Political Notes – Democrats squabble over police records

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Internal disputes within the Georgia Democratic Party that have been bubbling beneath the surface for months erupted into public this week over the personal background of the party’s political director, Rashad Richey.

Andre Walker, a blogger who runs the Georgia Unfiltered website, has posted several items in recent days alleging that Richey’s background includes police arrests.

Lori Geary filed a report on WSB-TV (link to it here) in which Geary confirmed several of the reported arrests involving Richey.

Geary also secured an interview with state party Chairman Mike Berlon, who defended Richey and contended that the political director “has never been convicted of a felony.”

In the interview with WSB, Berlon says on camera: “He is probably one of the best political directors in the country. Mr. Richey has never been convicted of a felony. There’s nothing out there that rises anywhere near the level of a felony. He’s a young man with a very bright political future.”

Eric Gray, the party’s communications director, said Wednesday that Richey will continue in his job as the political director.

“We stand behind Rashad,” Gray said in an email. “He is very effective and we appreciate his political skill. He’s a bright young man and we have confidence in his work.”

The leadership’s support of Richey has not sat well with other party factions.

On Blog for Democracy, a website founded by Democratic Party activists who have been critical of Berlon, one of the posters blogged:

Everything Andre Walker posted came straight from public record. No former staff or party members pushed this story in ANY way. To continually smear good Democrats who refuse to support this Chair is beyond the pale, but unfortunately par for the course.

No one enjoys this kind of public embarrassment, least of all good Democrats. It’s killing our party and tarnishing what’s left of our brand. I only wish I had this information back in February 2011 when Berlon refused to heed my concerns (and those of others), about Rashad Richey. I would have dropped it squarely on his desk when he asked “what proof do you have?” Maybe that would have saved us from this current embarrassment, but probably not.

I’m not sure what it will take for Georgia Democrats to get their house in order, but it’s clear this Chair has no intention of resigning. What’s best for the party does not seem to be his concern. If he’s to be removed, it will be up to the good Democrats of the State Committee to stand up and take charge of their organization. It’s up to each one of you to prove your relevance.

It was reported in February that Page Gleason had resigned as the party’s executive director, saying in her resignation letter: “I have dedicated my adult life to fighting for the Democratic Party and its ideals throughout the State of Georgia. The situation at the Democratic Party of Georgia, however, has made it impossible for me to continue serving effectively as your Executive Director.”

Bottoms up!

One year after he signed historic legislation allowing Georgians to decide if they wanted to allow package sales of alcohol on Sundays, Gov. Nathan Deal has gone to the well again and signed two bills that will aid the state’s brewers and distillers.

The governor signed HB 472, a bill from Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) that will increase the number of barrels a brew pub can produce each year from 5,000 to 10,000 and increase from 500 to 5,000 the number of barrels they can sell to wholesale distributors.

Deal also signed HB 514, a bill sponsored by Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) that will allow liquor distilleries to market their products by holding on-premises tastings and serving half-ounce samples to visitors.

On an unrelated issue, the governor signed HB 971, the annual housekeeping bill that makes routine changes in the state’s workers’ compensation law.

Executive appointments

Deal has appointed Dr. Gary D. Weichbrodt, a psychiatrist and the editor of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association’s newsletter, to the Office of Disability Services Ombudsman Medical Review Group. Weichbrodt is on staff at Ridgeview Institute and Emory Adventist Hospital.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Andre Walker , brew pubs , distillers , Eric Gray , Georgia Democratic Party , Mike Berlon , Nathan Deal , Rashad Richey