation has worked as an incentive for more people to donate to struggling hospitals in many parts of our state and the region I live in has benefited greatly. In fact, Evans Memorial Hospital is one of the biggest beneficiaries. Duncan was also part of one of the most conservative caucuses in the Georgia House during his time in the legislature and his voting record is conservatively sound. I supported about 90% of the votes he cast as a lawmaker and in 2013, 2014, and 2015, he took some tough hits politically while standing for principle. By and large, he supported guns, lowering taxes, health care freedom, and limited government.

CONS: Left his seat in the middle of his term (September 2017) to run for higher office, saddling taxpayers with the cost of a special election. He also served in the House, which is the opposite chamber of the Senate, meaning there will be a small learning curve on operations. He’s also run a campaign largely based on negative attack ads on his opponents, which has driven up name recognition as the person leveraging the attacks, but has left him with fewer talking points on his own platform. Where I differed with his positions in the legislature stem from his use of ‘incentives’ or altering the tax code. I’m a firm supporter in starting from scratch instead of more exceptions and carve outs here and there.

FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31, reporting deadline, Duncan showed $788,058.72 in donations to date with just over $279,000 in expenditures. He also reported a $250,000 debt for the primary race and $100,000 in debt for the run-off (should he advance after May 22). The donations he’s received are balanced between individuals, corporations (finance and developers seem to rule), and other elected officials.


Rick Jeffares

Businessman, Former State Senator – Home in Henry County.

Visit his website

Jeffares is a former County Commissioner and former State Senator elected in 2010. He also has his own business, J&T Environmental Services, an operation and maintenance services company. He also serves as a project manager for G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers. He and his wife have 4 children.

When he served in the State Senate, he was a member of the Senate Appropriations, Ethics, Natural Resources & the Environment (Vice Chair), Regulated Industries & Utilities (Chair), and State Institutions & Property committees.

He’s been fairly quiet on the campaign trail, at least in south Georgia, mostly visiting cities and counties where his company has contracts. He is the closest we’ll get to a candidate with rural Georgia understanding, as he is from middle-ish Georgia’s Henry County.

On his website, Jeffares outlines a plan where he says he plans to RESTORE ‘conservative values, fiscal discipline, technical education, and rural economic development,’ REDUCE ‘the state budget, repeal 2 regulations for every one new 1, tuition, and the tax burden,’ and to REFORM ethics laws.

In the legislature, Jeffares sponsored legislation to allow physicians assistants to prescribe hydrocodone opioids, a bill to allow for nonpartisan elections at the local level (district attorney, sheriff, coroner, tax commissioner, etc), and one of the earlier craft brewery bills. He also co-sponsored a bill to allow home school students to participate in extracurricular activities, a bill to allow for unmanned speed detection devices in school zones, and one to have different licenses for people who are US citizens from those who are not citizens.

PROS: His voting record has been mediocre, which is actually pretty great for the liberal Senate Georgia has. His NO button was used mildly.

CONS: Jeffares left his seat in the middle of his term to run for higher office, saddling taxpayers with the cost of a special election. He also wasn’t out front in the Senate much leading the charge on particular issues. The state campaign finance site also indicates that Jeffares has donated thousands from his Senate fund to other candidates in contested races around the state.

FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31 filing deadline, Jeffares has raised $826,018.00 and spent $445,748.34. The majority of his spending has been on campaign staffers and consulting services.


David Shafer

State Senator, Former President Pro-Tem of the Senate – Home in Gwinnett County

Visit his website

Shafer was elected to the State Senate in 2002 during a special election. Before that, he was the Executive Director of the Georgia Republican Party. He is married to Lee and has a daughter and step-son.

Shafer’s website has concise issue positions on everything from taxes and spending to education and traffic. In his video interview with AllOnGeorgia, Shafer focused heavily on his track record in the Senate, but also on reforming the processes in the Senate to ensure they’re more transparent. (See below)

In addition to serving as the Senate President Pro-Tem, Shafer served on the Senate Image result for david shaferAppropriations, Banking & Financial Institutions, Finance, Government Oversight, Health & Human Services, Insurance & Labor, Reapportionment & Redistricting, Regulated Industries & Utilities, and Rules committees.

Shafer is a long-serving Senator, so his legislative record would be hard to sum up for this brief article, but in more recent legislative terms, he sponsored legislation to prevent credit reporting agencies from charging a fee to freeze and unfreeze accounts of consumers during identity theft investigations, he’s supported efforts to halt sanctuary cities and policies for illegal immigrants, and he pushed legislation like the adoption bill and the brunch bill.

In his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, he’s been endorsed by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, GeorgiaCarry.org, the National Rifle Association, Georgia Right to Life, the Georgia Life Alliance, and more than 200 current and former members of the Georgia General Assembly.

PROS: He led the charge for zero based budgeting and he’s always been a strong supporter (and sponsor of) 2nd Amendment legislation. You may not always agree with his positions, but you’ll know where he stands on issues due to his voting record.

CONS: He has served in office for a long time and is, by definition, a career politician. He did support one of the state’s largest tax increase (HB 170 in 2015) but he represents a metro county so depending on where you live, you may or may not find that as a negative. Shafer dodged one question – on CBD oil access/expansion- during his interview with AllOnGeorgia (see below).

FUNDRAISING: As of March 31, the Shafer campaign raised $1,585,548.94 and $183,510.90 in expenditures. The majority of his donations are from within the boundaries of the state.

