Unlike other pundits, I make no apologies for my opinion.  The difference between me and the mainstream media is that here you can tell what is opinion.  All that follows is my personal opinion about political figures engaged in contested elections for office.  Everything I discuss is about relevant attributes of the candidates or their positions on the issues facing them.  This information is not endorsed or supported by the Republican party, or any other organization.  If you have any questions, concerns, or rebuttal to my opinions, feel free to post a response or better yet, ask me personally.  Unlike other political outlets online, there is no anonymity here.

I’m going to work from the easiest to the hardest.  But this is fair warning this won’t be the last time I hold candidates accountable.  So if you think you might be running in the future, read up.

Read MY Lips:  No Increased Taxes

If Republicans uniformly stand for one thing, it is that taxes should be as low as possible to provide the needed services.  A copy of the contents of the Oath that all Republican candidates were asked to sign is at the bottom of this post.  To my knowledge, all the candidates signed the Oath.

On July 25, 2012, the Hall County GOP created a No Tax Pledge for all Republican Candidates to sign stating that they would simply not propose nor support a tax increase.  You can find the results of the Pledge here.  As of this writing, too many candidates have not signed the pledge.  That means that when the supplemental budget is voted on later in 2012, you can expect talk about a tax increase from those who did not sign the pledge.  There is already a hit that the school board will raise the millage rate right after this election.  (I must regrettably allow two of the judge candidates a “pass” as indicated in the other post.  They both “ladied up” and talked to me about the issue directly today.)  To avoid keeping two lists up to date, please check out the link to the other post above.  In my opinion, any candidate that does not sign the No Tax Pledge should not be considered a viable Republican candidate.

The Americans for Tax Reform also have a No Tax Pledge for Congressional Candidates.  Roger Fitzpatrick has not signed the Pledge as of tonight.

Partisanship is Mandatory

No matter how many good arguments you come up with, the only thing I hear when someone talks about whether this elected office or another should be nonpartisan is: “I am a Democrat and I know I can’t win an election if I tell anyone that.”  That is why the ACCG and the Sheriff’s Association takes those positions.  While Georgia might be a “red” state (aka Republican), there are plenty of Democrats around still hoping for a chance to take over again.

Not everyone got a chance to show their chops on the issue of partisanship.  However Darla Eden, Chuck HewettJon P StricklandPatty Laine, & Susan Brown all failed the test.  All feel that at least some positions should be nonpartisan.  As much as I like some of these people, this position is just plain wrong.  Because their position on this issue is contrary to the very essence of Republican politics, they should not be considered viable Republican candidates.

To paraphrase Chairman Sue Everhart: Just because Democrats are crooked does not mean that Republicans are crooked too.  Why do people want to argue that Republicans can’t be fair just because they are elected as a Republican.  It was ok for Sheriff’s to be Democrats for a 100 years, but NOW all of a sudden we have to change the rules because we have too many Republicans?  How is that “fair?”  If you as an elected official have a conflict of interest, then you recuse yourself from the decision.  Works for judges, DAs, sheriffs, and everybody else.  I would argue that the ability to be fair is a trait of a good Republican.  Democrats try to make everything equal even if that is unfair.  And that is another key distinction between the parties.  Fair does not mean equal.  In every fair game there is still a loser.

This is disappointing considering that Darla Eden is a CPA and she answered my hardest questions without pause.  She did so well, that but for her stance on partisanship, and Charlie’s vast Republican experience, she all but won me over.

Gerald Couch clarified his answer to me later, and I took his response to be that he only answered the question about nonpartisanship in South Hall because of the Sheriff’s Association’s recommendation and that he would not support a change now.

Money is the Mother’s Milk of Politics

It takes much more money than you think to run a campaign.  One state senator spent over $1M on a campaign to earn a job that makes less than minimum wage.  Like I read about “free” Internet services:  If you are not paying for the service, then you are the commodity being sold.  Thus if you are not contributing to a campaign or a party, then maybe you need to check out who is and you need to keep a close eye on your wallet.  I don’t have time tonight to point out the details of the mass of money being donated by a relatively few people, but one point needs to be made.

