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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Irvin stuns Dems by attending Republican fundraiser

Democrats were surprised recently when one of the party’s most loyal members attended a Republican fundraiser.

Tommy Irvin, the state agriculture commissioner who is stepping down, attended a fundraiser for Gary Black, the GOP candidate to replace him.

‘‘I don’t think anyone here really knew,’’ about the appearance, Eric Gray, a spokesman for Georgia’s Democratic Party said in an Associated Press report. ‘‘But Tommy Irvin’s a respected guy. He’s earned the right to do what he wishes at this point.’’

Irvin, 81, was appointed agriculture commissioner in 1969 and has remained in office ever since

Black said he phoned the commissioner’s office and extended an invitation for Irvin to attend his Sept. 30 fundraiser. He received an e-mail back saying that Irvin would be there.

In the report, Irvin suggested his attendance was meant to encourage Black to consider keeping some of the department’s staff if the Republican wins.

Although Irvin said he has not personally endorsed anyone in the race, he intends to vote a straight Democratic ticket — including for J.B. Powell, the Democrat running for the agriculture post. Irvin’s campaign gave $1,000 to Powell’s campaign on Aug. 23, Powell said, and the longtime incumbent taped political commercials with Powell that could run on radio, TV or online in the coming weeks.

In the report, Irvin said he’s willing to attend fundraisers for the Democrat, too.

‘‘I have the utmost respect for him,’’ Powell said.

Heckman signs term limit pledge

Doug Heckman is campaigning to replace the man who has served Gwinnett in Congress for 18 years.

But the Peachtree Corners man has promised he won’t stay in Washington that long.

Heckman, a Democrat, signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment that would limit U.S. House members to three consecutive terms and U.S. Senators to two consecutive six-year terms.

“Douglass Heckman’s bold commitment to limiting congressional terms is a sign of his support for a return to a citizen legislature, and a repudiation of the current entitlement mentality that exists in Washington, D.C.,” said Philip Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, a group supporting the cause.

Passage of a constitutional amendment is difficult, requiring a two thirds majority in both the U.S. House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.

“While the process seems difficult, Americans are demanding a constitutional check on the institutional power of lifetime legislators, and a return to a citizen legislature,” Bluemel said, pointing out that 36 states currently have some form of term limits in place. “This constitutional amendment’s time has come, and we will be working hard to see that it gets a fair hearing in the upcoming Congress.”

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.