Senator Shafer did sit down with AllOnGeorgia. My candidate interview in its entirety with him is below.

 

The Republican Primary is set for May 22. Early voting is currently taking place and runs through May 18. Please vote for the candidate who most aligns with your values and convictions, not the one you think will win.

My Take on the GOP Gubernatorial Race.

With seven choices, five of whom are garnering the majority of the media and polling attention, a good number of people are still deciding between one, two, or even three candidates.

So, I figured I would offer my perspective on the candidates based on what I’ve seen in the race since October.

I had the opportunity to sit as a panelist in the first gubernatorial debate last fall and in my capacity with AllOnGeorgia, I have been able to interview each of the top 5 contenders, with the exception of Casey Cagle (though he’s been in government long enough and appeared on enough earned media spots that it’s easy to gather where he stands on certain issues).

The Republican Primary alone has drawn more than $17 million in donations to Cagle, Hill, Kemp, Tippins, and Williams and a little over three weeks remain. Even with the large amounts of money flowing to each campaign, the issues remain on the backburner of most of the media coverage.

PART I – ISSUE CAMPAIGNING

Casey Cagle – Current Lieutenant Governor, Former State Senator (website)

Cagle is a charismatic politician who is comfortable catering his message to his crowds. He has a 26 year career under his belt, meaning his laundry list of policy-based talking points runs deep and voters tend to believe what he is saying because of his high name recognition. He also has the money to push any message to any location.

  • Cagle has promised to create 500,000 new jobs in Georgia in his first term.
  • He has promised more reversible lanes on highways and to continuing pushing for rural broadband.
  • He has promised to maintain a balanced budget without raising taxes.
  • Cagle pledged, on his website, to ‘protect hunting heritage’ and law-abiding citizens have the right to protect themselves.

He’s raised about $7 million in this campaign.

PROS: You know what you’ll get with Casey Cagle. He’s presided over the Georgia Senate for the last decade so his learning curve won’t be steep. He already knows how to make sausage. He’s a moderate in every sense of the word, which would make him appealing to Democrats in a General Election as well.

CONS: His track record on the Second Amendment is abysmal. He helped block CBD oil legislation. As lieutenant governor, Cagle has not had to cast a vote (or as some might see it – take a stand) on an issue in 12 years. He’s chalked up Senate failures to ‘lacking time’ despite his own efforts to block initiatives. And if you don’t like someone who keeps score and holds grudges, a Cagle governorship would be a nightmare for you.

Hunter Hill – Former State Senator (Website)

Hunter Hill is a former State Senator who was elected in 2012, so while he is experienced in the political arena, his tenure wasn’t long enough to destroy his idealism or his conservative leanings. He’s also a combat veteran which brings about different leadership skills from someone who has never served in –understated — ‘high-stress’ situations. His slogan of being tired of politicians that ‘campaign like Ronald Reagan and govern like Barack Obama’ has brought him considerable support.

  • He supports eliminating the state income tax.
  • He favors religious freedom legislation.
  • He opposes sanctuary cities and has vowed to block state funding to cities that shelter illegal immigrants.
  • Hill has prioritized veterans in his campaign platform, something he also did while serving in the legislature.

He’s raised $2.7 million to date.

PROS: He has a legislative record we can look to for an understanding of his values. As a state senator, Hill stood against the state’s tax increases -HB 170- but still has solutions to what he opposes. He  has a strong plan for where money for things that fall into the ‘proper role of government’ should originate, like infrastructure and education. He knows how the system works, but he was never part of a ‘clique’ under the Gold Dome.

CONS: Hill resigned from his State Senate seat to run for Governor, saddling taxpayers with the cost of a special election. The press around his position on the Second Amendment position and the criticism of a vocal minority focused on the intricacies of whether or not he was an Army Ranger or Ranger-qualified have kept skeptics from jumping on his campaign bandwagon. My biggest concern all along has been his metro roots and learning curve for ‘the two Georgias’ would mean rural Georgia would be left behind.

Brian Kemp – Current Secretary of State, Former State Senator (Website)

Brian Kemp was the first candidate to sit down with AllOnGeorgia after he released his plan for rural Georgia. He answered every question I asked during our interview, without skirting the issue pressed, even when he seemed to know I may not like the answer.  His message has been consistent for the duration of his campaign, regardless of where he’s campaigning.

He’s raised $2.9 million to date.

PROS: Kemp has served in an executive position before, so his experience is not limited to the legislative branch. He’s also worked in an office that saw budget cuts and worked within those means. He’s traveled to all 159 counties and understands the difference between metro and rural Georgia. His campaign has been rooted heavily in itemized, well-thought out plans, not promises.

CONS: His time as SOS has been the source of considerable bad press and even some snafus. He’s been in politics for a while, so with that, comes relationships, donor histories, and favors.  Also, if you’re a libertarian voting in the Republican Primary, you’re probably still really ticked about the Kemp ballot access stuff.

Clay Tippins – Businessman (Website)

Tippins is a newcomer to the political arena, but he’s taken the time to research and to meet with high-ranking Georgia officials to discuss the budget and state operations practices. His lengthy business tenure puts him in a position to see Georgia like a business that should run like a well-oiled machine.

  • He opposes religious freedom legislation.
  • He is a no-exceptions supporter of the Second Amendment.
  • His initiatives call for reducing the state income tax, but not eliminating.
  • He favors transparency and accountability in government.
  • Open to the idea of in-state cultivation of marijuana for CBD oil access.

