Author Archives: Jessica Szilagyi

There Should be Consequences in the City of South Fulton

Recently, Fox 5 Atlanta’s Dale Russell published an article on City of South Fulton Solicitor LaDawn Jones and her voter registration “incentive.” In it, Russell described how Jones offered defendants in municipal court a reduced fine if they registered to vote or had already voted.

From the article:

“On her Twitter feed, Ms. Jones linked to an article describing Taylor Swift’s call for voter registration and proclaimed: “We registered voters in the City of South Fulton today. Everyone got $50 off their citation if they registered or confirmed their registration….

A court clerk told me there were 110 people on Judge Tiffany Seller’s calendar yesterday and that approximately 90 percent took the $50 off their fine to register or showed they had already registered.”

Jones told Fox 5 that she was considering ‘civic involvement’ when determining the fine and noted that she did not ask anyone with which political party they associated.

After reading about the ‘incentives’, I quickly found myself with with some pretty strong opinions on this incident. Perhaps it is the perception of hypocrisy after her calls for criminal charges against Brian Kemp, or maybe it is the blatant disregard for the law, or it could be the “rules for thee but not for me” mentality that seems to emanate from elected and appointed officials these days. Whatever the cause, my opinions and understanding of the law lead me to believe there should be consequences.

Jones is undoubtedly well-versed on the law as a practicing lawyer, a former state representative, and a current prosecutor for a city in one of our state’s largest counties. She also credits herself with a candidate school where she trains political candidates running for office. Jones is a political pundit – including here at GeorgiaPol.com – and talks shop on outlets across the state. She should know better and I believe she doesknow better.

The municipal judge in the City of South Fulton told Fox 5 that she did not believe any laws were broken, but election law attorney Bryan Tyson is quoted in the Fox 5 article and he later penned his own onMedium where he stated the act was illegal. And a felony.

In Georgia, our laws dictate that you cannot offer another person anything of value in exchange for voter registration, a vote, or a vote for a particular candidate. When federal candidates appear on the ballot as well – like instances Congressional races – it becomes a violation of federal law.

This is not an interpretation of the law either. It is clear as day. O.C.G.A. 21-2-570 reads: Any person who gives or receives, offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.

A reduction of a fine owed is money in your pocket, is it not? If so, the reduction of a fine under the discretion of a prosecutor who considered voter registration status in reducing said fine (that is otherwise codified by state law or local ordinance) is a financial gift, is it not?

If you visit the referenced chapter of the Georgia code, most of the other election-related offenses are misdemeanors, but incentivizing or offering gifts in exchange for something related to a vote is a felony…because it is much more serious.

[If you have the time, I encourage you to read Tyson’s article as he does a nice job articulating specific examples of what is and isn’t okay when encouraging “civic duty.”]

Something similar happened in New York in September of this year where gift cards were offered in exchange for voter registration. It was deemed illegal by election law experts there, too. It comes up every election cycle and every election cycle, legal experts remind people NOT to do it.

Federal law is just as stringent and offers stiffer penalties — up to $10,000 in fines and/or imprisonment up to five years. While it requires ‘willful’ commission, federal law does not require that the payment actually be made or that any individuals actually register to vote or vote for the act to be considered committed. This is stricter than state law because it is clear about ‘anything’ of monetary value, which seems to cancels Jones’ defense to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in which she says no money was actually offered.

The Alliance for Justice has a voter advocacy guide the states, “ Similarly, handing out free cupcakes to individuals to register to vote or offering a service at a discounted rate to individuals who provide proof that they voted would be prohibited” under federal law.

Though we could all speculate and grandstand about the political leanings of those who benefitted from the incentive Jones offered, it really is not necessary. This is not a partisan issue – it is an integrity issue that can’t be excused by the idea of civil disobedience or the public interest of ‘civic engagement.’ The integrity of our elections should be sacred.

It is not unusual for municipal judges to be unclear about the law, but I doubt that any action will be taken locally, even with the codified evidence brought to light and Jones’ admission that the act occurred. Not handling it locally leaves a district attorney in another county, the GBI, or federal authorities, given the clear violations of the law.

