Political Notes — Vance Smith seeks a return to the Georgia House

[private]Vance Smith spent 17 years occupying the District 133 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. He’s hoping to win that seat back.

Smith announced this week he’s going to run for his old seat, which will be vacant next year because Rep. John Pezold (R-Columbus) says he will not run again.

“I just got it in my blood,” Smith told Chuck Williams of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.  “We have been looking at it since March, and [my wife] Michele and I made the decision on Saturday morning. We have talked to a lot of people in Muscogee, Troup and Harris counties about this.”

Smith, who’s now 65, was first elected to the House seat in 1992 and held it until 2009, when he resigned to become commissioner of the Department of Transportation,  a position he held until resigning in 2011.

When Smith stepped down from House, his son Kip won the District 133 seat in a special election. The younger Smith was then ousted by Pezold in the 2012 Republican primary.

Another soon-to-be-vacated House seat, District 79 in Dunwoody, has attracted a Republican candidate in Ken Wright, who was the first mayor of Dunwoody when that city was incorporated nearly a decade ago.

Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) says he will not run for a fifth term in the House. In a district that’s becoming more competitive by the election cycle, Democratic lawyer Michael Wilensky has already said he will run.

This is news?

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed went on the radio Wednesday morning and made his long-expected endorsement of Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms in the mayor’s race.

This was treated as “news” for some reason by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, even though it’s been well-known in political circles for the past year that Bottoms was running as a surrogate for Reed in this election (Reed is termed-out and can’t run again).

Bottoms was running second behind Mary Norwood in at least one recent poll of the race, the much-derided poll conducted by SurveyUSA for WXIA-TV.

What could be a real news development in the city elections is playing out in federal court.

U.S. Attorney BJay Pak announced the sentencing of Elvin R.  Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr. for conspiring to make over $1 million in bribe payments for receiving lucrative contracts with the City of Atlanta.

“The citizens of Atlanta rightfully expect that government contracts will go to the most qualified bidder and trust that the contracting process will be transparent and fair,” Pak said.

“When contractors like Mitchell and Richards pay bribes to get public work, the public’s confidence in the process is undermined and the price of that corruption is borne by the taxpayers,” Pak said.

Mitchell was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1,120,535 in restitution.

Richards was sentenced to two years and three months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $193,000 in restitution.

Where the candidates agree

Here’s something you won’t see often: a legislative race where most of the Republican candidates agree with the Democratic candidates that the legislature doesn’t need to pass a “religious liberty” bill.

It’s happening in the special election in Senate District 6, where voters will pick a replacement for Hunter Hill. This district, which covers portions of Cobb and Fulton counties, is that rare district that’s actually competitive between the two parties.

Here’s how the Marietta Daily Journal reported on a recent candidates’ forum:

Though the candidates mostly agreed that the bill was not necessary, they came to their conclusions from different angles. . .

Republican businessman Charlie Fiveash said he agrees that the First Amendment provides ample protections to the faithful, and that he agrees with Gov. Deal’s decision [to veto a religious freedom bill].

“Just ask our friends in North Carolina how some of those issues and bills worked out for them,” Fiveash said. “That may be a pro-business response, but one reason … I decided to run is after this last election, I woke up and said ‘We need inclusion. We need to bring this country together.’ So that’s why I stand against this bill.”

Republican businesswoman Kathy Eichenblatt echoed the previous arguments and characterized the issue as a distraction.

“I feel as though Georgia as a state is a welcoming state,” she said. “I support Gov. Deal. He said at this juncture no one has been discriminated against yet, why are we drawing up legislation against something that might happen? … This is a piece of legislation that causes division, and I think takes some of our eyes off the ball on pressing issues for us.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Atlanta mayor\'s race , Kasim Reed , religious liberty , Vance Smith