Take care not to demonize all those who donate.  Part of being involved is supporting and contributing to candidates that think like you do.  But when the donations become so large that they begin to have an undue influence over the candidate–then we have a problem.  It depends upon the race.  $1,000 is a lot of money to you and me, but not to the guy from Houston who donated $11M this year.  Check out the spending on the 9th Congressional Race for example.  Or check out how AT&T gives huge sums to everyone.

The point is you have to know where the money is coming from and going to.  For example, you never hear about Doug Collins and Tom Oliver hanging out together, but Wendell Starke (of the bridge to and from nowhere and Regions Bank Propery) gave Doug $1,000.  Trisha Pridemore and her husband gave $3,000.  The Willheits gave $6,000.  James Morgan gave $4,000.  Mr. & Mrs. Zell Miller gave $5,000.  Michael Mansfield gave $2,500.  The Hoods gave $3,000.  Kenneth Cronan $2,500.  Georgia Freedom PAC spent $17,000 on advertisements.

Specific Candidates and Offices

Tom Oliver & Billy Powell (Incumbent County Commissioner and Commissioner Post 2)

Some voting choices are easy.  If you want to keep your taxes low and avoid corruption in local politics, then you have to vote for anyone who is running against these two.  These two, with the help of the rules that allow the Chairman to make motions and vote even when there is no tie, ran Hall County until Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs were elected.  I asked them to explain about the Regions Bank Property deal (the empty lot at the end of the bridge to (and from) nowhere that looks like a dinosaur spine), but got no response from either of them.  Tom Oliver proposed, orchestrated, and voted for a tax increase in 2011.  Billy Powell voted against the tax increase in the end, but only when it was all but dead.  There was the Carlyle Cox controversy where Tom Oliver paid thousands to a “consultant” for no work product.  The issue was turned over to the GBI where it died.  Regarding the Glade Farm reservoir, anyone who voted for $1.6M in “consulting” fees to a Canadian company without a bid has some explaining to do, especially since the Corps of Engineers says it should only cost $600,000 (still an outrageous amount considering the $12M that came before it).  And it took Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs to get rid of the administration that presided over most of these problems.  How many questions of corruption does a voter need to see that a change is warranted.  And the new Chairman needs to be stripped of the power to make motions and vote except in a tie as well.

Ashley Bell (Incumbent County Commissioner Post 4)

Just as easy a decision, is to vote FOR Ashley Bell for reelection as County Commissioner.  Anyone who says Ashley has not converted to the Republican cause needs to check out his record against public corruption, for transparent government, against increased taxes, and all that against the pressure exerted by his former Democratic base.  While he might aspire to higher office someday, he is going to make sure Hall County is in good shape first.  Did I mention that he has been endorsed by the NRA?  As far as I know, Ashley is the only County Commissioner ever to be endorsed by the NRA–and he has been a member since he was 19.  He was asked to attend the NAACP meeting by Mitt Romney in Houston.  He was on Newt’s poster of supporters even.  Ashley Bell is the genuine article and if you vote for the other guy, then you are screwing up.

Charles Lewis (Candidate for Tax Commissioner)

I am happy to support Charles Lewis for many, many reasons.  Charles is a CPA.  Charles has Republican credentials a mile long.  He and his wife have volunteered thousands of hours working for no pay in bad conditions for the party.  I have absolutely no doubt that when faced with a tough decision, Charles will do whatever it takes to deliver the services in the most efficient manner.  He would never even suggest raising taxes or expanding the role of government.  Never.  He always puts his Christian beliefs into action, and not just mouth action like many others.  In fact, we changed our bylaws to conform to a passage in Matthew that allows the Executive Committee to talk to wayward elected officials at his insistence.  He is a navy veteran.  He is tireless.  He is like Father Knows Best in a time capsule.  He really is that guy.  I would (and have) trusted him with my money.  Oh, and he is pretty darn good at math too.