Whether or not a bar complaint is necessary, or perhaps an ethics complaint in the City of South Fulton, is not for me to decide. But some sort of deterrent to keep this from happening in the future would go a long way.

There should be repercussions for this kind of flagrant behavior that occurred and was showcased on social media after the fact. Jones’ position as solicitor is a position of power and, therefore, sets a higher standard of moral and ethical character. Jones can’t claim ignorance here, but she could claim it was “a mistake.” Much like those who appear before her in the City of South Fulton, Jones knows that state law requires people be held accountable for their “mistakes.”

And if Jones doesn’t like the law, I would encourage her to lobby her elected officials for a change.

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Why I’m Voting NO on Georgia’s Amendment 4 – Marsy’s Law

Georgia has 5 Constitutional Amendments on the ballot this year and while I plan to vote NO on all five, the one I am most adamantly against is No. 4.

Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law, addresses rights of victims of crime. It is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime. It’s named after California college student Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend. It is already codified in state statute.

The amendment allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.

The measure has been approved by voters in California, Ohio, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, but not without effects. In 2018, voters in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma will consider versions of it.

The amendment will appear on the Georgia ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

Sounds heartwarming, but…that’s intentional from the powers that be. I’ll be voting NO and here’s why:

My reasons for voting NO are numbered but are in no particular order of importance.

  1. As proposed in the Constitutional Amendment, it deals with “alleged” perpetrators, notthose already convicted of a crime. In some states, unintended consequences have resulted in problems of due process.Read this from The Gazette: “Marsy’s Law would interfere with a defendant’s Sixth Amendment due process rights, said John Piro, the chief deputy public defender for Nevada’s Clark County, by giving people harmed by a crime the right to be heard before the alleged perpetrator has pleaded innocent or guilty.” And in South Dakota, the approved Marsy’s Law has resulted in longer jail stays while courts wait for victims to be notified. Officials say it’s led to notification in even the simplest of crimes, like vandalism, and swamped staff with additional paperwork.
  2. It’s duplicative because it’s already state law. Joe Mulholland, a District Attorney in South Georgia, told his local paper that the amendment is technically already part of the law. “It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger. Having that and knowing its part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.” Victims have the opportunity to opt-in to the notification process and be involved in the proceedings as much as they so choose under current law.
  3. It will bog down the legal process. The state of Illinois hasn’t seen a slow down in actual proceedings, but Lee Roupas, president of the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association has said “There’s definitely an increase in administrative burden as far as notification goes.” since the state passed the measure in 2014.
  4. Changing the State Constitution is serious business, something the ACLU opposes because it will leave no room for discretion or change without ANOTHER Constitutional Amendment.

    “We certainly believe that crime victims should be supported, but Marsy’s Law is really a one-size-fits-all, outsourced approach for how to support crime victims,” said Susanna Birdsong of the ACLU of North Carolina i
    n the News Observer, which is urging voters to reject the amendment. She says the change “leaves no legislative discretion to fill in the gaps or complete the picture,” tying the hands of state leaders from tweaking the process when needed.
  5. It will be expensive.

    Georgia has not released any documentation on the financial impact, but in North Carolina, where the measure is also on the ballot, the legislature’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division estimates Marsy’s Law could cost at least $11 million a year to fund.

    In South Dakota, lawmakers have worked to repeal the Constitutional Amendment earlier this year because of the high costs. KSFY ABC reported that ““Marsy’s Law laid the ground work for a costly victims notification system, with a price tag of more than $100,000 dollars for Minnehaha County. It’s costing the state upwards of $5 million.”” Those same lawmakers say it has also hampered ongoing investigations and has caused confusion over what information can and cannot be released to the public and the media. Law enforcement officials have even said it hinders how the public assists with investigations.

    And Montana officials have said similar things: “Somebody steals a hair brush from Target department store, well is the corporation the victim? Does that mean that my office is obligated not to just talk to the clerk at Target who is victimized and the store manager, but do I have to talk to corporate council at wherever that corporation is headquartered,” Yellowstone County State’s Attorney Scott Twito said.  In addition, the Montana version of the law was never implemented because of a state Supreme Court challenge.

