Fight for Senate control reaches into northeast Georgia

When the Legislature returns in January, much of Gov. Nathan Deal’s agenda will depend on whether the state Senate has resolved the leadership dispute between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams of Lyons.

Cagle lost one of his top supporters,, state Sen. Jim Butterworth, R-Cornelia, when the governor named Butterworth as the state’s new adjutant general.

Two northeast Georgia candidates survived last week’s special election to replace him. State Rep. Rick Austin won 43 percent of the vote, out of more than 15,000 cast. John Wilkinson, a former candidate for state agriculture commissioner, came in second with 39 percent. A third candidate, David Strickland, has endorsed Wilkinson. The runoff election is Dec. 6.

Austin won the first phase of the fund-raising battle with $39,095 to Wilkinson’s $32,621.

Austin is being backed by GOP senators intent on keeping the power to name chairmanships, determine committee memberships, and guide legislation out of the lieutenant governors hands. Williams, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock, and Sen. Bill Cowsert of Athens each gave Austin $2,000, according to his campaign disclosures.

Sens. Cecil Staton of Macon and Buddy Carter of Pooler each gave $1,000. Austin raised a total of $9,000 from chamber members.

The lawmaker from Demorest also raised $4,200 from his fellow House members, including $1,000 each from House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey of Atlanta, and Reps. Allen Peake of Macon and Tim Bearden of Villa Rica.

But beating both groups of legislators were Georgia’s trial attorneys, who gave Austin at least $12,000.

Wilkinson’s cash shows less of a pattern – if any of your readers see one, please speak up. Much of his high-dollar contributions come from Toccoa concerns. His cash includes a $2,000 contribution from state Sen. John Bulloch of Ochlocknee, chairman of the chamber’s agricultural committee.

Wilkinson also received a last-minute, $1,000 contribution from state Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and a firm ally of the lieutenant governor.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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36 comments Add your comment


November 14th, 2011
4:09 pm

OOPS…Austin Scott is in DC…do you not mean Rick Austin?

John Argo

November 14th, 2011
4:22 pm

Rick Austin is in the pocket of trial lawyers. Interesting.

John Argo

November 14th, 2011
4:30 pm

Most of Wilkinsons money came from within the district. A telling number to me is he has a bunch of small donors which indicates grass roots support.


November 14th, 2011
4:47 pm

Could it be that it is more likely that more $ will go to the candidate in favor of keeping the authority w/i the hands of the legislature rather than having it concentrated w/i the lt gov office because that way there will be more opportunities for those giving that money to find someone willing to push their point of view?

Keep doing this GOP

November 14th, 2011
4:48 pm

Much of his high-dollar contributions come from Toccoa concerns.

I would like to know where he got his contributions from considering unemployment in Stephens County is at 10.5%. Of course , i voted for the lone Democrat in the race considering this states unemployment rate has been above the national average for the past 4 years and 4 months.

But people , i guess, like high unemployment. They keep putting Repubs in power.


November 14th, 2011
4:51 pm

Just a casual observation, but my own personal experience seems to indicate Wilkinson may have spent more $/effort on phone calls–some robo but also personal calls from supporters– while Austin has bigger,though not necessarily more, signs in folks front lawns. That, too, may be an indicator of $ vs grass roots support.


November 14th, 2011
4:54 pm

Very disappointing to see Republican Rick Austin is toting water for Atlanta trial lawyers.


November 14th, 2011
4:58 pm

There are construction “concerns” in Toccoa that build a lot of schools.

There is a proposal for a four-lane to connect the four-lane leaving I85 @ Lavonia w/the four-lane from the Arrendale exchange off 365 from Gainesville.

There is a ‘bankrupt’ or near bankrupt golf course property as well as lake-front property issues–all w/$$$$$$$ intere$t$.

Toccoa currently has a bountiful fresh water supply–something that Atlanta needs.

Toccoa still has farm land–larger chunks that developers salivate over.

Toccoa has a privately owned nursing home that STINKS and doesn’t want oversight.

Surrounding counties have mega$$$$$ intere$t$, too. Arrendale (poultry) is an international mega$$$ concern.


November 14th, 2011
5:02 pm

Some $ coming out of Toccoa may be coming THRU Toccoa. The Arrendales and their associates have intere$t$ not limited to just Stephens & Habersham Counties. Chicken sells and the general impression is that where there are chicken plants there are illegal immigrants–deportation vs the guest-worker program may be one to consider as driving the funding for this election.


November 14th, 2011
5:23 pm

The GOP of the past has wanted it both way–they want to keep cheap labor coming into the state but be tough on national security as relates to boarder control. W/I the next few years this issue will either need to be resolved or the US might just as well begin negotiating w/Mexico to join to become the United States of North America.


November 14th, 2011
5:33 pm

For every illegal in any job, that is one less job for an American citizen; for ever illegal in an affordable home, that is one less affordable home for an American family.

The GOP and their vaunted hero Ronald Reagan and his amnesty have been a driving force behind the creation of the illegal immigration debacle; I doubt they are the solution. The Dems want to take advantage of the problem and make the illegals Democratic votors.

I am neither Democrat or Republican. However: as long as Georgia voters are “values” voters, they will continue to vote against their own economic best interests and the best interests of this nation and its boarder and national security. As long as the liberals are bleeding hearts, they will, too.

(Recommend read: How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich”, Rolling Stone Nov 24.)

(Recommended view: Sixty minutes Nov 13)

I keep hoping for an “awakening” of one of the parties or a third way.

hiram bronson granbury

November 14th, 2011
5:33 pm

For eight years, the guy that Georgia’s voters hired to run the state, ran his own business empire, instead. He openly used the governor’s office to make business contacts, train future employees, dodge taxes, swap favors for sweetheart land deals, and who knows what else.

