Archive for February, 2010

Popping the balloon: John Smoltz says he’s not interested in Congress

Had a text-message exchange this morning with former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who was caught off-guard by Republican interest in seeing him run for U.S. John Linder’s seat in a July primary.

Linder announced his retirement Saturday morning. We immediately got a call from Washington letting us know that Republicans intended to approach Smoltz to enter the campaign to replace him.

Pardon the language, but the brief conversation with Smoltz went something like this:

Me: jim galloway w ajc politics here. Could u call re ur interest in linder seat? Thx.

Smoltz: I do not know what you are talking about I am not in any way involved in anything regarding politics sorry.

Me: [Certain Washington source] says u would make gud candidate to replace john linder who has announced retirement. Interested?

Smoltz: Sorry I am not.

Smoltz followed this messages with a phone call an hour or so later, and — and from a volleyball tournament in Alabama — confessed that he’d thought someone …

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A change-up: How does Congressman John Smoltz sound?

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz reacts after throwing his 3,000th career strikeout in 2008. AJC file.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz reacts after throwing his 3,000th career strikeout in 2008. AJC file.

Within minutes of U.S. Rep. John Linder’s announcement that he won’t seek a 10th term in Congress, the phone began vibrating.

Late this afternoon, a Washington source called with this surprise: One of the people likely to approached as a candidate for Linder’s seat by Republicans will be former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

Smoltz has been paying down some dues in several Republican contests in Georgia over the last two years. He’s been part of a fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell, and if memory serves, he cut a robo-call for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in ‘08.

Linder’s retirement has caught many Republicans off-guard. Who replaces him could be settled in a quickly approaching July primary – the district is trending Democrat, but not that fast. Advantage could go to someone who could put up his own cash, especially in this economy.

Two GOP names …

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The Tenth Amendment and a paring of history

Ray McBerry (center) among Republican candidates at a January forum. Elissa Eubanks/AJC

Ray McBerry (center) among Republican candidates at a January forum. Elissa Eubanks/AJC

The trouble with history isn’t that it’s apt to be forgotten. The real problem is that it’s often remembered at the most inconvenient times.

Last week, several hundred people gathered at the Hilton near the airport to celebrate the alleged sovereignty of Georgia and the other 49 states of the Union.

The Tenth Amendment Summit, named for the portion of the U.S. Constitution intended to crystallize the concept of federalism, was a national gathering of the state’s rights movement.

As a group, these are the combatants on the exposed right flank of the Republican party. They can make tea partiers look like pikers — demanding not just restrained Washington spending, but shackles on all aspects of the federal government. At the Hilton, the pitchfork in the crowd was real.

But like the tea party movement, the rhetoric and symbolism harkened back to the American Revolution. The event featured two …

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John Linder announces retirement from Congress


U.S. Rep. John Linder was first elected to Congress in 1992/AJC file.

U.S. Rep. John Linder, the Republican from Gwinnett County, this morning announced that he would retire from Congress after 18 years.

Linder made the announcement at the dedication of a new Gwinnett County GOP headquarters. Linder aide Derick Corbett confirmed the congressman’s decision. “He will not seek re-election,” Corbett said.

The announcement, made at the tail end of a brief speech by Linder, caught attendees off-guard. “Nobody knew it was coming,” said David Hancock, District 2 manager for the Gwinnett GOP.

Linder was one of Newt Gingrich’s top lieutenants when he was U.S. House speaker, and most recently has been an advocate (paired with radio commentator Neal Boortz) for a sales tax to replace the federal income tax.

His retirement will set off a rush for his seat, which is solidly Republican. Among the likely contenders is Don Balfour, the state Senate rules chairman.

For instant updates, follow …

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Thurmond urges Isakson and Chambliss to pick a side in one-man fight over unemployment benefits

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond on Friday urged U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to support extension of unemployment insurance and other benefits set to expire Sunday.

The development may have two implications.

It could be a sign that Thurmond, a Democrat, isn’t ready to be dismissed from the contest for lieutenant governor. Secondly, it could be an indication that the sudden filibuster by a lone GOP senator could quickly become a problem for Republicans.

Here’s the background from

Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) defiant stand against that effort has put his party in a jam: should it back the eccentric Republican over his concerns about deficit spending, or should it cut him loose and let him take the sole blame for the discomfort caused by Congress’ failure to act?