  6. It makes some people more equal under the law than others.  This Constitutional Amendment would actually provide more rights for victims than it would for anyone else under the law, including the accused which is only exacerbated by the fact that it will be in the Constitution.
  7. The group pushing Marsy’s Law is well-funded. It’s billionaire backed and millions of dollars are being funneled in to each state where the initiative is on the ballot, which is unusual for an initiative that would be for limited government. Henry Nicholas, the billionaire founder of semiconductor company Broadcom, is the brother of Marsy, who the bill is named after. With such intense ties to the cause, it’s no wonder the advocates are willing to see it passed at all costs, regardless of financial or justice system-related impact. He has spent $27 million, without counting funding in 6 states in 2018, to get the measure passed in various states.
  8. Because the group is well-funded, a number of television and social media ads have been sponsored and they’re using fear to tug at the heart strings of Georgians. I don’t want any initiative passed because of fear — and it’s an unprincipled approach to policy.

    The first one, released in late September, falsely implies that victims of crimes do not have equal rights under the Constitution, which is not true. You can watch it below.

https://www.allongeorgia.com/georgia-column-politics/column-tv-ad-for-marsys-law-in-georgia-is-misleading/embed/#?secret=Yc4wqtbeME

The second ad is available here:

 

This is more about recourse for victims than anything. The state law, which is already in place, that requires notification doesn’t have a pathway for victims to actually gain anything if they are not notified or something happens. This would allow for claims of a violation of their constitutional rights should the court system fail to notify them. It sounds nice, but I still feel strongly that this isn’t the intended purpose of our Constitution. It’s frightening that the end goal is to have the U.S. Constitution amended to include this, according to the Gazette in reporting on the backer.

Benita Dodd from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation also said in an article published on their website that “A constitutional amendment is no place to risk infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime. The accused have the presumption of innocence until convicted; their life and liberty are at stake. For many suffering victims and their surviving families, there’s a fine line between justice based on a court of law and vengeance based on the alleged wrongdoing.”

And I agree.

BREAKDOWN: 2 Ballot Referendums In Addition to 5 Constitutional Amendments

I previously penned a breakdown on the 5 proposed Constitutional Amendments that will appear on all ballots across Georgia this fall. It can be found here or in the content at the bottom of this article.

But the 5 Constitutional Amendments won’t be alone. They’ll be joined by two statewide ballot referenda as well. [You may also find local referendums on issues pertaining to your city and/or county, but those won’t be broken down here as there are far too many. If you have questions about them, feel free to reach out!]

The two ballot referendums, also known as “legislatively referred state statutes, appear because the state legislature voted to place those measures on the ballot for voters to decide. [ Georgia does not allow citizen-initiated ballot referendums.] The proposed changes referred by the legislature are changes in the laws – by way of approval or rejection – but do not alter the state Constitution.


Referendum A – Provides for a Homestead Exemption for residents of certain municipal corporations

The referendum stems from House Bill 820 in the Georgia legislature. It was approved 158-6 in the House and 55-0 in the Senate. State Representatives John Pezold, Michael Caldwell, Park Cannon, Matt Gurtler, David Stover, and Scot Turner voted NO. Five of the six of the NO votes are limited government conservative state representatives.

The question on the ballot will read:

“Do you approve a new homestead exemption for a municipal corporation that is located in more than one county, that levies a sales tax for the purposes of a metropolitan area system of public transportation, and that has within its boundaries an independent school system, from ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in the amount of the difference between the current year assessed value of a home and the adjusted base year value, provided that the lowest base year value will be adjusted yearly by 2.6%?

This one is confusing, so bear with me.

For most people, this referendum will not apply because they do not meet all the criteria. The measure was sponsored in the House & Senate by metro Atlanta legislators, but once it becomes law, it could affect any city or county that someday meets the criteria.