He’s raised $2.5 million to date.

PROS: He’s never held political office, so he’s not a career politician. He’s a numbers guy, so efficiency is cut and dry for him. His lacking political career would make it simpler for him to objectively weigh the value of a government service or action, as opposed to someone who has spent years in the political arena.

CONS: He’s never held political office before, so we have no record to look to, no understanding of who he is under pressure, or with the crown. We only have his word to take and have to trust his sincerity.

Michael Williams – State Senator (Website)

Michael Williams is a double-edged sword. By that, I mean, most of what many of his opponents (or those not supporting him) consider his negatives are also positives. Williams considers himself an ‘outsider,’ but says it is more of a mentality than an actual position.

  • He favors a state solution for law enforcement pay problems.
  • Supports the Fair Tax and the elimination of the state income tax.
  • Williams wants term limits for statewide elected office holders.
  • He is against casinos and supports freezing college tuition rates.
  • He supports Constitutional Carry.
  • Williams has vowed to support a “heartbeat bill” in Georgia and to improve homeschooling laws.
  • Favors in-state cultivation for marijuana for the purpose of access to CBD oil.

He’s raised about 1.78 million to date.

PROS: Williams has donated a substantial amount of money to both his Senate run in 2014 and his gubernatorial campaign, which likely means he hasn’t made extensive promises to large organizations or lobbyists. When interviewed, he was direct in his answers and unapologetic about his responses. He went on the record to say the executive branch is too powerful and that some agencies in place need to be eliminated. His CPA background puts him in a position to analyze everything.

CONS: His pro-Trump platform has silenced some of his message tailored to Georgia. He also spends a lot of time talking about his opponents when his message is one that would resonate if he focused on it. His legislative record in 2015 and 2016 indicated a different Michael Williams than the one in 2017 and 2018.He did voted for HB 170, the largest tax increase in recent state history.

PART II – EMOTIONAL CAMPAIGNING

Experts tell those in the business world that selling something requires an emotional connection, not just an end result of customer satisfaction and politics is no difference. I recognize that not all voters operate on the black and white scale of issues, and some need feelings. So let’s talk about feelings.

Cagle leaves you feeling like everything Georgia has done is exactly right and very little change is needed. If you’ve supported the last eight years of governance, Cagle reminds you why. If you haven’t supported the last eight years, well, then, you probably don’t feel energized (or anything else) by Cagle.

Hill instills the vision that every task is a mission that needs to be (and can be) accomplished. To some, it may seem robotic, but if you listen carefully, you’re more likely to hear someone who just has a list of overhauls and policy initiatives that he’s already prioritized. He offsets any type of ‘inside baseball’ with his use of personal stories, so those not entrenched with the political process can relate.

Kemp, before embarking down the road of politics, makes you feel good, even proud, about being a Georgian. His genuine demeanor is the kind most of us wish all of our politicians embodied – one that exudes honesty. His ability to build trust amongst those he’s talking to makes it easy to unite around the rest of his platform.

Tippins espouses an aura of unadulterated hard work. He gives the feeling that he’s ready to be in control and he will be the one driving the proverbial bus. He can easily embolden someone to becomes just as knowledgeable on the budgeting process and state operations as he did in his short time since announcing for Governor.

Williams’ understanding of the proper role of government and his message to shrink the power of the executive branch leaves you thinking that is actually possible to change how things are done in the State of Georgia. His message isn’t rehearsed. I remarked after the October 2017 debate that you can feel he honestly believes what he is saying. That still rings true.

I now know who I’m supporting in the Governor’s race, but I won’t be using this platform to try to sway your opinion. This is about who you want as your next leader of the state. I urge you to look at the candidates as a whole. Don’t focus on who has the most money (or the least) and try not to focus on a single issue. There are good and bad qualities about each of them, so consider them from the perspective of character and consistency.

The Art of Negative Campaigning

Negative campaigning. It’s an art – one we all hate, love to hate, but probably most importantly – hate to love.

Every time campaign season comes around, regardless of which level of government, we all cringe and say “it’s never been this bad,” but a few candidates and/or elected officials get smeared, the rest of us survive, and we go back to our lives until the next time around.

The art of negative campaigning is a pillar of the political game.

So what is negative campaigning?

These days, negative campaigning seems to fall into the category of any tactic or approach to campaigning that involves the person(s) another is running against and offends any person, anywhere on any issue, regardless of whether it affects them or if they are registered to vote.

No, but seriously.

In reality, the most concise way to tell you what it is is to actually show you what it isn’t.

It isn’t voting records, campaign donations, publicly posted policy positions, references to social media account activity, a list of endorsements, or use of previously recorded statements. Also not included in the list is polling results.

These are all things that actually happened. They are verifiable facts that actually took place in the world we live in and someone was present to document or record it as a moment in history. That may sound like an extreme definition, but it’s true. And it always irks me when voting records are considered negative campaigning. If someone feels that it’s negative campaigning for another to bring up a vote they cast, perhaps the vote just had a negative impact and the candidate doesn’t want to talk about it. A vote, in and of itself, cannot be negative. Neither can a donor list. A choice was made to cast a vote and to accept a donation or endorsement. There is room in politics to challenge choices.

In fact, if you’re challenging an incumbent, a voting record should be the base camp and everything should flow from there. If you’re trying to make the case that someone should be sent home from their position – whether it be city council member or Congressman – your reasoning should be rooted in concrete information that actually took place, not because you want power or you dislike the person who holds the seat. That concept is not negative.