Richard “Dick” Mecum (Candidate for County Commission Chairman)

If you want to make absolutely sure that your taxes don’t go up for the next 4 years, then vote for Dick Mecum.  In another post I said that if you are “from around here” then “you might be a Democrat?”  Well Dick is an exception.  He was a diehard Republican when EVERYONE else in Hall County was a Democrat.  You can depend upon Dick to keep the budget small, taxes low, and keep the government out of your business.  His background is spotless as evidenced by his repeated top secret security clearances as THE U.S. Marshall for the Northern District of Georgia.  Worried about wasting another few hundred million dollars on the Glade Farm debacle?  Don’t worry with Dick.  Worried about payola to buddies with under-the-table deals?  Don’t worry with Dick.

Jeff Stowe (Candidate for County Commission Post 4)

Nobody should vote for this guy.  “Workhorse Jeff Stowe”?  Who?  Nobody in the Hall GOP has ever heard of him before, much less has he done any work for the party or the conservative cause.  Workhorse?  By signing checks and starting new businesses?  His main claim to fame is that he apparently wants to rehire the staff that was fired when Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs came to power.  He brought it up during the debate even.  He is probably the nicest guy in the world, but he does not compare to Ashley Bell.

Now I know that you can’t control your supporters, but an event that defies belief happened during the Commissioner’s Debate on 7-25-12 at the Elks Lodge on Riverside Drive in Gainesville.  Before such events it is customary for campaigns to put out yard signs around the venue.  The signs were put up at the Elks Lodge.  A member of the Hall GOP Executive Committee saw a well dressed woman in her mid thirties driving a silver SUV with 2 early teenage children all pulling up Ashley Bell’s signs.  An Ashely Bell supporter went up to her.  The woman told the supporter: “We’re Jeff Stowe people!”  Finished pulling up all of Ashley’s signs, the woman and her kids got into her vehicle and drove off.  Apparently “Jeff Stowe people” didn’t think enough about Jeff Stowe to stay and hear him speak.  (If you know this lady, please email me her name and address.)  Act of a lone supporter?  Maybe, but Jeff Stowe’s signs stayed up in front of the Elks Lodge for at least 3 more days.

This was hard to write this part.  I have a personal friendship with Steve Gailey, and have always supported him in the past.  Steve told me he wants the job to try to work with all the commissioners to bring stability to the commission.  He says the other candidates don’t have that same goal.  Steve is a great guy, and if it were anyone else other than Dick Mecum, I would be supporting Steve.

Eugene Moon is the antidote to Billy Powell for county commission post 2.  Eugene practically ran to my office to sign the No Tax Pledge. Expect no new taxes with Eugene.  Eugene ran for Congress as an Independent against my very good friend Dr. Lee Hawkins (who eventually lost to Tom Graves in the longest congressional race in recent memory).  For me that was not a good way to start.  I asked him about his “Independent” title, and instead of whining about why I asked, he answered the question right off.  Like many, he saw the GOP as a bunch of rich people who charge $250 per fundraiser.  If you don’t have the money, then you can’t “play.”  Once he was forced to associate with “us” during the campaign, he realized that we had the same values and ideals as he did–and most of us were just as poor.  While he might be a new Republican, and while I should dislike him for running against my friend, he is a hard guy to dislike (or ignore).  I don’t have to say much more about him other than he will not vote for a tax increase and will limit the size of government.  Oh, and did I mention he is not Billy Powell.

With Dick Mecum, Ashley Bell, Craig Lutz, Scott Gibbs, and Eugene Moon as our county commission, you can return to your business and let the unique combination of talent and experience guide Hall County through the tough times to come with a minimum of disruption to your life.  If you return Tom Oliver or Billy Powell or remove Ashley Bell, then you get what you get.

Paul Wayne Godfrey (Candidate for School Board Post 3)

The most Democratic candidate of all of those running.  He ran as a Democrat for state house in November 2011.  Case closed, right?  Not so fast.  He is a veteran.  He has a PhD.  But he is the only candidate in the race for school board that has signed the No Tax Pledge.  And his quote in the paper sounded an awful lot like a Republican.  I questioned his new Republicanism on FaceBook and he provided a reasoned and consistent response on 7/20/12 and on his blog.  Like he (and I) have pointed out many times, many Republican leaders were recently Democratic leaders.  This is so painful to write because not only did he run as a Democrat, but he ran against my very good friend Kris Yardley.    His opponent Craig Herrington has voted for at least one tax increase and has not yet signed the pledge against another.