The “adjusted base year value” is defined as either the lowest base year value or, if available, the previous base year value adjusted annually by 2.6 percent plus any change in value. “Lowest base year value” for exemptions first granted in the 2019 tax year is defined as the lowest among the 2016, 2017, and 2018 valuations multiplied by 1.0423, which is the inflation rate for December 2015 through December 2017.

These municipalities referenced already have different millage rate and taxation guidelines.

VOTING YES — means you support the measure to provide a homestead property tax exemption for some cities equal to the difference between the current year and the adjusted base year.

VOTING NO — means you do NOT support the measure to provide a homestead property tax exemption for some cities equal to the difference between the current year and the adjusted base year.

If approved, it will change and make law OCGA 48-5-44.1. Approval by the voters means it will take effect on January 1, 2019 and will apply to all tax years beginning on or after that date.


Referendum B – Provides a tax exemption for the mentally disabled.

The referendum stems from House Bill 196 in the Georgia legislature. This bill started off as a music industry tax credit piece of legislation but was gutted from its original form to include the language for the nonprofits in order to get the bill passed before the close of the legislative session. Therefore, if you search the legislation, it may appear with a different name and subject matter but the content reflects what the referendum pertains to.

This initiative was sponsored by State Representative Matt Dollar and passed 49-5 in the Senate and 149-3 in the House. The three dissenters in the House were State Reps Matt Gurtler (R), Brenda Lopez (D), and Matt Dollar (likely because his bill was gutted from its original intent and replaced with an initiative of someone else.) The give dissenters in the Senate were Senators Bill Heath (R) , Lester Jackson (D), Emanuel Jones (D), David Lucas (D), and Josh McKoon (R ).

The question on the ballot will read:

“Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes on nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled if they include business corporations in the ownership structure for financing purposes?”

B is much easier to understand than A and is a simple exemption for nonprofit organizations that assist the mentally disabled, even in instances where corporations are involved. Essentially, homes that are owned by Limited Liability Corporations, LLCs, are exempt from taxation if the parent company is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Concerns would be that corporations would use the nonprofit industry as a tax shelter. Additionally, any ‘exemption’ or manipulation of the tax code provides for a different standard of treatment for a specific group of people – making some more equal under the law than others.

VOTING YES means you support this measure to allow a tax exemption for nonprofits that serve the mentally disabled even in instances when housing constructed is paid for by financing from corporations.

VOTING NO means you DO NOT support this measure to allow a tax exemption for nonprofits that serve the mentally disabled even in instances when housing constructed is paid for by financing from corporations.

If approved, it would amend OCGA  48-5-41 and would become law beginning January 1, 2019.


You can visit ‘My Voter Page’ on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website to get a full size sample ballot. Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018.


For good measure, the breakdown of the Constitutional Amendments is below.

5 Constitutional Amendments to the State Constitution will appear on the November general election ballot. Are you informed about what those ballot questions mean?

Here’s a brief rundown.

Amendment 1 — Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment 

This would give the state the authority to dedicate “up to” 80% of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods to be used for land conservation.  This was initially supposed to happen when the sales tax was put into place, but never occurred. The “up to” 80% language means the legislature is still not required to allocate the tax money but can allocated up to that percentage.

The funds would be used to support state parks and trails, provide stewardship of conservation lands, and acquire land for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering, or outdoor recreation.These initiatives would be carried out by creating the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, which would be handled by the state. 40% of the 80% allocated would go to this fund.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?

VOTING YES means you support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.

VOTING NO means you oppose support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition is one of the main sponsors of this amendment as is The Georgia Conservancy.

Opponents of the amendment say it doesn’t go far enough or have enough enforcement teeth to require the money actually be used for conservation. It simply allows the state to send the money to the fund if it chooses.


Amendment 2 – Business Court Creation

Amendment 2 would create a new court system in the state of Georgia, specifically for businesses. This will allow judges in the business court to be APPOINTED not ELECTED. All judges would be appointed by the Governor and there would be no limit on how long a judge could serve.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a state-wide business court, authorize superior court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for state-wide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?

VOTING YES means you support amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court and would set the rules, term length and qualifications of the court.

