And the race is on in the Augusta area, with four Republican candidates, three of them local, vying to unseat Democrat 12th District Congressman John Barrow, two announced candidates for the District 3 seat on the Augusta Commission, and one challenger to the District 2 incumbent in Columbia County.
They’re barely out of the gate, but the political shenanigans have already begun with the circulation of a video clip from a Statesboro forum in which someone asked congressional candidate Lee Anderson whether he would try to change the Federal Reserve or abolish it if elected.
“We must build our reserves even stronger than what it is now … on the federal level,” Anderson replied. “On the state level, we are building back our reserves up now.”
When contacted by phone for comment about the clip, Anderson said, “They’re trying to be dirty already. They can play dirty politics. I go the high road. I run a positive campaign.”
“And,” he added, “the federal reserves, we need to get them on a level where we can audit them, so we’ll know exactly what they’re doing.”
CAN THEY MANAGE IT? The Augusta Commission District 3 race got more interesting last week, when both attorney Ed Enoch and Mary Fair Davis announced they’ll run for the seat.
Mary Davis was campaign manager for Deke Copenhaver when he ran in 1996, and Enoch has been state Sen. Hardie Davis’ campaign manager since his first run for the senate.
So, if Mary Davis is elected, Mayor Deke will have a strong ally on the commission. And if Enoch wins, Hardie Davis will have a buddy on the board, too.
Enoch, attorney for the Augusta-Richmond Coliseum Authority, said if he’s elected, he’ll give up that job.
“I think I’d have to,” he said.
Commissioners and legislators appoint members to the authority, so Enoch would end up appointing members who could conceivably hire him as attorney.
“It would be a conflict,” he said.
Why, you might ask, would Enoch give up what you might expect to be a lucrative job for one that pays $13,000 a year?
The answer is that it’s not so lucrative nowadays. A few years ago, when authority members were having knock-down drag-outs at meetings, Enoch had a lot more legal work to do. Now, not so much. He’s paid $150 an hour, which he says is “a bargain” and makes $500 to $1,000 a month.
AND HE’S NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! Meanwhile, Damon Cline, former business editor for The Augusta Chronicle, said he’ll challenge Commissioner Trey Allen for his District 2 seat on the Columbia County Commission.
The catalyst for Cline’s decision to run is the current commission’s approval of a government subsidized housing development near his neighborhood.
In a letter to the editor published Dec. 5 in The Chronicle, Cline notes the weakening of the “bedroom-community haven for achievement-oriented middle-class families … during the past decade by a proliferation of ‘affordable’ high-density developments.”
“Now the commission’s rubber-stamp approval of a 50-home development designed for welfare recipients in the heart of Martinez, to be called Magnolia Trace, effectively drives a stake in heart of a community that people could once call ‘a nice place to live,’ ” he wrote.
Cline, 39, is now the publications manager for Georgia Health Sciences University and is past president of Augusta West Rotary Club.
WHO WILL HAVE ENOUGH STRENGTH TO BE THE NEXT SHERIFF IN TOWN? “When I came to Augusta 40 years ago, two sheriffs back-to-back went to federal prison, and a Columbia County sheriff admitted to civil rights violations against a newspaper editor and was voted out of office.
“But after those calamities, a breath of fresh air came in when Charlie Webster was elected,” said attorney David Hudson, one of more than a dozen prominent citizens gathered to heap praise on Sheriff Ronnie Strength last week and pressure him to run for four more years.
“With Charlie and Ronnie Strength we’ve had over 35 years when we knew the sheriff’s office would be run with integrity and with the best interest of the community at heart,” Hudson added.
Others delivering heart-felt messages to the sheriff at a luncheon put on by Augusta businessman Rodger Giles were former DOT Chairman Bill Kuhlke; Augusta Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet; Webster, attorney Paul Dunbar and others too numerous to mention.
“I think the two most important public officials in a county are the sheriff and district attorney,” Hudson said. “We’ve got numerous judges, and they don’t have to be right every time, but when the sheriff and district attorney make a decision, we need for them to be right every time.”
“I was moved,” Strength said afterward. “I am honored by everything. I was appreciative.”
Still, he didn’t say he would run, and he didn’t say he wouldn’t. Instead, he said he’d announce his intentions in two or three weeks.
HR WANTS TO GIVE ADP THE BUSINESS: There was a leak in the Marble Palace last week that left Deputy City Administrator Bill Shanahan looking all wet.
Shanahan gave a TV reporter an internal memo that he wrote listing problems with the city’s existing relationship with Automatic Data Processing, the company wanting to take over the city’s human resources functions, but didn’t tell his boss, City Administrator Fred Russell.
Russell was livid that the informal notes Shanahan made during an ongoing dialog with ADP were turned over to the media in what was essentially a rough draft and with Shanahan for not telling him he’d done so.
As it turned out, Russell said, the city’s human resources, not ADP, is to blame for more than 75 percent of the issues and problems listed in the memo. And many have already been resolved.
Russell called the memo “an ill-conceived document that never should have seen the light of day.”
Commissioners voted in January to move forward with obtaining a price quote from and negotiating a contract with ADP.
THEY’RE AT IT AGAIN: Two years ago, Columbia County Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Hammond was ousted by party members but later reinstated by the 10th District party committee, only to resign.
Last week, the party’s executive committee, many of whom had targeted Hammond, resigned at the end of a meeting and walked out after past chairwoman Pat Goodwin’s reading of a three-page letter outlining “major concerns” about board members not being allowed to speak and voice their opinions or ask questions during executive board meetings.
Resigning were Jim Bartley, Bob Beckham, Stefanee Berry, T.R. Brooks, Vennis Farrell, Carolyn Kirkland and Goodwin.
Former Columbia County Commissioner Frank Spears said the problem with the party is that the members have nothing to do but fight among themselves. What they need, he said, is a real enemy to target.
“The number of Democrats in Columbia County can fit into a phone booth,” he said. “The old Guard, Bob Beckham and his buddies, don’t know how to give it up. And the new people don’t have a sense of humor.”