Candidates for Sheriff

All of the candidates for sheriff are seasoned law enforcement officers.  Jeff Strickland and John Sisk stood apart from the crowd when the said they support partisanship in the Sheriff’s position, and I appreciate it.  Jeff Strickland is the heir apparent to the position, and has now been endorsed by Sheriff Cronic.  All of these candidates are great cops and I’m thank them for their service.

As a prosecutor, I worked with Gerald Couch on dozens of cases. I have worked crime scenes with him, and attended autopsies with him.  He is absolutely a first rate investigator.  With Gerald on a case, I was sure that the defendant was guilty and a conviction was almost assured.  I worked with Gerald’s wife Sharon as an investigator as well, and she is one of the best prosecutorial investigators there are (although Richard Wiley will always be my personal favorite).  Gerald Couch has impeccable ethics.  I consider Gerald Couch a personal friend.  He has been a cop since he was a kid, and he knows everyone at the Sheriff’s Office.  Doug Aiken tells me that Gerald has the most concrete plan to reduce the sheriff’s department budget.  It is ironic that Ginger Folger is one of his supporters and she decided to attack me personally and publicly for no apparent reason today.  However, I can commend Gerald to you as a great guy and he would make a great sheriff.

Jeff Strickland is a good guy but was so high up in the chain of command that I did not have much dealing with him as a prosecutor.  He has attended GOP events longer and more regularly than any other candidate.  He was second in command at the sheriff’s office until he retired.

Jon P Strickland is a first rate trooper and I prosecuted at least one vehicular homicide case with him.  I had some questions for him about some late-breaking news, but unfortunately never got to talk to him about it.  He called, we talked at a forum, but time  and campaigning got in the way.  He is honest and has a real passion for the job that you can see when he speaks.

Chuck Hewett is veteran and a veteran cop.  For some reason he (and Gerald’s supporters) got their panties all tied up in a knot about my audacity to ask a few questions about being a Republican.  Considering the softball questions I asked him compared to the hard questions I asked some others, it makes me question his fitness for leadership.  Telling it like it is is ok, but sometimes abrasive is just abrasive.  What you see is what you get with Chuck, but what exactly do you see?

Well that is about all the advice I can offer of a reasoned and logical type.  It is after 1AM on election day and I’m still typing.  I like Brook Davidson for probate judge, but Patty Laine seems like she would do a good job as well.  Lisa Maniscalco voted Democrat in 2008 for either Hillary or Barack–just like Bob Vass.  I can’t stand for that.  Judge Patty Coronet endorses her, and I do love Judge Patty.  I can’t support Susan Brown for any Republican office.  Period.

Brad Dunagan apparently wanted me to believe that being a Republican is genetic.  He might have a great pedigree, and a really nice sister (and I’m not just saying that, if you’ve met her you know), but I would have like to heard something else that at least sounded Republican to convince me.  Kent Henderson is a nice guy too, but neither he nor Brad are in the same qualification category as Charles Lewis or Darla Eden.  In a job all about numbers, a CPA is a good thing.

If you don’t like what I have had to say here, then prove me wrong.  Come to meetings.  Participate.  Volunteer.  Donate.  Make your voice heard.  The Republican party is here to stay.  Our party best expresses the values that you hold dear:  low taxes, limited government, independence, self sufficiency, and law & order.  Follow me to the party.  www.hallgop.com

NOTE:  Some people are under the mistaken belief that there is some financial gain for participating in Republican Party politics.  In fact, our entire operation is run by volunteers except for a few paid staff in the State GOP in Atlanta.  All Hall County GOP members pay yearly dues for the privilege of membership, and then are asked to donate more money to support issues and candidates.  Then they are asked to donate their time to help do things that usually involve the business end of some post hole diggers.  When you show up to an event hosted by the Hall County GOP that you personally did not organize of pay for, then someone else in the room with you did organize and pay for it.  Those are the few that keep the American political ideal alive every day so you can live your life.