VOTING NO means you oppose amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court which would appoint judges by way of the Governor,  set the rules, term length and qualifications of the court.

This Amendment was sponsored by the Governor’s floor leaders and others, including Representatives Chuck Efstration, Terry Rogers, Trey Rhodes, Christian Coomer, Wendell Willard, and Barry Fleming. All are Republicans.

Governor Nathan Deal told WABE that, “A constitutional created business court would provide an efficient and dependable forum for litigants in every corner of our state.” This is a measure that was part of his Court Reform Council in his earlier years as governor. The amendment has the support of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and is being pushed by “Georgians for Lawsuit Reform.”

Here’s the link to the bill.


Amendment 3 – Forest Land and Timberland Conservation

This amendment would revise current law by subclassifying forest land conservation use property for ad valorem taxation purposes. It would also change the method for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants.

Amendment 3 will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?

VOTING YES means you support allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland. This also allows the state to establish a percentage of local grant assistance funding that could be retained by the state for administration.

VOTING NO means you oppose allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland. This also allows the state to establish a percentage of local grant assistance funding that could be retained by the state for administration.

The bill is supported by the Georgia Forestry Commission and Governor Deal. Andres Villegas, president and CEO of the Georgia Forestry Association was quoted saying, “For more than 100 years, the Georgia Forestry Association has been instrumental in timber tax legislation, which has positioned the state as a global leader in forestry. Thanks to the leadership of our elected officials and Governor Deal, we can, once again, ensure that our tax policy supports the growth and vitality of our working forests and the communities that depend on them.”

You can read the bill here.


Amendment 4 – Marsy’s Law/Victim’s Rights

Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law, addresses rights of victims of crime. It is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime.

The amendment allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.

The amendment will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

VOTING YES means you support adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.

VOTING NO means you oppose adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law for Georgia is a special advocacy organization created just for this bill and is the main sponsor. The amendment is endorsed by a number of victims’ rights groups.

Joe Mulholland, a District Attorney in South Georgia, told his local paper that the amendment is technically already part of the law. “It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger. Having that and knowing its part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.”

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, has voiced concerns about the unintended consequences of the law, even penning a piece on it. You can read that here, but among the concerns are 1) additional attorney costs and costs for support staff for victims, 2) the risk of infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime, 3) an increase in false accusations, and seemingly most severe, the accused could “lose their right to be presumed innocent until convicted.”

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation also said in an article published on their website that“A constitutional amendment is no place to risk infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime. The accused have the presumption of innocence until convicted; their life and liberty are at stake. For many suffering victims and their surviving families, there’s a fine line between justice based on a court of law and vengeance based on the alleged wrongdoing.”


Amendment 5 – School Sales Tax Referendums

Amendment 5 is the School Sales Tax Referendums Amendment. This amendment, if passed, would allow school districts or groups of school districts within a county to call for a sales and use tax referendum. For example: Fulton County and Atlanta City Schools or Cobb County and City of Marietta Schools.

The sales tax would be used for the educational purposes of the school districts and would be 1%. The term could be upwards of 5 years.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize a referendum for a sales and use tax for education by a county school district or an independent school district or districts within the county having a majority of the students enrolled within the county and to provide that the proceeds are distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached among such school systems for a different distribution?

VOTING YES means you support the amendment to allow a school district or districts with a majority of enrolled students within a county to call for a referendum to levy a sales tax for education purposes.

VOTING NO means you oppose the amendment to allow a school district or districts with a majority of enrolled students within a county to call for a referendum to levy a sales tax for education purposes.

Ballotpedia quotes Senator Ellis Black, a sponsor of the Amendment, in an interview saying, “the measure was designed to put provisions in place so that a school system with a majority of the full-time equivalent (FTE) students can place a renewal of an ESPLOST on the ballot before voters without having to ask all the systems within a county. Black also said the measure was designed to prevent a smaller school system from essentially blackmailing a larger school system within the county from passing a resolution to place an ESPLOST renewal on the ballot, and similarly, that it would stop a larger school system from preventing smaller systems from putting the issue before voters.”

