Wednesday, November 03, 2010

3 NOV 10: Better Late Than Never?

As I took my Tuesday morning run, giant snowflakes were propped up on both sides of the Dillingham Street Bridge. I guess it only figures - as the season of shopping for votes ends, the next shopping season begins.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: As the polls closed Tuesday night, your blog confirmed two Columbus candidates have been fined by the Georgia Ethics Commission because of campaign reports. In fact, Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker apparently hasn't paid his fine in two years. So he needed those recent campaign donations more than you know....

A blog reader pointed us to state records, showing Zeph Baker still hasn't filed two required reports from his 2008 race for the Georgia House. As a result, he owes the state Ethics Commission $150 - and he hasn't paid that, either. Baker has focused so much on Columbus zip codes that he apparently hasn't traveled to Atlanta.

So who's the second Columbus candidate who owes a state fine? Believe it or not, it's newly-elected State Senator Josh McKoon - the man who made an issue of Sen. Ed Harbison's filing foul-ups two years ago [9 Jul 08]. His campaign disclosure violation took place last week, before Harbison could spot it and return the favor.

In an exclusive interview at his victory party Tuesday night, Josh McKoon said he missed the campaign disclosure filing deadline by "two hours." But the Georgia Ethics Commission website indicates he missed the deadline by seven days, and only filed the form Tuesday. Time really must travel quickly, when you're campaigning....

Josh McKoon assured me he'll pay the 25-dollar fine he owes the Georgia Ethics Commission for missing the deadline. But perhaps he'll learn a lesson from this, as he prepares to enter the Georgia Senate - don't point your finger at other people's paperwork, until you smear ink on it filling out your own.

But back to the main event in Columbus: most of the city went to bed Tuesday night not knowing if Zeph Baker or Wayne Anthony would advance to a 30 November runoff for mayor. Teresa Tomlinson finished first in the four-way race - so once again, Little Ms. Ambitious aced the exam.

Second place in the four-way mayoral race came down to absentee ballots, and wasn't completely counted as I post this. It may come down to which minister gave the best "altar call" over the past several weeks.

I went for a blogger's night out after the polls closed, with only a couple of campaign stops in mind. The first stop was Paul Olson's headquarters, since his website promised "free food and refreshments." Here is a transcript of what happened when I walked in, to find Olson sitting by the open door:

"Hi. Paul Olson. You are....?"

"Richard Burkard with The Blog of Columbus. (handshake) How are you?"

"Sir, you're not welcome here. Please leave."

"Is there a reason why?"

"Leave. Leave."

"Any comment on the race tonight?"


"Have a good night, sir." I walked out, before Olson could turn into that candidate for Governor of New York.

I tried to snap a quick photo from the sidewalk, before going on my way. It was the public part of the Second Avenue sidewalk, so Paul Olson couldn't call police or file an "invasion of privacy" suit. But yes, I checked my back once while walking back to my car....

This short conversation convinced me of three things. One: I should have turned on my voice recorder before walking inside. Two: Paul Olson hung up on me intentionally Sunday afternoon, when he returned my call. Three: the free food must have run out long before I showed up.

But this quick stop changed my plans a bit. If Paul Olson had this sort of reaction to me, what would the other candidates for mayor do? The next answer was only a few blocks away, at Zeph Baker's headquarters on Eighth Street. If I brought up those campaign fines, I could be in a fine mess.

The Zeph Baker campaign headquarters was packed with people - all of them African-American. For all of Baker's talk about diversity, this room didn't seem to have any. But then again, former Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison was there - so he might have cleaned house earlier in the evening.

I stepped inside for a few moments - then was asked by a campaign adviser to step outside to have my questions answered. Viola Alexander explained Zeph Baker wasn't due at the headquarters for another half-hour or so. That can happen when three children have homework to finish.

Since I talked with Zeph Baker by phone last week, I decided to move on and drive to MidTown. Wayne Anthony's campaign never returned my Sunday voice-mail at all - so who knows what could happen there. Anthony might ask me to show my checking account records for the last four years.