What is negative is distorted lies, half-truths, attacks on family, involvement of children, sexual preference, whisper campaigns, integrating fake organizations, faceless anonymous social media accounts, hit piece websites with no disclaimer about who is paying for them, news stories that resemble a campaign message more than an unbiased report, clipped robocalls with a scary voice from anonymous people, or things that aren’t relevant to actually serving in office.

Every election season, we see unaffected third-parties infiltrate local communities, whether it be a corporation or powerful lobbying organization flooding a county over an airport issue, an independent political action committee trying to sway the outcome of a House or Senate seat, or anonymous mailers making harsh accusations in the Governor’s race. We can’t always put it right into a box, but claim we know negative campaigning when we see it. We recognize it when that certain feeling comes over us at the mailbox or in the news feed.

But what really matters is whether or not it works.

Campaign staffers and consultants – those earning money off of tarnishing the images of others – say it does. The notion is that, voters don’t like the negative ads but perceptions are still changed after they are exposed to the information. Perhaps it’s even more beneficial for those who take credit for the negative attack ads because their name ID is boosted, too. And of course, political pundits like it because it offers content for discussion.

But I’m not convinced it always works.

Of course, each time it happens, there are claims of the exhaustion from “politics as usual,” but I’m not sure that’s the reason people resist negative campaigning. Sometimes it may be because it’s too late in the game and supporters are solidified, other times because the negativity hits on all the wrong issues. But when it fails, the idealist in me has to believe it fails because the attacker made a victim out of the person on the receiving end. Plus, we all wonder how it doesn’t hurt the person leveraging the attacks and if they’re so empty and unprincipled inside that they can’t discuss the positives of themselves.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh.

Negative campaigning works best on those who already weren’t supporting the person being attacked. That’s who carries the message, shares it on social media, tells a friend at church….”Did you hear…??”

Yes, Susan. We all received the mailer.

But everyone else, all the undecided voters, they’re drowning in a sea of information that is presented beautifully well – often over and over – from people they don’t know. More than likely, if they’re still undecided, it’s because they aren’t an ‘insider’ and they don’t live and breathe the political game every day like some of us. It doesn’t make them wrong, it just puts them in a different position to digest negative campaigning. And we all know far too well that the undecided voter is beyond unpredictable.

So the ‘Art of Negative Campaigning,’ I suppose, is that there really isn’t any ‘Art’ about it all and, depending on the demographics, the issues, the person running, the person leveraging the attacks, the people sharing the attacks after the attacks have been made, when the negative campaigning begins, whether or not it’s believable, whether or not it’s verifiable, and the overall outlook on life the voter has, it’s possible that it might work. The only guarantee is that voters – and non-voters – collectively unite to pray that Election Day…or a giant meteor…would just hurry up and get here.

Analysis: GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Meet on Stage for the First Time

In true political nerd fashion, I spent my Saturday morning in Milledgeville attending the first Republican gubernatorial debate. I also had the pleasure of sitting front and center on the panel to ask questions of candidates. In all my cynicism, I can still say the forum was informative and a mechanism for distinguishing candidates.

In a surprise to even myself, I found that I agree with each candidate on at least one issue, though the disagreements were plentiful, too. But below I’m going to offer a preliminary analysis of debate #1, highlighting their strong points and offering points for reflection for improvement.

Listening to one minute responses on issues that are sure to affect us all is not ideal, and if I had it my way, I would interview each one on camera for an hour for a comprehensive and well-rounded picture, but I’m neither the boss nor the scheduler, so my compilation of thoughts is based on what I saw Saturday and not what I know of the candidates prior to October 7.

Phil Kent and I each had the opportunity to ask 3 questions. Phil went with illegal immigration, casinos, and transportation while I tackled tax exemptions, cannabis oil, and rural health care. They also answered two audience questions on education and religious liberty. The entire forum is available for viewing on AllOnGeorgia here.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Senator Hunter Hill, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Marc Alan Urbach, and Senator Michael Williams were all present. Clay Tippins was not in attendance.

In terms of staying on topic, we didn’t get off to too great of a start. Michael Williams was the only candidate to answer my question about whether or not Georgia has too many tax breaks for large corporations. The others diverted to income tax discussions and tax reform generally, despite my question’s specificity.

All of the candidates seemed to agree on illegal immigration enforcement and the blocking of in-state tuition for undocumented students. While I do not doubt the difficulty in discussing immigration without including the federal government, they all muddied the waters on what “should be done” versus “what can actually be done” here in Georgia.

I was disappointed across the board with their positions on cannabis oil and in-state cultivation. Only Williams and Urbach said they were in favor of expanding the list of conditions for cannabis oil use, while Kemp said he was open to listening. None support in-state cultivation for any reason, citing a pathway to recreational marijuana. A recurring justification was federal law and consistency: if we are going to enforce federal immigration laws, we should also enforce federal drug laws. Similarly, they were all firm NOs on casino gambling in Georgia.

Each candidate seemed to excel on the question about the rural healthcare crisis – though only one actually addressed the rural health care crisis. Each offered valuable points on health care overall, but my takeaway was that Kemp has the greatest sense of clarity on rural healthcare – and rural issues overall. He was able to offer solutions that have a chance to be implemented, and in the short term. His proposal of telemedicine by way of broadband Internet and recognizing medical infrastructure as the lifeline for young people to return back to their communities after getting an education demonstrated that Kemp won’t have to wait for local government leaders to explain problems. My hope is that as we get closer to election time, they’ll all focus less on the Affordable Care Act and more on what work can be done in the state legislature without federal involvement.