The bill passed 33-17 down party lines.

To all the broken hearts after Election Day

Few things are worse in the political arena than working tirelessly for months, for yourself, a cause, or a candidate in whom you believe, only to find that the votes didn’t go your way.

It doesn’t matter if it was 70-30, 60-40, or 49-51. A loss is a loss.

Whether it’s because you were outspent, outworked, you were too positive, you were too negative, you were too young, you’d been there too long, you got in the race too late, you peaked too early, you focused on the wrong issues, turnout was low, turnout was higher than expected, or any other reason that someone offers you the morning after, your heart is a little bit…or maybe even a lot of bit…broken.

If it isn’t, you worked for the wrong candidate.

I know this because I’ve been on both sides – all sides. I’ve been on the losing team when we deserved to win and the losing team when we deserved to lose. I’ve also been on the winning team when we deserved to win and even when we didn’t. All evoke a different kind of emotion, but an emotion nevertheless because you hopped on board because you care.

Campaigning is probably one of the most exhilarating and simultaneously toxic activities in American culture. There are highs and lows, so many good people, and so much uncertainty. I always joke that you have to be a little bit mental to enjoy it because who thinks it’s fun to play a (usually unfriendly) game of, “Is the person telling you the truth when they say they’ll vote for you? I don’t know – let’s wait a few months and find out.”

For me, I always like the definitive aspect of campaigning and elections. Much like my job with AllOnGeorgia, campaigning places you in a position where people will either stand with you or against you. They will either defend you or they will tear you down. They will take sides and, for the end of time, you will forever know where they stand. Campaigns bring out the best and the worst of people and I find it to be refreshing to know who stands with the best and who will publicly stand with the worst.

And if you’re competitive, invested, or just honest, you probably associate “loss” with “loser,” but the two are not the same. A loss means you didn’t win, but “a loser” is a mentality, a state of life, a quality of character – or lack thereof. Those who stand for what they believe, no matter what the cost, are never losers.

I know a lot of winners who lost last night around this state…and a lot of “losers” who won. [Don’t take that to mean no good people won, that’s certainly not the case either.]

Knowing and understanding all of that may not take away where you are emotionally.

You may be angry with the people around you right now, and in some cases, it may be justified. You may have been the center of a smear campaign, as it seems those are becoming more and more popular around our state. It may have been your husband or wife that was tarnished – even in a victory – and that isn’t something you wake up and no longer resent. You may just be angry that you told the truth and it went unheard. Or that you did as you believed only to learn that isn’t what others believe. That you’re a minority.

But while you’re the minority, you aren’t alone. It’s the old adage of quality over quantity.

My boss has always told me, “Not everyone will support you, but the right ones always will.”

Read that again: The right ones always will. So don’t let them down by seeing yourself as a “loser” or carrying yourself as one. The right ones stood with you for a reason.

Because the most definitive aspect of campaigning is how it defines you. Are you defined by a political candidate or a career yourself? Is politics the most important thing you’ll do with your life?

For most of you, that answer is a resounding no.

My Choice for Governor in the Republican Runoff

I’m voting for Brian Kemp for Governor on July 24th and it’s not because I’m simply “anti-Cagle,” though I am in the strongest sense of the term.

In fact, I’m not just ‘against the other guy,’ I’ve had a 3×4 Kemp sign displayed in my yard since March of this year. I believe I’ve had fewer than five candidate signs in my yard over the last several years, so it’s safe to say I’m committed to why I’m supporting him.

I first saw Kemp as a gubernatorial candidate at the forum in Milledgeville. I was a moderator and had the opportunity to ask all of the candidates questions. Kemp seemed genuine and I remarked after the debate in my analysis that he appeared to be the only candidate of the five who appeared on stage to grasp the contrasting lifestyles in rural and metro areas across our state.

I then had the opportunity to sit down with all of the gubernatorial candidates – with the exception of Cagle, who refused – during the primary election. I spent an hour grilling Kemp on his positions and his plan for rural Georgia. He had recently released the plan and AllOnGeorgia was the first news organization to discuss the details. I assumed I would see him dodge a few questions or maybe even contradict himself throughout the lengthy interview, as most politicians do, but he did not. Kemp earned my vote that day.

