Campaign money, judges’ resignations, carts

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Georgia has 159 counties and one of the key ingredients to successful state political campaigns is financial support from outside the metropolitan Atlanta area. Recent disclosure reports released by the State Ethics Commission indicate that the campaigns of three Fayette County candidates for state offices have little support from other parts of Georgia.

Former Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon, Republican candidate for state insurance commissioner, reported total contributions of $59,935 with $56,216 cash on hand on March 31. Logsdon made a loan to his campaign in the amount of $46,740 which accounts for 83 percent of the cash presently available to his campaign. His campaign fund would have less than $10,000 for advertising and other expenses had he not made the loan.

All of Logsdon’s itemized contributors are from Fayette or Coweta counties except four small donations from north of I-20 and three sizable donations from out of state. Logsdon’s chief local cash donors are developer Brent Scarbrough ($6,100) and former Peachtree City Mayor Bob Lenox ($3,000).

The amount of cash available to Logsdon including the loan ranks fifth among the six serious contenders for the Republican nomination. His top opponent, state Senator Ralph Hudgens, reported total contributions in excess of $360,000 with $260,000 cash on hand. Hudgens’ support is from a broad base of Georgia individuals and businesses including independent insurance agents from virtually every corner of the state.

Peachtree City resident Gary Horlacher, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, reported $283,364 cash on hand for the same period. Horlacher made a $22,000 personal campaign contribution and $250,000 in personal loans to the campaign. He is the source of funds for 96 percent of his campaign’s cash on hand at the end of March and has few contributions outside metro Atlanta.

Horlacher’s top Democratic opponent, Gail Buckner, reported $228,371 cash on hand. She made a $15,000 personal contribution and loaned her campaign $200,000. This is especially puzzling since she is rumored to be considering dropping out of the race.

Incumbent Secretary of State Brian Kemp has the Republican “big money dogs” behind him and will be competitive in his quest to retain the position. Sandy Springs resident Doug MacGinnitie has almost $700,000 in his campaign chest with more to come from long-time connections in Dunwoody.

Buckner and Horlacher have not hit the jackpot with contributions, and one wonders why both are investing a quarter of a million dollars in a race for secretary of state when the winner must face such strong Republican opposition in the general election.

Horlacher faces more of an uphill battle than Logsdon. Both candidates need to do a better job of introducing themselves to the power brokers below the gnat line since the much discussed Republican ring around Atlanta no longer prevails.

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox has the best chance of the candidates from Fayette County because she is a known commodity throughout the state. Some view her incumbency as a negative since the state’s educational system is in shambles due to budget shortfalls and the gradual shift of power from the Department of Education to the governor’s office.

Cox’s campaign reported a meager $23,660 cash on hand at the end of March. She will not have strong competition in the Republican primary unless a surprise candidate steps up during this week’s qualifying period. The leading announced Republican opponent is Dr. John Barge, director of secondary education in the Bartow County Schools. Barge has raised a comparable amount of funds and is popular with school administrators.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face retired Cobb County educator Dr. Beth Farokhi who has in excess of $50,000 cash on hand. Farokhi, a prolific fundraiser, may be the most qualified person in the race and hopes to ride in on gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes’ coattails. Her election will not be good for Georgia because she has strong teacher union leanings.

A portion of Cox’s 2009 contributions came from Department of Education employees and members of her family. It was a mistake for her to accept contributions from staffers. Smart agency heads refuse employee contributions because of ethical issues and potential questions about promotions and pay raises. Department of Education employees who contributed to Cox’s campaign include Raye Black, Brenda Turner, Matt Cardoza and Stephen Pruitt.

The most interesting item on Kathy Cox’s 2009 report is a $5,000 cash contribution from Senator Ronnie Chance’s election campaign fund to Cox’s campaign. Local folks who contributed to Senator Chance but oppose Superintendent Kathy Cox may be disappointed when they learn of this donation.

The fund-raising efforts of three Fayette County statewide candidates are a dismal failure and the lack of sufficient advertising budgets usually translates to the death of political campaigns. The good news is that elections are won or lost in the final three weeks and candidates have three months to shore up war chests before the July primary election.

Random & unrelated thoughts

• I was surprised to learn of the hurried resignations of Superior Court Judges Johnnie Caldwell and Paschal English last week. There have been rumors of favoritism, unethical behavior and possible corruption in the Griffin Judicial Circuit for years. It appears the secretive Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission was called in to whitewash the situation and help maintain the status quo in exchange for taking one or two casualties … just for show!

There may be more to this scandal than meets the naked eye. John Munford did a great job of reporting this story and should continue his investigative reporting until all of the facts become public. The taxpayers have seen the smoke but not the fire and are entitled to full disclosure and a change in the way the Griffin Judicial Circuit is managed.

• It is time for the Peachtree City Council to address the golf cart problem. The council was wise to ban parking along the cart path near McIntosh High School but more action is needed.

First, gas-powered carts should be prohibited on the cart path system. The powerful gas carts go too fast, make unacceptable levels of noise, and unquestionably pollute the environment more than electric carts.

Second, there is a need to prohibit the speedy GEM type carts. The cart path system is not designed to handle such fast vehicles.

Third, the city staff should get a better handle on dealing with illegal modifications to carts.

Fourth, the council should investigate the feasibility of a required golf cart safety inspection program.

Fifth, the council should consider prohibiting texting while driving golf carts.

• The Fayette County Board of Education is finally doing something right. It hired the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) to coordinate the search for a new superintendent. Dr. Don Rooks of the GSBA will spearhead the search and likely produce a cadre of high quality applicants for the board to consider.

This writer was well acquainted with Don Rooks when he was superintendent of the exemplary Jefferson City School System. Rooks approached all activities with a winning touch and completed controversial projects successfully while gaining the respect of all concerned.

The Fayette School Board is fortunate to have his advice and counsel. He should explain to them that the local board’s responsibility is limited to selecting a superintendent, providing budget and establishing operational policies for the school system. The superintendent is chief operating officer and Board of Education members should stop dabbling in operations and personnel matters as they have in the past.

• The Peachtree City Council made a good decision in rejecting the staff request that fire sprinkler systems be required in all new single family residences. Working smoke detectors are equally effective in saving lives and are significantly less expensive than sprinkler systems. The homeowner should be allowed to make the choice between these two fire protection options. I personally believe that hard-wired smoke detectors are the best option for safety and reliability.

The underlying motive for this proposed ordinance was of power and control by the fire safety community. It is the desire of fire safety leaders throughout the state to implement fee-based sprinkler inspection requirements with the fees dedicated to expanding the budgets of fire departments. Passage of such ordinances also creates lucrative financial opportunities for friends who manufacture and provide maintenance services for these systems.

• Homeowners and builders are losing a friend with the retirement of Tom Carty, Peachtree City’s top building official. He is a walking encyclopedia on building codes and is always helpful to citizens in resolving issues related to construction. Builders respect Carty because he is fair to all concerned and maintains an open line of communication with the building community.

Enough said!

[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. He may be contacted at rand5474@bellsouth.net.]