POSITIVES

Cagle is comfortable in front of an audience and he’s no stranger to the political arena. It Image result for casey cagleworks in his favor as long winded answers seem to roll off his tongue as if he’d rehearsed for hours. His ability to cite relevant statistics – and even cater them to the crowd he’s addressing…in this case, Baldwin County – surpasses that of anyone else on stage.

Hill is direct. He is honest about tough issues like transportation and education as well as Image result for hunter hillfrom where he thinks the money should originate. When he speaks, you can’t help but feel he is telling you the truth. He offers personal stories in his answers to illustrate that he actually does understand the issues being discussed.

Kemp is seasoned, sincere, and delivers his message in a very relaxed manner. He is goodImage result for brian kemp at making voters feel like they’ll be a part of the process and that he is ready to listen. It is clear he is already familiar with the difficulties different counties across the state experience, so he is past the learning curve.

Urbach, whether you agree with him or not, is memorable because he’s Image result for marc alan urbachentertaining to watch. While awkward for most of us, his praise for Senator Hill was heartwarming. Urbach acknowledged agreement with other candidates far more than any of the others, which, in my opinion, shows he does not compare himself to them. He is comfortable in acknowledging similarities, which I’m sure is due, in part, to political naivite – not a bad thing.

Williams is consistent in his responses. He has a campaign message of an ‘conservative outsider Image result for michael williams georgia‘ that he manages to insert into every answer without being blunt and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whether you agree with what he is saying or not, it is clear he honestly believes in his message and his platform. He is not simply trying to mirror the campaign or the success of our President.

CRITIQUES

Cagle struggled to outline his focus on rural healthcare and instead defaulted to metro healthcare and problems in insurance. Cagle’s focal point in the rural v. metro discussion was one sided and seemingly unconcerned with the far reaching corners of the state. He also struggled to identify specific issues he championed as a legislator or as Lieutenant Governor and focused more on what “Republicans” have done.

Hill, even in his directness, wasn’t assertive. He had a few opportunities to say more by using fewer words, but left the opportunity on the table. Hill has a lot of great ideas based on very conservative values, but did not offer a way to implement them. Given the short amount of time, I wouldn’t expect that on every question, but of the 8 questions ask, no answer focused on ways he already has accomplished something or ways he plans to in the future.

Kemp needs to show more passion while sharing his views. While I haven’t always agreed with his positions over the years, I’ve never questioned his character – and that is something many others will say, too – and I don’t believe we saw his true character reflected in his responses on Saturday.

Urbach needs to watch out for the double edged sword of being memorable. He cracked a lot of jokes and spent a substantial amount of time talking about things not brought up as part of the question posed. He is right on issues and needs to laser in on seriousness so people actually listen to what he is saying.

Williams spent a lot of time attacking Casey Cagle. At one point, Williams mentioned that the establishment and the media have been after him and I believe that if he is battling to set a narrative about himself, he should spend more time articulating who he is, step away from the shadows of Trump, and focus less on the problems stemming from inside baseball with Cagle.

I am still an undecided voter, but I know exactly what I’m looking for in a candidate. No one deserves my vote or your vote – all of them must earn it, so over the next seven months, I encourage you to decide what your core issues are and keep a close eye on each of these candidates.

If video does not appear, click ‘watch on Facebook’ and you will be redirected.

Georgia legislators channel inner Joel Osteen

In 2015, I said I would never forgive the Georgia legislature for putting forth a bill that put me in a position to defend strippers, but the government overreach and unnecessary taxation was just too much to keep quiet. It was a trying time and even still, if you google my name, you’ll be blessed to see information about strippers – all in the name of liberty.

And here we are, two years later, facing another overreach and another tax. The victim this time? Porn.

State representative Paulette Rakestraw has filed House Bill 509 which would require pauletteretailers to put a “digital blocking capability” on some devices to make “obscene material” inaccessible. Retailers, in this code section, would mean anyone who SELLS or LEASES a device that allows content to be accessed on the Internet. The “blocking capability” is required to make porn, child porn, revenge porn, websites about prostitution, and websites about sex trafficking all inaccessible.

Retailers would be required to have a telephone line where consumers could call to report complaints and it prohibits retailers from giving consumers intel on how to deactivate the blocking program themselves.

Here is the real humdinger: If you are 18 years of age or older, request in writing that you would like to deactivate the program, acknowledge in writing that you understand the dangers (yes, that is really the word they use) of deactivating the program, and pay a $20 fee, you can have the program removed from your device.

You read that correctly. If, as a reasonable, responsible, American adult, you wish to look at obscene material in the privacy of your own home, you have to tell the grandmother at the Wal-Mart check out line that you would like her to delete the program so you can enjoy the device to the fullest extent.

First things first: how does a computer program identify whether or not porn is regular porn or revenge porn? Where does the list of people who consented in writing go? Is the state going to maintain a database of who may one day look at obscene content?

Second, phones, tablets, computers, Smart TVs, AppleWatch, Fitbits – anything that connects to the Internet would be subjected to this $20 fee if you, as an adult, wish to enjoy the luxury of obscenities and adult entertainment. The language is so broad and does not specify what type of content has to be accessible for a device to qualify.