I found it respectable that he answered all of my questions. I didn’t agree with every response, but he took a position and, from what I’ve seen over the last nine months, hasn’t wavered. I will take a candidate who I disagree with on a consistent basis over an inconsistent chameleon any day. Kemp isn’t on the campaign trail telling different groups of people different things. He is the same when he’s in jeans as he is when he’s in a suit.

I’ve lived in metro Atlanta and I now live in rural Georgia. The differences in quality of life are staggering. I’m not looking for a candidate who will “fix” rural Georgia because I don’t believe that’s the proper role of government, but to get government out of the way, one must first understand where government is the problem. Kemp made it clear that he does.

From health care to infrastructure to broadband internet and even education, Kemp’s answers illustrated that he wasnt just regurgitating what he’d put on his website. His positions were taken because of what he has seen, because he’s the only candidate who has actually visited rural communities.

(I’ve linked our interview at the bottom of this column)

Had you told me a year and a half ago that I’d have a nice Kemp sign in my yard, I would have laughed in your face. I’ve been a vocal critic of his while he’s served as Secretary of State. His teams knows that and I’m sure he knows that. (I was actually nervous about interviewing him after so much criticism, but he was nothing but humble and kind throughout.) Kemp is not perfect. He made some mistakes as Secretary of State.

But he isn’t running for Secretary of State. He’s running for Governor of this state and the offices are vastly different with two totally different operational positions. I feel strongly that Kemp is the most qualified candidate to lead Georgia with honesty and integrity.

I believed all of these things before Cagle’s infamous recordings came out, well before Cagle’s campaign accused me writing fake news, and long before the laundry list of unprincipled legislators lined up for #CagleLead. To me, those are just bonus points — further assurance that I’m supporting the right person.

This office isn’t one that’s supposed to operate off of political favors, backscratching, and “thank yous.” It shouldn’t be about special interest donations or “****ing politics.” It should be about someone who has conviction and a concrete belief system you can look to, even in the face of losing support. This election is about electing someone who will put the needs of others above his own.

I don’t believe Kemp will hold grudges or govern with a vengeance. I believe he’ll be someone who is accessible and accountable. I also believe that when he tells Georgians “NO” on an issue, there will be a reason — not a dollar — behind the decision. Successes seen will be seen in the lives of Georgians, not the reflection in the mirror. Aren’t those the qualities of a person in which this state is in dire need?

I expect him to make mistakes, as every elected official in the history of elected officials before him has. But I believe we’ll always know what to expect. And I also think we’ll be able to bring criticisms to the table with a Kemp governorship. Do you think we could say the same about a Cagle dictatorship governorship?

Issues and policies seem to change with the times and circumstances surrounding social trends, the economy, and so much more. That’s why we need to look to elect people of character because when everything else is fluctuating, character remains in tact. We have the opportunity to do that in the Peach State.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting Brian Kemp on July 24th.

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Casey Cagle – The Guy Who Doesn’t ‘Get’ Government

In less than 14 days, Republicans across the state will know who ‘their guy’ is for Governor. The runoff election between Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp is the train we’ve all seen coming down the tracks for the last 8 years. And here we are – waiting for the tracks to split to tell us what kind of Governor we’ll have for the next four to eight years.

But one of those trains, though shiny with the prospect of jobs and reversible highway lanes, would place Georgia on a collision course with the most unforgiving, borderline malicious, principle-lacking, self-interested, beholden-to-me ways of Casey Cagle. And that’s truly frightening.

When Cagle was elected for the first time, I was just 8 years old. That was 22 years ago. By every definition of the word, he is a career politician and not the kind that serves his constituents well. His eye has always been on the gubernatorial prize and all of his decisions along the way have been with that in mind. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the proverbial dots. Whether it was serving in the state senate, becoming Lieutenant Governor, campaigning for Governor until his campaign was plagued by scandal leading him to drop out, or to sit in holding until Deal’s tenure was up…Cagle has had one end goal in mind and he’s kept the throttle down while showcasing everything that is wrong with politics. Why? Because he uses elected office to appease special groups, reward donors, and advance himself.