And the answer to that question grows even thornier given that the senior senator from his state is Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who has grown apart from Bunning over …

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Your morning jolt: ‘Out-conservatized’ in Washington

In 2008, three Georgia congressmen – Phil Gingrey, Lynn Westmoreland and John Linder – tied for first in the National Journal’s ranking of most conservative U.S. House members.

But the National Journal’s 2010 rankings, just out this morning, indicate our Republican crew may be mellowing:

Unlike Dems, GOPers get to fete a clear winner in the most-conservative sweepstakes: This year, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) takes the prize. He’s closely followed by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). In the House, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) share the prize.

Nary a Georgian in the crowd.

Overlooked in all the hoopla over Carol Porter entering the Democratic race for lieutenant governor is this from Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News:

State Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond will be the keynote speaker at the local Democrats’ major annual …

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Karen Handel learns that reporters can run, but can’t hide

Karen Handel (far right) inside slightly less than immaculate offices of the AJC.

Karen Handel (far right) inside the decor-challenged offices of the AJC.

If you’re hunting news reporters, it’s only natural to stalk their lairs – to sneak up on them while they’re still slightly lethargic from digesting a large meal of Carol Porter.

So Karen Handel and her two guides this afternoon made a rare and stealthy entrance into press row at the state Capitol, a line of offices where grown adults go to shake off every childhood lecture about neatness.

The Republican candidate for governor grabbed a reporter’s chair in the AJC enclave and started talking. Shannon McCaffery with the Associated Press took the next seat. In came Walter Jones with Morris News Service, pad in hand. Lori Geary of WSB-TV brought a camera man to fill the front door. Tom Baxter of InsiderAdvantage and Travis Fain of the Macon Telegraph rounded out the crowd.

Bingo. Instant news conference.

Handel announced that her solution to the state’s budget crisis is to recognize “the new normal” and …

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Anti-nuke group takes aim at Obama’s visit to Georgia

In honor of President Barack Obama’s visit to Georgia next week, the environmental group Friends of the Earth launched two TV ads in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C., protesting $55 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants.

That includes $8 billion or so for Plant Vogtle, the nuclear complex in east Georgia – just upriver from Savannah, which Obama visits on Tuesday. “We’re aware that [Obama] is focusing on the reactor project in Georgia,” said Nick Berning, director of public advocacy for Friends of the Earth.

The ads went up today on Atlanta cable TV, centered around MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. They’ll run a week, Berning said.

This ad focuses on the phrase “nuclear bailout” and the financial risk:

The other addresses the dangers of nuclear radiation. It can be seen here.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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The dynamics of the first husband-wife ticket in Georgia politics


If you want a look at one reason behind Carol Porter’s entry into the race for lieutenant governor, take a look at this quick snapshot of dueling reporter scrums.

DuBose Porter, who has had trouble making his mark on the Democratic race for governor until the last few weeks, is on the right.

“I say, if this thing is a gimmick and it’s going to get corruption out of Georgia’s government, than you can give me a dozen,” Carol Porter said.

Said her husband: “If you truly want family values in Georgia, elect a Georgia family.” Policy-wise, most of Carol Porter’s ideas reflected those already expressed by her husband — an emphasis on “corruption” in the House under Speaker Glenn Richardson, and a push for better collection of the state sales tax. She accused Republicans of protecting sales tax scofflaws at the expense of teacher furloughs.

The four Porter sons — Stephen, 24; Guyton, 21; twins Inman and Asa, 20 — said a final family decision to have their mom join the lieutenant …

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Your morning jolt: House speaker says ‘everything’ is on the budget table

Thusday’s column, posted here, is about the search by state lawmakers for that budgetary sweet spot – the balance between the government we need, and the government we’re willing to pay for.

House Speaker David Ralston expounded on that same topic in an interview with Denis O’Hayer with WABE (90.1 FM), posted here. Said Ralston:

“We resolved with the Senate last week that everything is on the table. It is on the table. Certainly some have mentioned the issue of additional fees to compensate at this time.

“I’ve said before, I’ll continue to say again, I don’t think raising taxes is the way out of an economic downturn. But again, what I think is important during this week and next week…is that we ask ourselves, we ask those we represent, ‘How deep do you want the cuts to be? What are you willing to sacrifice?’”

The House speaker said he was encouraging lawmakers to have conversations with voters, and to monitor their e-mail. He continued:

“I think everything has to be on the …

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