Wow. 2009 is over. We saw quite a bit happen during the year.
We’ve seen one of the top-three most powerful politicians in the state drop out of the Georgia governor’s race under the auspices of his health, only to have the rumor come out later in the year that it was actually over a sex scandal.
We saw another of the top three most powerful politicians in the state admit to attempting suicide, and fall from power with the revelation weeks later that he had threatened to beat his ex-wife. The chaos caused by that double-whammy led to a near-total shakeup of the Republican leadership in the state House of Representatives.
We’ve seen several constitutional officers announce their intentions to run for governor, including the commissioner of insurance, the secretary of state and the attorney general.
And we’ve seen several members of the General Assembly announce plans to run for various statewide offices.
In the 2009 session of the General Assembly, we saw the influence of the Georgia Power lobby with the sweetheart deal whereby the General Assembly took on the role of the Public Service Commission and allowed Georgia Power to charge its customers for its profits on a facility that hasn’t even been built yet. We worked to prevent a blatant money-grab by the state in the form of a new “super speeder” law, but failed – and that law goes into effect Friday.
We were able to stop a gross violation of privacy in the form of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, and we saw an epic battle between State Sens. Preston Smith and David Shafer where Smith almost directly quoted George Orwell’s 1984 in speaking against the bill. I ran live blogs of both Crossover Day and Sine Die, and this is something I hope to be able to continue to do, as it was an absolutely crazy-yet-amazing experience.
With the close of the 2009 session of the General Assembly, more focus was put on the various 2010 campaigns for statewide offices, and I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few of the candidates for the various offices. Austin Scott was the first, and I was one of about a handful of people around the State to walk 10 miles with him on his Walk of Georgia. I’ve also had a chance to meet Eric Johnson, Karen Handel, Kathy Cox, Steven Northington, Richard Woods, Gerry Purcell, Ray McBerry, Sam Olens and John Monds in person at various events.
With the statewide races, the scandals have gotten the most press, and John Oxendine certainly leads that particular pack. In April, his chief political strategist verbally threatened me. In May, it came out that he had accepted $120,000 in potentially illegal campaign contributions. In late June, his chief political strategist was accused of verbally threatening a wife and mother over her private property. In mid-August, this same man threatened a 15-year-old Lee County High School sophomore. Also over the summer, John Oxendine and his wife celebrated the birth of their newest son – and John promptly used his literally hours-old son in a campaign commercial shot that day, showing his newborn son and wife still in the recovery room
Not to be outdone, however, news came out of Nathan Deal’s sweetheart deal that has netted him millions of dollars in the nearly two decades it has been ongoing, since he was a member of the state Senate. Karen Handel has had issues with her voter verification program, with both the Bush and Obama justice departments reprimanding her, and both Bush and Obama courts deciding against her in lawsuits filed relating to this debacle. Eric Johnson was tainted by the fallout of Glenn Richardson’s fall from power, and Ray McBerry has had to deal with a campaign manager (who he recently fired) who had said she was “thrilled” a private businessman was murdered in his church
In late summer, I began covering Lee County politics, and began attending most Lee County Commission and Leesburg City Council meetings. In September, I decided to give the citizens of Leesburg a voice at the ballot box and ran in the only contested race for Leesburg City Council this year.
But the single biggest story this year, the one that ties all of the rest of that together – at least for the SWGA area – is the emergence of SWGAPolitics.com onto the scene. I started this site not having any clue what I was doing. I only knew that people should be able to know more about the politics that affect them than they had available at the time, and that I could do something about that via a political blog of some form.
As the year progressed, this site hit its stride and I found my voice. I also found a solid group of political friends and allies, and a solid business partner in Tom. Tom and I have graced the front page of the Albany Herald, we both have columns in the Albany Journal, and I’ve also appeared on WFXL a few times talking about various local and national issues.
We have affected policy at the state level already via our work with other political blogs on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act and others, and we have affected a number of policies at the local level, including the recent repeal of a Lee County policy limiting free speech once we came out opposing it.
2009 truly was the year both myself and SWGAPolitics.com became “Awake and Alive”, and I genuinely look forward to seeing what 2010 has in store for us.
Written by Jeff Sexton. Jeff Sexton co-owns the political blog SWGAPolitics.com and is a candidate for the Leesburg City Council.