The cover is in the name of the bill. “Human Trafficking Prevention Act.” Your legislators believe that taxing people who watch porn will prevent human trafficking. Say that aloud so you can hear how ridiculous the idea is.

The money will be directed, by way of a Constitutional Amendment, to the “Georgia Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Trust Fund” and then directed to programs for nonpermanent long-term residential mental health and addiction treatment.

Would someone like to explain to me how funding addiction treatment programs is going to help prevent human trafficking?

People who become victims as a result of any violation of the legislation can apply for restitution from the fund for an amount not to exceed three times the amount the original consumer paid the retailer for the device.

At first glance of the bill, I thought the legislation was sponsored by Kim Jong Un, but no, it is our beloved Republicans. Republicans that should obviously hand over their Party cards and get in line for the Communist Express train that is on its way. This is not limited government. This is not low taxation. This is not pro-Constitution.

Let’s once again, run through the reasons why something like this is not only inappropriate, but unconstitutional.

Porn is free speech. This is a tax on free speech. A tax on people who wish to exercise and enjoy free speech.

Here’s another thing: By taxing porn, the government is condoning the industry, “allowing” it to exist, if you will. If the risks are SO high for sex trafficking and child pornography, then all porn should be illegal.

The fact that there is no advocacy for eradication of porn just reiterates the point: This isn’t about protecting anyone or helping anyone. It’s about taxing a vulnerable industry that is considered immoral. There is less resistance. After all, who is going to speak out in favor of porn?

Why does a woman like myself, who sees no value in porn – for education or entertainment – have to take on a cause and try to explain to our legislators why free speech protects obscenities?

Now, Crossover Day has come and gone, which means House Bill 509 cannot pass “as-is,” but the legislature has already passed multiple sex trafficking and sex crime bills in both chambers to which this language could be attached. And then, of course, there is next year due to the fact that a bill can be revived in a two-year period.

I told you this would happen. Anyone who opposed the garbage that was Senate Bill 8 knew this would happen. When you give government the authority to tax a business because of preference, not purpose, you set a precedent. A $5,000 annual fee just to run an adult entertainment establishment leads to a $20 fee if you want the privilege to view the dark parts of the Internet while at home…what is next?

Forests, strippers, fireworks and porn. That would be the Georgia Constitution, y’all.

If passed by the legislature, the Constitutional Amendment to make this permanent would be on the November 2018 ballot. The worst part of all is that they will probably get away with it.

We aren’t winning.

There are two things I hate: when someone takes advantage of their position in government and when The People are silenced. Unfortunately, my job highlights both of those things almost daily.

I remember when I first moved to South Georgia and started working on a corruption case. Someone said to me, “You know they’re not all going to be like this. Not all towns are like this.” Of course I didn’t believe him because I’m no political rookie and it took me all of one month on the council/commission meeting circuit to learn that simply is not true.

Whether people are buying elections, making promises to businesses, circumventing the system checks and balances, discussing votes off the record ahead of time, quietly receiving money, publicly receiving money, ignoring the rule of law, or having prisoners mow their own yard, nearly everywhere you look you will see people losing the battles against their governments.

Sure, there are little victories and things to cheer about, but by and large, problems exist in all corners of government operations. Throw in the courts and the public universities for good measure.

If I had a dollar for every time an interested, informed citizen was made a mockery of or told that a council meeting was not a time for them to address their council members I could build my own town, which I would, of course, name Sunshine USA.

But this is the reality. The reality is that your elected officials hope you aren’t paying attention and they hope you’ll excuse any bad behavior because of a long running friendship or because they sit with you at church.

I am sick and tired of people saying, “He is such a good dad” or “She has given so much to the community.” What’s even worse is when someone says, “Well, they are really trying to do what is best.”

First of all, that is fantastic, but they were not elected because they coach soccer. Second, no, they are not doing what is best for the community at the local, state or federal level. These people who rise to power via election or appointment know exactly what they’re doing. They help facilitate a system that keeps them in control. They lie to you, they twist words, they leave information out because power feels good.

“It’s not a tax increase, it’s a revenue increase,” one Georgia legislator said.
What does that even mean?

I am not saying there are not any good people in politics – I know many of them. But like us, they are losing.

Look at the state legislature. Last Wednesday and Friday the House chamber shoved nearly 100 bills to the floor for a vote. Three of them died, two of which were brought back to pass after strong arming folks to flip their votes, which they did. So out of all of those bills, all those topics, all those industries, and all those groups of people that will be affected, just one time did the people you trust to serve you collaboratively think an initiative was not in your best interest.

I could dedicate an entire blog series to terrible things the legislature does and how ours operates so backwardly, I need the state government to mandate Frontier upgrade my rural broadband before I am able to take on an endeavor like a blog series.

In all seriousness, the Georgia legislature is quietly morphing into a photocopy of the federal level – minus the Democrats who vote NO. There once was a group of legislators who would vote NO, work to reform bad bills, and influence their fellow lawmakers, but between political pressure and a damaged professional life, that movement has dissolved. Few remain, but clearly not enough. Just like one or two commissioners is not enough for change, neither is a handful of legislators when the population of the chamber is 180.

And what is this nonsense about people who vote NO being villains? I can think of more times than not when it is appropriate to vote nay: Perhaps when you did not read the bill, when you do not understand the bill, when an overwhelming number of your constituents request that you do, when you know the bill will do something negative – even to only one person, when you do not know what the bill will do, when the bill benefits a specific group of people.

