Editor's note: An earlier version of this column did not have the correct title for Appeals Court Judge John Ellington.
Last week, Freddie Sanders came out with guns blazing, talking about being Richmond County’s next law and order sheriff.
But hold on now, Pardner!
“My intentions are to qualify and run, but I have not qualified, and things can change,” he said Friday. “I’m not committed. Qualifying isn’t until May. I’m talking to people and listening. I’m just not there. When I commit and qualify, I’m in it.”
So much for last week’s theories about Sanders being an alternative Republican candidate – a safety valve if you will – in case Richard Roundtree wins in the July Democratic primary.
SANDERS WON’T RUN: First of all, he’s a very popular white Augusta lawyer who would run in the Republican primary and draw votes from Republicans who otherwise would cross over and vote in the Democratic primary to vote in the sheriff race for one of the two white candidates – Scott Peebles or Robbie Silas. That would lessen their chances of winning or getting into a runoff with Roundtree or candidate Lt. John Ivey. And should there be a runoff in the Democratic primary, voters who voted in the Republican primary could not vote in the runoff.
Some Democrat voters would also cross over and vote for Sanders if he were to have opposition in the Republican primary, which could also lessen Peebles’ and Silas’ chances of winning or getting into a runoff while enhancing Roundtree’s. And those voters also could not vote in a Democratic primary runoff.
Sanders also realizes that in November with President Obama on the ticket, he has two chances to win – Slim and None, and Slim has left town.
THE END GAME: It’s probably best Sanders doesn’t run because if he did and won, it could mean the end of the sheriff’s office. When he was on the coliseum authority a few years ago, he said his buddies say once he gets involved in anything, it’s soon gone.
When he was with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department in the 1970s, the county commission did away with that department and created the Richmond County Police Department and appointed him chief.
“Then they did away with the police department, and I came to the oldest law firm in the Southeast, Nixon, Yow, Waller & Capers, and we were representing the city of Augusta, and they did away with the city,” he said. “Then the law firm split into two firms. So once I got on the coliseum authority, they said they were going to do away with it. And they almost did. I don’t know how we dodged the bullet.”
IT ALL ADDS UP: You’re a Republican, so should you vote in the Republican primary so you can have a say in picking your congressman, or should you cross over and vote in the Democratic primary so you can have a say in picking your sheriff?
To find out, rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the significance of these events in your life with 10 being the most significant.
Then add up the numbers of each set of events. The set with the highest total will indicate your correct primary.
Reasons to vote for sheriff in the Democratic primary:
1. I got a ticket for driving 45 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. ____
2. Somebody snatched my man purse. ______
3. My neighbors are throwing beer cans on my lawn. _____
4. I’m leaving a party and see blue lights in my rear-view mirror. _____
5. My lawnmower is missing from the shed. _____
Reasons to vote for congressman in the Republican primary:
1. I haven’t received my congressman’s quarterly newsletter. _____
2. I haven’t received a request for a campaign donation from my congressman._____
3. I want to talk to someone in Washington who can tell me when they’ll have the next farm subsidy hearings. _____
4. I want to know when my congressman’s next town hall meeting will be. _____
5. I want to know whether my congressman will be attending the Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. ____
If your score from the first set of questions is higher than the score for the second set, it proves that a Democratic primary for sheriff trumps a Republican primary for congressman.
YOU’VE HEARD OF LONELY AT THE TOP: So you think you’ve got troubles. Think about Sheriff Ronnie Strength. His old south Augusta friends have snubbed his choice of a successor, Peebles, and are supporting his wife, Patti’s brother, Silas.
Former Commissioner Jimmy Smith and even Strength’s old boss, former Sheriff Charlie Webster, have defected to the Silas camp. But not to worry, everybody Webster supports loses, except for Strength. And Smith hasn’t done much better.
JUST A STONE’S THROW AWAY: State Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, will make a last-ditch effort to get a map of city commission and Richmond County Board of Education districts passed at a Monday meeting of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting committee.
Stone and Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, withdrew separate map proposals they couldn’t agree on from Senate consideration last week.
But Stone said he heard from constituents who didn’t like the prospect of having a federal judge draw the maps because of the expense, delay and uncertainty. And a judge, unlike the ad hoc committee of Augusta elected officials, wouldn’t care about protecting incumbents, and local lawmakers could end up running against one another.
The Augusta legislative delegation doesn’t have to approve the compromise map. With the reapportionment committee approval, it would go before the full Senate for a vote.
State Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, mustered enough support in the House last week to defeat Democratic Rep. Quincy Murphy’s Transparency in Government Act, 93 to 54, and saved Augusta taxpayers a bucketful of money.
That bill would have mandated every department, agency and authority of the Augusta government with a budget of $500,000 or more and certain private contractors to undergo a forensic audit every four years.
Sims’ bill that will put nonpartisan Augusta Commission elections on the July primary ballot is out of committee and should pass out of the Senate this week.
WILL AZZIZ PLAY BALL? Georgia Health Sciences University President Dr. Ricardo Azziz, city leaders, Ripken Baseball and Jacoby Development met Friday to talk about the future of the 16.09 acres the Board of Regents has asked the state to transfer to the university.
Ripken Baseball wants a large stadium, Azziz mentioned a performing arts center dovetailing with a music school and/or an innovation center dovetailing with the sciences and some higher-level student housing.
They’ve also talked about a biotech park, retail space with restaurants and other developments.
Azziz came out of the meeting saying, “Nothing is off the table.”
So how many things can they put on the table before they start bumping elbows?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former Congressman Doug Barnard turned 90 years old Tuesday and was honored with a luncheon at the Pinnacle Club, organized by attorney David Bell.
Many of Barnard’s longtime close friends attended, including Hugh Connolly, Barnard’s first election campaign chairman in 1976; Augusta Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet, his first campaign manager; DOT board member Don Grantham, his first campaign treasurer; Pat Blanchard, a campaign committee member; and attorney Travis Paine, Barnard’s campaign chairman after Connolly retired.
Also present were Georgia Appeals Court Chief Judge John Ellington, former congressman Buddy Darden, Realtor Nick Greene, Sheriff Ronnie Strength and former Sheriff Charlie Webster.
“They thought it was quite an event that I had reached 90 years of age,” Barnard said.
Barnard, who served from 1977 until 1993, went through eight elections and had opposition in each except one.
When elected in 1976, he was the first congressman from Augusta in 72 years.
An early test came when President Jimmy Carter cut back on water projects, a move that upset members of Congress.
One of his crowning achievements was helping to save water projects Carter had cut, including the Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake project.