Political Notes – Ralston will have a rematch in GOP primary

[private]House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will have a rerun of his Republican primary race from last year.

Sam Snider, the Gilmer County High School wrestling coach who ran against the powerful legislator in 2014 and got 35 percent of the primary vote, said this week he will take on Ralston again in 2016.

In an online interview with Brian Pritchard of Fetch Your News, Snider noted that Ralston ended up spending more than $900,000 when he campaigned against the first-time candidate to retain his North Georgia House seat:

“It was quite a machine – they had a lot more finances than we did, but we feel we ran a good race. For our 35 percent of the vote, we spent $28,000. His 65 percent cost him a million. With a little more money we could be over the top.”

Snider noted that Ralston has been more visible in the district since he mounted that primary challenge.

“I am grateful for having ran two years ago, that maybe we were able to get his attention,” Snider said. “We got the promise of a million dollars for North Georgia College. We got some paving of roads. We got money for (natural) gas lines. It is some good stuff brought to our county. Does a Republican want more brought back to his county, or does a Republican want lower taxes?”

Pritchard noted that in the 2014 race, tea party members from other parts of Georgia came to the district to campaign for Snider. “That was one of the things you got attacked on last time,” Pritchard said.

“That’s definitely something that a few people were concerned about,” Snider said. “People across the entire state of Georgia were frustrated with the speaker of the House and they did bring in information. They were on their own and I think you’ll find that in any campaign . . . they were not my folks.”

In the upcoming race, Snider indicated that two major issues will be the six-cent increase in the state’s motor fuel tax and the religious freedom bills pending before the Legislature.

Common Cause on the ethics ranking

Common Cause Georgia is “pleased” that Georgia has moved out of last place in the ethics ranking compiled by the Center for Public Integrity with a grade of D-minus, but contends there is still a lot of work to be done on the issue of ethics reform.

“A D-minus is just as unacceptable as an F,” Chairman Clint Murphy said. “This grade demonstrates the need for continued improvement in our ethics, transparency, and campaign finance laws.”

Murphy added: “If we want our ethics commission to truly have the ability to hold elected officials accountable, we need to further empower it with independent funding a host of other tools to get the job done.”

Rubio picks up endorsements

GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio picked up several endorsements this week from Republican officeholders in Georgia, some of whom had formerly backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who’s now dropped out of the race.

The endorsers include House Majority Whip Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock), Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Cumming), Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), former legislator Chuck Clay, Sandy Springs Councilman Gabriel Sterling, and Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks.

Rubio’s Georgia Leadership Team includes U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, state Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Kawrenceville), Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming), Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), and Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta).

Brooks gets some prison time

Former legislator Tyrone Brooks had prominent civil rights leader speaking for him as well as the representation of one of the state’s best-known lawyers, former governor Roy Barnes, but still could not escape doing some prison for his federal fraud convictions.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg of Atlanta sentenced Brooks on Monday to one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years on probation for the federal charges.

Brooks, who is 70, resigned from the Georgia House in April and subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud and no contest to five counts of wire and mail fraud.

Academy director charged with racketeering

Lynda Dukes, the former director of the Fort Gordon Youth Challenge Academy, was arraigned on one count of Racketeering in Richmond County Superior Court last week, the attorney general’s office reported.

She was indicted Oct. 27 on one count of racketeering for her alleged involvement in a scheme that resulted in the theft of nearly $70,000 from the Academy. Racketeering is punishable by five to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000 or three times the amount stolen, Attorney General Sam Olens said.

Executive appointments

The governor’s office announced the following appointments to state boards and commissions –

North Georgia Mountain Authority: Philip Wilheit Jr. of Gainesville, a partner at Wilheit Packaging and a member of the state Board of Natural Resources; Duncan Johnson Jr. of Augusta, the president of Johnson Motor Co.; S. Aaron McWhorter of Whitesburg, the owner and president of North Georgia Turf and Sports Turf Co.; and Jeff “Bodine” Sinyard of Albany, the owner and president of Adams Exterminators.

Georgia Board of Landscape Architects: Rebecca Kirk of Sandy Springs, the vice president of landscape architecture and civil engineering at Southern A&E; Scott Weinberg of Athens, a retired professor in the College of Environment and Design at the University of Georgia;

Georgia Commission on Child Support: Wendy Williamson of Savannah, an attorney and the executive director of the Mediation Center of Savannah.

Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns: Heidi Altman of Statesboro, an associate professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University; Frances Crews of Blackshear, the chief financial officer for the Cherokee of Georgia Tribal Council; Donald Kirkland of Atlanta, a program specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Pelham Police Chief Nealie McCormick; Royce McCrary of Oakfield, a farmer and member of the Lower Muscogee Tribe; and M. Jared Wood of Statesboro, an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University;

Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council: Donald Banks of Macon, a retired officer for the Macon Police Department.

State Board of Accountancy: Clayton Huffman of Atlanta, a manager for Frazier & Deeter.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Common Cause , David Ralston , ethics ranking , Marco Rubio , Nathan Deal , Sam Olens , Sam Snider , Tyrone Brooks