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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Special election set, Gwinnett judge on short list

Shirley Lasseter's short-term replacement won't be decided until November, even though the new District 1 commissioner for 2013 through 2017 is slated to be picked in July.

Gwinnett Communications Director Joe Sorenson said the county had little choice in planning a special election to replace Lasseter, who resigned last week after pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge. With the primary ballot already set, and a September special election date ruled out by the legislature, that left Nov. 6 -- the day people will take to the polls nationwide -- for deciding who will end the current term. The timing will mean the winner will serve only about six weeks until the next swearing-in ceremony.

Former Suwanee Councilman Jace Brooks and businesswoman Laurie McClain qualified last month for the GOP primary to determine the next term. With no Democrat, the winner of the July 31 primary will be the candidate-elect.

Qualifying for the special election has not been set, but Brooks said Wednesday that if the period is after the primary and he does not win, he won't try for the short-term seat. If the qualifying period is held before the winner is named, he will have no choice but to put his name in the running.

McClain did not immediately return an email and phone call seeking comment.

"I am heart-broken, particularly for Gwinnett County," Brooks said of the Lasseter scandal. "It's a difficult situation. The trust of the people is a very fragile jewel, and that trust has been shattered once again. I hope to play a part in rebuilding that trust through citizen engagement and transparency and the same proven conservative principles that have served us so well in Suwanee."

Ray on judicial short list

A local judge is once again on the short list to become the first Gwinnettian named to Georgia's top bench.

Billy Ray, a former state senator who now serves as a Superior Court Judge, was named to the short list for the Supreme Court of Georgia vacancy by the governor's Judicial Nominating Commission.

On the list of seven, Ray is joined by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia "C.J." Becker; state Court of Appeals Judge Keith Blackwell; Elizabeth "Lisa" Branch, a litigator at Smith, Gambrell & Russell; Michael Brown, co-leader of Alston & Bird's Government and Internal Investigations Group; Macon Superior Court Judge Tilman "Tripp" Self III; and Henry County State Court Chief Judge Ben Studdard III.

The local bar association has touted Ray, who runs the Gwinnett Drug Court, for the role.

This Friday, six people will graduate from the drug court, during a ceremony scheduled at the Georgia Supreme Court, with Gov. Nathan Deal speaking.

Deal is expected to name the new justice, who will replace Chief Justice George Carley.

Bowden wants Balfour out of position

In July, Travis Bowden will challenge Sen. Don Balfour in the GOP primary.

But this week, he stepped out and said the Snellville senator should be stripped of his position of Rules Committee chairman for violating the law, calling on the Rules Committee to establish an audits subcommittee to review legislators' expenses.

Last week, the Senate Ethics Committee found cause in complaints that Balfour filed expenses for Senate business when he was out of town.

"Senator Balfour has been Rules Committee Chairman for 10 years, but he has never created the Subcommittee that will review legislative expenses," Bowden said. "It's suspicious that Sen. Balfour would submit these false reports knowing they would not be audited. Since Senator Balfour has violated Georgia law, the Senate itself is out of order and our taxpayer dollars are being spent without any kind of oversight. We need to stop Don Balfour from writing himself a blank check with our money."

Bowden said he had contacted each member of the Senate Committee on Assignments, which includes Gwinnett Sens. David Shafer and Renee Unterman, to ask them to remove Balfour.

"It is the duty of the eight members of the Senate Committee on Assignments to make a change," he said. "I call on every citizen of Georgia to contact these legislators and encourage them to remove Don Balfour from his committee and end Sen. Balfour's blank check reimbursement requests."

In addition to Bowden, Steve Ramey has challenged Balfour in the July 31 Republican primary.

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

Camie Young can be reached via email at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Comments

kevin 2 years, 5 months ago

a special costly election just for Lassister. She wins the battle on this. Why not rush it through on the July ballot? Does that make too much sense?

Folks, do not re-elect politicians. Always put the 4 yr burden on someone new to take a crack at fixing things. You all keep putting yourselves in this horrible position when all you have to do is not to re-elect a person. You don't need a Phd to figure this out. No wonder GPS don't produce many geniuses.

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