But daughter Pam Anthony offered a friendly welcome to the campaign party on Wynnton Road. A good crowd was there to watch the two big vote counts of the evening on WTVM. The mayor's race, of course - as well as who was eliminated from "Dancing With the Stars."

"Teresa is coming down," one man said as mayoral numbers were shown on TV. A side room at the Wayne Anthony headquarters was used to monitor Internet vote counts -- and since he's a part-time church pastor, I presume filters were in place to block dangerous websites such as MSNBC's.

Wayne Anthony answered several questions -- including whether he has more ammunition to fire at Teresa Tomlinson, should they meet in a runoff. Come to think of it, this runoff may reveal once and for all which campaign is behind the "Truth About Teresa" blog.

Then it was on to Teresa Tomlinson's campaign party near the Macon Road Kmart store. It was the only one to have a Columbus Police car, and an officer handling traffic. Hmmmm - I never was quite sure who the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed for mayor....

Teresa Tomlinson chatted with several supporters inside the headquarters, while dozens of people had their eyes fixed on ABC's election coverage. They only seemed to make noise when local TV cameras were on them during newscasts.

(Please note Tomlinson wore a red dress Tuesday night. Shouldn't that end the rumors once and for all about her being a Democrat?)

The campaign headquarters was filled with all things Tomlinson - including a wrapped mint with her campaign logo on it. It's not quite a Butler's Pantry sandwich, but it would have to do....

With the mayoral races covered, I had one more stop to make. Josh McKoon's victory party was in the Hilton Garden Inn, near Bradley Park Drive. McKoon was the only candidate who dared to have a party on the north side of Columbus -- but then, his Senate district isn't likely to include the Booker T. Washington Apartments.

(McKoon also had the only party with TV screens showing Fox News Channel, instead of WTVM. You can always spot the Republican celebrations....)

McKoon was joined at his party by Jerry Luquire of the Georgia Christian Coalition. Beth Harris also was there, celebrating her election to the Muscogee County School Board. I overheard Harris relishing spending less than $1,000 on her campaign, while opponent Brinkley Pound spent "4,000 on billboards." And amazingly, Pound was the math teacher in the race.

As Columbus voted for its next mayor, the outgoing mayor gave an "exit interview" on WDAK radio. Jim Wetherington told "Viewpoint" two big issues for his successor will be transportation and water. And as we all know, you can only carry so much whitewater in a kayak from LaGrange.

Here's a quick summary of other highlights and lowlights from Election Day:

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop declared victory for another term, hours after several news outlets determined challenger Mike Keown had unseated him. Bishop gained a late surge of votes from Muscogee County - leaving Republicans to wonder how many other relatives he might have paid off.

+ Mark Cantrell ousted Muscogee County School Board member Brenda Storey. I heard some people say Storey hurt her cause by supporting the new Public Education Center -- which apparently means voters prefer Cantrell's faulty grammar over faulty math.

+ Columbus Councilors Pops Barnes and Mimi Woodson won re-election with ease. But Julius Hunter is heading for a runoff against 2009 regional "Mortician of the Year" Bruce Huff. Now that WRBL has revealed Hunter has a law office in Phenix City, he can see Huff about choosing the right casket for his political career.

+ Nathan Deal defeated Roy Barnes to become Georgia's next governor. But the campaign commercials revealed Barnes is a "liberal trial lawyer" - so he might file lawsuits next year to demand Deal face a new ethics investigation.

(Deal told a victory rally: "We're going to make this state great." I wonder what Sonny Perdue thought when he heard that. Did visions of furloughed teachers dance in his head?)

+ Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa was elected Alabama Governor - and privately wished the Iron Bowl in three weeks could be settled that easily.

(Democratic loser Ron Sparks warned this election was Alabama's "last chance for an education lottery." Instead, voters may have to settle in the next few years for education bingo machines.)

+ Instant Message to ABC News: After seeing this advertising icon on Facebook Tuesday night, maybe New York is the state needing an education lottery - so everyone learns how to spell.

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