Let’s back up that statement.

The Cagle team was recently emboldened enough to dig into the Senate voting records from 15 years ago to drum up perceived legislative screw ups by his opponent Brian Kemp -a procedural vote as a matter of fact – as if that somehow cancels out his years of blocking CBD oil legislation, restorative gun bills, and limited government initiatives on matters impacting Georgians in all corners of the state.

Why don’t we instead talk about Cagle’s history in the legislature – the years he spent demonstrating he has no comprehension of what government is in place to do. During his tenure as a state senator:

Isn’t legislation supposed to be targeted to all Georgians instead of just a select few? Time and time again, Cagle has shown he just doesn’t ‘get’ the proper role of government. Worse, what Casey Cagle was ‘for’ ten years ago very well may be what he is ‘against’ these days. Much like his supposed opposition to tax increases until he helped push the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 – or the state’s largest tax increase. We just don’t know.

His attacks on his opponent, the ones alleging debts owed, are somehow supposed to sound worse than his repeated press releases illustrating that he plans to use the Governor’s Office as a mechanism to punish businesses. Just a week ago, Cagle announced on his website that he consulted with state lawyers about how to stop financial institutions from refusing to do business with gun manufacturers. Before that, it was the publicity fiasco of stopping a jet fuel tax credit for Delta when the company halted a discount for members of the National Rifle Association, a discount that was utilized by 13 people nationwide during its existence.

As an unabashed supporter of our gun rights, one who has “a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment” as some might say, I am equally supportive of the right of an individual or business to refuse to do business with another individual or business – for any reason. Cagle has made it clear that he’ll use his role as Governor to manipulate private industries and entities into doing what he wants.

Cagle’s remedy to the anti-gun businesses is to create a law, even though reasonable conservatives generally don’t see a need for more government intervention and would rather just avoid doing business with anti-gun businesses in the first place. But Cagle’s solution is to force a business to comply with his views. Not the views of Georgians, but his personally and for what fuels the agenda of his agenda. Worst of all, Cagle, referred to the Governor’s Office as a “bully pulpit,” a term we don’t see used much anymore.

The press release I’m referencing in regard to the businesses which refuses to transact with gun manufacturers reads, “Cagle consulted with state lawyers over the weekend about legal remedies, but after learning there are none under current state law, he said he would utilize the bully pulpit of the Governor’s Office and its floor leaders to advance new legislation early in the 2019 legislative session.” Team Cagle said remedies would include 1) preventing state government from doing business with companies that “discriminate” based on their beliefs and review taxpayer funded incentives.

You read that correctly. Cagle’s solution to a business doing something with which he does not agree is to use the entire state as a mechanism to punish and to yank away tax credits and loopholes. If Cagle were the fiscal conservative he claims to be in those televisions commercials and campaign mailers, he would know that adding and subtracting tax credits does little in terms of sustainable fiscal soundness.

In the wake of the released ‘secret recordings’ exposing Cagle as the self-interested politician he is, I can’t say that I was even outraged by his comments that he supported a bill for “f***ing politics, not policy” because that’s the Cagle we’ve all come to know and despise over the last two decades. His response to a recent story alleging he purchased a condo from a lobbyist was simply that it was “for his kids.” It is difficult for him to recognize a moral or ethical dilemma stemming from his actions because all of this is just who he is as an elected official.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, his moral compass is waterlogged from his time spent at the bottom of the cesspool where he’s helped lay the foundation for the political system our state operates on today. He may be a good father, a decent husband, and a superb politician, but he isn’t who we need to lead our state.

A vote for Casey Cagle on July 24 is a vote to perpetuate the ‘system’ that squashes the average Georgian and continually bounces from one special interest to the next, depending on donation or promise. Take Georgia off the market and skip Cagle on the ballot. We deserve better.

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.

 

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.