Besides, if the issue is that important, it will come back soon. I assure you that no one will die while waiting for musicians who produce in Georgia to have a tax credit crafted for their industry. If you wait to approve the legislation adding “llama” to the livestock code section, I promise the world will keep turning.

Voting NO has become taboo. Look at Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz or Congressman Justin Amash. They have earned a level of respect, but they are still outcasts. They vote NO too much, they are idealists, they are unreasonable, and worst of all – they’re just doing it for publicity. That’s right – you’re the media whore if you dare commit the illicit action of voting against something. You’re dangerous and the powers that be will try to damage you to the people who helped elect you. “How dare you vote against my idea” is used more frequently than “Maybe we’ll agree on the next one” or “Explain to me why you voted NO.”

As for whether or not The People help decide whether or not something is going to become law, it’s time to let the air out of the balloon. It just isn’t happening. Haleigh’s HOPE Act for medical cannabis is one of the few initiatives where there was statewide pressure to pass legislation, so they did. But when the people oppose something, you may as well be speaking Yiddish in China.

To our elected officials, it’s about a tangible legacy and what can be left behind. It’s about what can be said about their tenure.

Unfortunately, the local governments are just a microcosm of all of the above. The Commissioner who questions something in a meeting is suddenly a pain in the rear. The city councilwoman who asks to table a tax increase because she thinks it’s too much is “radical.” We praise the bumps on a long who only repeat “YEA” over and over and over because they pick up the phone when we call and they send a card at Christmas.

And what are you doing while all of this is unfolding? You are in the gallery while the surgeons mutilate your organs and swipe the extra cash in your wallet while you’re under anesthesia. We watch from above but we feel every cut, snip, and tuck.

Things are not changing and as it stands, the path forward is paved with disappointment. After a while, you learn that a “win” for The People is often accompanied by the humiliation of someone else and it is likely that the very best you can do is ruin a legacy.

You attend council meetings only to be asked to refrain from commenting. You watch your Commissioners spend your money against the will of the community. You campaign for your state official only to learn that the dollar of a lobbyist is worth more than yours. You call your Congressman to be told “I’ll make note of it.” You see good people sour and succumb to the system. You become the cynic that everyone loves to hate.

But you won’t quit and neither will I. We’ll just complain about it, go to bed, and wake up for another round tomorrow. Because if we don’t, who will?

Ladies, you didn’t march for me.

Many women marched Saturday, but many weren’t marching for me.

I’m always amazed when people can gather in such large numbers. It’s a very powerful

Photo: The Globe and Mail

Photo: The Globe and Mail

thing and shows a considerable effort and movement. Between news headlines and Facebook friends, we were all able to get a real-time view of many of these marches around the country. I watched all day and saw a grave disconnect between purposes.

First, it is very difficult to believe the march wasn’t an “anti-Trump” gathering when it happened the day after the inauguration. This is coming from someone who many most would label “anti-Trump.” None of us believe you. The narratives were blurred as some women said it was only about equal rights while others said they marched because Friday they were suddenly with fewer rights than on Thursday. Some activists said the march was in no way a partisan thing, however, several high profile speeches, i.e.Madonna and Ashley Judd, make it evident that that simply isn’t true. And don’t even get me started on some of the financial sponsors of the march. It was partisan. Full stop.

By the way, how are rights partisan? If this is about a Republican president, then why, after eight years of a Democrat president, are women not in the perfectly equal position that feminists believe we should be?

So, we’ve acknowledged that for many (not all) the march was a political resistance, can we discuss how the marches came to organize?

I will never deny that President Trump has made some distasteful, downright inappropriate comments about women, but I struggle to distinguish how some of these signs, statements, and slogans aren’t any less degrading to women. How does a sign that reads, “Eat ***** not grab it” promote equality?

I’ve spent the last 18 months blasting Trump on every word and he’s made no mention of restricting the rights of women. We will still vote, we will still own property, drive vehicles, dress as we please, work, and even protest. His daughter, Ivanka, is a successful, powerhouse entrepreneur who doesn’t seem to back down. While you may not agree with their ideologies, Trump’s cabinet and administration is plush with women in high ranking positions. I don’t think they are there to pour coffee and straighten ties.

The media is at a greater risk of losing access and rights than women are.

While I don’t necessarily consider myself a traditional “feminist” in any sense of the word, it’s not even the issues or battles they’re fighting, but how they’re battling those fights. I love my freedoms and will stand to protect them any day of the week. I’ll stand beside others to fight for their freedoms, but I will never understand what is gained from this type of “resistance.” What exactly are they resisting?

The vulgar, non-policy driven rhetoric has got to stop. The disservice you are doing to

Photo: CNN

Photo: CNN

women who have actual concerns grows by the day. The women marching for equal pay, the glass ceiling, or paid maternity leave should be ashamed of these other women. I am. We can all agree there are chauvinist men. I live in rural Georgia where some men are still behind the times. I promise you I’ve seen it. I still see it. “Be seen, not heard,” they say. But I’ve also seen women force those walls to crumble because of their hard work, their integrity, and their brilliance.

Some of that hard work, integrity, and brilliance is demonstrated here:

But if you believe you are, in fact, equal, stop isolating yourself in an activist group by gender.

There’s a gross misunderstanding between “different” and “equal.” Women are, and always will be, different from men. Whether you believe in a God who created us in His vision or a spontaneous creation followed by years of evolution, we. are. different.