His supporters are are so ignorant, that they turned around and replaced him with with a governor who is even more corrupt. A guy who fled Washington in the dark of night, with the hounds in pursuit. One of his first acts, like thieves covering the lenses of surveillance cameras, was to dismantle the office that provided transparency in state government. And like Sonny, he is never held accountable for anything he does.

The problem with hiring crooks to run the state, is they’re like a kid in a cookie jar – they don’t have the time, or desire to do their job.

Sitting back and watching the crooks form alliances to better rob you, is even more stupifying.


November 14th, 2011
5:34 pm

border not boarder ooops

hiram bronson granbury

November 14th, 2011
5:46 pm

The Arendales own Nathan “Shady” Deal. They were by far the largest financial contributors to his campaigns. Even their blue tick hound made the maximum contribution. What do you think they are getting in return? Do you think that Shady, for even a minute, ever intended to remove their illegal aliens?


November 14th, 2011
6:06 pm

georgia is worst off than it was when i relocated here 15 years ago since the repus have taken off but hey they asked for a deal and they got a deal

Alabama Communist

November 14th, 2011
6:07 pm

More Breaking News On Republican State Senate Battle….Herman Cain said today that if elected President, he would be willing to work with these two Senators who come to the Federal Congress……

mountain man

November 14th, 2011
6:47 pm

Enter your comments here

mountain man

November 14th, 2011
6:48 pm

Everybody knows either candidate is a huge improvement over what we had.


November 15th, 2011
8:37 am

Representative Rick Austin has done an effective job in the Georgia House. He would make an excellent State Senator for this district.

Thomas Eddy

November 15th, 2011
10:20 am

You forgot to mention that Senators Goggans, Jack Hill, and Millar also contributed to Austin. Seems like key senators have spoken about their choice. I suspect they have worked with Austin and seen him in action and would welcome him to the Senate. He is the best choice.

James C.

November 15th, 2011
10:30 am

I live in that district and I’m not concerned about who the other senators want. I’m much more concerned about who will stand up for us and not be beholden to people with money and a political agenda.


November 15th, 2011
11:23 am

Rick Austin has received too much money from outside the interests and pacs. He advocates for public schools and vouchers, Say no more.

Jeb C.

November 15th, 2011
12:33 pm

I live in Cornelia and I think that some of us are overlooking the implications of all these key Senator ‘donations” to Austin’s campaign. Sure, it means that he has their support. It also means that, when we receive the flyers in the mail stating that Austin is a man that will support the interests of Habersham County (his home county) if he gets elected, he is not being truthful. He will be unable to support what he chooses, should he be elected, because his vote has already been “bought” by all of these politicians. I am personally SICK of all of the immoral politicians wanting the status of being in political office as opposed to wanting to protect the interests of the people.


November 15th, 2011
1:43 pm

Wilkinson is the best canidate by far. He has common sense and is not tied to any certain group. Honest canidates are hard to find. Maybe the voters will recognize this on Dec. 6

Reality Check

November 15th, 2011
4:18 pm

Wilkinson is a democrat in a republican district and doesn’t have a clue about the issues. I’ll be voting for Austin because he always returned my phone calls when he was in the house and he always stood up for Northeast Georgia.

The fact that so many Senators have trust in him just reassures my feelings.

Jeb C.

November 15th, 2011
5:16 pm

Yeah, you’re right on that last sentence buddy! They sure do have trust in him. They “trust” that he will support their agenda if he gets elected since that is what they have PAID him for. And as for Wilkinson being a democrat….yeah, good try on that one.

mountain man

November 15th, 2011
7:20 pm

Wilkinson pulled a ballot with a (D), as in democrat on it in 7 of the last 9 primaries. Austin is being nice not making this fact known district wide… for now.

Bill Jones

November 16th, 2011
7:42 am

Mountain Man

Your assertion is laughable. Wilkinson is a graduate of the COVERDALE LEADERSHIP SCHOOL and is vice chairman of the Stephens County GOP.

The reason Austin has not brought your lie up is because it is not true.


November 16th, 2011
8:57 am

Saying one thing and doing another is nothing new for Austin.

James C.

November 16th, 2011
10:28 am

Sounds like Austin is grasping at straws….Needing a comeback to the undeniable fact he has been bought by politicians and lawyers he’s looking for something. Good luck with that.

Stacy Standrich

November 16th, 2011
1:33 pm

Does anyone remember the little lady singing the Paul Coverdale song when he beat Wyche Fowler.

And now for a little old time political exposure through a campaign jingle. Click on the speaker at the top right of the screen,

I have been nominated to attend the Coverdale Leadership school and am impressed that Mr. Wilkinson committed to the 10 months of study and spent his personal resources to attend.

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November 17th, 2011
10:15 am

I have known Rick Austin for more than 20 years. He has done an outstanding job in the Goergia House and will continue to do the same in the Seante. Austin has supported many senior citiizen issues that are very important to me. I will vote for Rick Austin and encourage all seniors citizens to do the same.

Harry Truman

November 19th, 2011
9:16 am

Rick Austin is an independent voice. He has shown time and time again that he works for his constitutes even going back to the days of his work on the planning commission and the county commission. I know I live in Habersham. Wilkinson is a retired government worker; while Rick works daily as a college professor for a private college. The backing of the Senators is just proof that he wants to have the right to vote for his constitutes instead of the will of the Lt. Gov.

Billy Joe

November 21st, 2011
3:11 am

Funny, the Austin campaign is still visiting a week old article writing love letters to one another.