Monday, July 28, 2008

Powell Op-Ed

Another letter to post, and this one is from Jim Powell, the Democratic nominee for PSC ...

Once again, Georgia’s Secretary of State is hiding behind political spin and misinterpreted law in an attempt to cover up the serious mismanagement and partisan agenda in her office. As numerous news outlets throughout Georgia have reported, Karen Handel personally overruled a nonpartisan Administrative Law Judge, and issued a last-minute order to take my name off the ballot for Public Service Commission in last Tuesday’s primary election.

Ms. Handel’s handling of this entire situation reeks of the worst kind partisan politics – the kind of politics that voters are tired of, and the kind of politics that have gridlocked our state government. Not only did she overrule a well-reasoned opinion of a State Administrative Law Judge, she mismanaged how the matter was communicated to all 159 county Boards of Election as well as to me and my attorney. The record shows clearly that her disqualification order was issued on Thursday, July 10, yet, it was not until late afternoon on Friday, July 11 that she made even a token attempt to contact my attorney by e-mail, when he was out of town. Given that the primary was set for July 15, just two business days later, the courtesy of a telephone call to my attorney would have been more appropriate and professional. Contrary to her statements in this newspaper, I was never notified of my disqualification. In fact, the first time I heard about it was when, acting on rumors, I contacted the Secretary of State’s office directly.

As inept as Secretary Handel was at communicating to me, she was extremely efficient at communicating news of my disqualification to the 159 county elections supervisors in Georgia.

I called Wes Tailor, Handel’s Elections Division Director, on Monday morning, July 14, and he confirmed that Handel had in fact disqualified me. When I asked him when he was going to let me know, he said “we don’t have your contact information, but we did send it to your attorney.” I would point out, quite simply, that I provided the Secretary of State’s office with contact information when I qualified as a candidate on May 2. If, as it appears, they misplaced that information, you can find my contact information on my website. As a candidate, it is in my best interest to be as accessible as possible to the public, and to claim that you couldn’t figure out how to get in touch with my campaign is an argument that holds no water.

With the clock ticking, and less than 24 hours before the polls opened, I was able to obtain an emergency stay order from Fulton County Superior Court, stopping the Secretary’s partisan disqualification of my candidacy, and ordering the Secretary to take immediate action to make sure that I remained on the ballot, so that Georgia voters could exercise their choice. It was my hope that the Secretary of State’s office would act as decisively and efficiently to put me back on the ballot as they did when they took me off a few days before.

Unfortunately, when it came to getting me back on the ballot, it was partisan politics as usual in the Secretary of State’s office. Despite her commendable efficiency in notifying the county Boards of Election of my disqualification, Ms. Handel’s office dropped the ball when she had to step up and reverse her policy. County elections supervisors were not told in a timely fashion, and as a result, polling locations across Georgia opened the polls with prominently displayed signs saying that any votes cast for Jim Powell would not count.

Over the course of Election Day, I was inundated with calls from voters who were infuriated at the trickery and doubletalk from the Secretary’s office. While Ms. Handel and her team delayed, stonewalled, and spun, my campaign team worked hard to resolve the problem and get the message out to voters.

In the end, the voters of Georgia said that I was the right choice – electing me in the Democratic primary with over 85%, despite Ms. Handel’s best efforts to rig the election at the last minute. To those voters who have trusted me with their support, I extend my most sincere thanks. You stood by me, and I’m going to stand by you, both as we continue to fight to make your votes count, and hopefully as your representative on the Public Service Commission.

Jim Powell, Democratic Candidate for the Public Service Commission, District 4.


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