How does getting free birth control paid for by someone else demonstrate that you are a strong, independent woman? How does personifying your genitals legitimize your cause? How does a generation of young girls benefit when you teach them that their bodies make more statements than their brilliant, untarnished minds?

All of the rights that are afforded to ‘man’ are applicable to women without clarification. Free speech, the Second Amendment, due process, speedy trials, voting, property rights – these rights apply to us. We are equal under our the reign of our government.

I don’t know what was accomplished yesterday. I don’t even know what they wanted to be accomplished yesterday. My hope is that many female activists gathered and connected for future work, for efforts, for organizations…not for headlines. My hope is that these women made themselves known so they can become, or stay, engaged in the political process.

But I’m engaged and I didn’t march yesterday. I don’t need a pink hat to demonstrate that I am equal. The only thing under my clothing that empowers me is my heart. My brain and my dignity do the rest. I am equal because I believe I am equal. The very fact that millions gathered around the nation, and world, Saturday without any kind of barrier is evidence of just that.

Many of you marched Saturday, but many of you didn’t march for me.

We’ve already ruined any real chance of eradicating “fake news”

It was at the top of the list for 2016 election rhetoric and whether you ended up on the winning side or the losing side, you’re probably still talking about it: fake news.

Fake news, by definition, is something that is not real – hence the term “fake.” The actual definition reads:

“News satire, also called fake news, is a type of parody presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, and called a satire because of its content. News satire has been around almost as long as journalism itself, but it is particularly popular on the web, for example on websites like The Onion or Faking News, where it is relatively easy to mimic a credible news source and stories may achieve wide distribution from nearly any site. News satire relies heavily on irony and deadpan humor.”

But no one is slamming The Onion or Faking News or El Mundo Today. Most are slamming CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, or any other source that isn’t CSPAN or a personal blog where someone reaffirms the reader’s exact beliefs. This is happening because people are angry and, more often than not, their anger is justified. The mainstream media on both sides, in print and in television has a slant. These outlets race to be first instead of accurate. During crises, we get wrong information. The key word is “wrong,” not “fake.”

But slants and mistatements of facts do not mean something is “fake.” It isn’t fake news to say that 20 students on a school bus died when only 6 did. It’s wrong. Because of this misunderstanding, we’ve completely obliterated any opportunity to teach people who may not understand the difference or even how to assess media sources.  In a matter of months, people have overused the term so much that the majority of people believe everything they see from a news outlet is fake.

Let’s take a look at an example that can be broken down without including partisan politics:

This past Wednesday it was announced that JonBenet Ramsey’s older brother is suing CBS News (and others) for $750 million after a series aired and insinuated that Burke may have had something to do with JonBenet’s death. Friday, his lawyer came out slamming CBS as “fake news” because of the series. Sound the buzzer because that. is. wrong. (For now, we’ll set aside the irony of perpetuating a story that is supposedly so defamatory, it’s worth $750 million)

FACTS: 1. JonBenet was killed. 2. Police have considered Burke a person of interest at some time or another. 3. 20 years later, law enforcement officials have no real leads on who actually committed the crime.
ASSUMPTIONS: The mother and father were ruled out, the ransom note is believed to be forged, and the brother was the only person left in the house “so it had to be Burke.” (Don’t lie, you know this thought has gone through your mind on at least one occasion.)

The assumption is a statement that may or may not be untrue. It isn’t fake, it just might be wrong and at this time, it isn’t something that can be substantiated. CBS has a duty to distinguish the facts they were able to prove and then present alternative possibilities that may or not be true.  Burke very well may have a case for defamation, but his lawyer is making a mockery of the real issue and instead trying to garner attention by equating the case to the rhetoric currently on the national stage.

“Fake new” in this instance would be a headline that reads, “Burke Ramsey picked up by aliens who say they were witness to him murdering his sister.”

“Fake is defined as not genuine or something that is counterfeit. “Wrong” is defined as something that is not correct. There is a very big difference. YUGE. Bigly.

Reporting that Brad Pitt was shot in the streets of L.A. by Russian insurgents when he is actually sitting at a local coffee shop reading to elementary school children is fake news. Certainly not all instances are as extreme as this, but fake news is something that can otherwise be verified by a reader or viewer…if they wanted to make the effort.

It is truly terrifying to me that individuals want someone to censor the Internet for them and impose some sort of regulation and restriction on entities so “someone” can make sure they’re seeing the news a company thinks they should see. That doesn’t sound like the United States at all. Why would someone who doesn’t trust MSNBC or CBS or ABC trust Google or Facebook or Twitter to take on the task of sorting through what is and is not “accurate” news? Better yet, why is any individual incapable of determining for themselves whether or not information is fake.

If individuals would look at what is wrong and where it can be proven wrong, a change may actually be made in how we absorb and share information.

That starts with a change the tone of the conversation. Instead of calling everything we don’t like “fake news,” tell your friends and followers why and keep it specific. “This article from [X] is not correct. I read the official report myself and this is actually what happened…” or perhaps, “I’ve seem {blank tv station} repeatedly get the facts wrong in {x types of situations} so I’ve just decided that they aren’t a reliable source of information during [x].”

One of the very best things about America is the free flow of information – good or bad, politically correct or not, genuine or fake. Besides, the most dangerous fake news headline is the one that perpetuates the idea that just because we don’t like or agree with something, there is no possibility it could be true.