City Ink: Election is a three-ring circus

Tuesday’s primary election in Richmond County has turned into a three-ring circus.

In the center ring is the sheriff’s race, which has turned scandalous on the Democratic side, with some fire-breathing supporters of Lt. Robbie Silas attacking Capt. Scott Peebles via newspaper and social media Web sites.

An investigator’s wife obtained the personnel files of other officers and started smearing them, too.

You can just imagine how that went over in the sheriff’s office. Officers aren’t speaking to one another, and the investigator was given a few days off for his own good.

WHERE IS THE RING­MASTER? Lots of folks say it all could have been avoided if Sheriff Ronnie Strength had endorsed Peebles early on as he had said he’d do before brother-in-law Silas got into the race.

“If Ronnie had announced he was endorsing Peebles back last October, you could have put all this to bed,” Augusta Commission member Grady Smith said. “I think some of what’s going on is not good for the county. Some of the cuts run deep. Neighbors and friends won’t be speaking after this is over. I just see it’s sad for what’s going on.”

Republicans are crossing party lines to vote for Peebles like lemmings headed to the sea.

The negative campaign has turned Commissioner Joe Bowles into a Democrat – temporarily.

“Thanks to the criticism of Scott Peebles by Robbie Silas supporters, I have decided not to vote for my friend Wright McLeod and vote in the Democratic primary,” he said.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said he, too, is crossing party lines to vote for Peebles.

“He asked me for my support,” he said. “No other candidate asked me to support him. I believe in my heart of hearts Scott can pull this off without a runoff. Who is most qualified to handle a $55 million budget and a 790-man sheriff’s office? I’m going to vote for Elaine Johnson, Carlisle Overstreet and TSPLOST.”

THE JUDGE OF JUVENILE DELINQUENTS IS DELINQUENT: In another ring, where Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is challenging incumbent Carlisle Overstreet, the chief judge of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, lawyer Jack Long will seek another venue to pursue his challenge to Saun­ders’ eligibility because of delinquent federal taxes.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled in Long v. Saunders that although Saunders owes more than $159,000 in federal taxes, his bankruptcy repayment plan meets the state law standard and he’s qualified to run for office.

Next week, Long and his attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, will appeal Kemp’s ruling in Fulton County Superior Court.

“It now leaves the executive branch of government, where it’s been, and goes to the judicial branch,” Long said. “It’s not a moot issue even after the election, because we’re dealing with something that could reoccur.

“And I think for the state of Georgia we need to have a definitive ruling of the plain meaning of the constitution.”

Saunders has not paid federal taxes for self-employment income from his law practice in eight years, nor has he paid his 2011 taxes. He filed for an extension to file his return but not for an extension to pay.

Of the $159,000 delinquency, Saunders will pay only $87,000 as part of his bankruptcy plan, Long said.

IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE TO RUN: In the third ring of the primary circus is an improper flier that showed up in mailboxes and on Web sites that states “Official Democratic Ticket” at the top and “Vote & Elect” above photos of President Obama, sheriff candidate Richard Roundtree and clerk of court candidate Hattie Holmes-Sullivan. At the bottom it states, “One Team One Dream 2012.”

When Richmond County Dem­ocratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum heard about the flier, he issued a media release stating the party is endorsing no candidate in the primary.

“Any mailing, Web site or Facebook that carries such an endorsement is false,” he stated.

Greenbaum said he’d made it clear to everyone that the party did not endorse in the primary.

YOU OUGHT TO BE ON TV: Former Mayor Bob Young was such a good moderator during Friday’s televised roundtable discussion with the four candidates for Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, he should consider a career in television.

Oh, wait! He already had one. Thirteen years as assistant news director and anchorman at WJBF, the
station that held the debate.

He looked very good for someone who spends most of his time in the swamp. He’s the president of Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy. He’d done his homework and kept the discussion lively.

Questions ranged from the new penny tax for transportation to the federal budget and farm subsidies, about which Young presented some interesting statistics.

Candidates Maria Sheffield and Rick Allen said they were opposed to the transportation tax. McLeod called it “just another tax increase, another layer of bureaucracy.” Lee Anderson said he sees it as an investment in the community.

JOHN DEERE GREEN: Dur­ing a discussion of farm subsidies, Young said, “Now we know ZIP code 30904 is the home of many family farms, the Hill section in Augusta. And over the past 20 years in 30904, 88 residents have collected subsidies of $684,000.

“How about ZIP code 30901, downtown Augusta? Well, they’ve got the Satur­day market down there. They’ve got the farmers market. They’ve also got 67 family farms receiving $564,747 in the same period. Move on out to Columbia County. There’s a lot of family farming out there, right? Two hundred twenty-two people received $1.5 million in subsidies in 30907.

“And Lee, you received $110,000 in farm subsidies, didn’t you?”

“How many years?” Anderson asked.

“Since 1995,” Young replied. “The point is, do you need those to run your farm? Do the people living in urban centers need subsidies?”

“When a true farmer has a severe drought, they need help,” Anderson replied.

Allen said that’s why he wanted to audit every agency and department of federal government.

“This is nonsense,” he said. “This waste has got to stop.”

Sheffield said it was not only waste but fraud in some cases.

McLeod, however, said the subsidies passed the tax code and were in the rules and regulations of the agriculture department.

“Come get your check,” he said. “It’s not illegal. And some people will say it’s not even unethical.”

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ELECTED TO SERVE: Toward the end, Young asked the candidates whether they had anything they wanted to say to one another. McLeod took exception to Anderson’s mailer that compared Anderson to the other candidates.

In the category of public service, Anderson listed being a state representative and Columbia County commissioner. By McLeod’s name, he stated “None.”

“I served in the military 20 years,” McLeod said.

“As an elected official,” Anderson said.

“What is that, Lee?” McLeod asked.

“I respect your service tremendously,” Anderson said.

“Well, then send out a retraction,” McLeod said.

Anderson apologized but didn’t mention a retraction mailing.

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