Cobb County judges deny Gov. Nathan Deal four bench appointments

We told you earlier this morning that Allison Barnes Salter, daughter of former Gov. Roy Barnes and a managing partner in the Barnes Law Group, will run for an open seat on the Cobb County State Court bench.

But that is only part of the story.

A total of four judges in Cobb County – all women, one on the superior court bench and three on the state court bench – have announced that they will not be running for re-election when their terms expire this year.

Which means that four judicial appointments are being denied Gov. Nathan Deal.

This is actually how the system is supposed to work. But over a period of decades, it has become customary throughout Georgia for a judge to resign mid-way through the final elected term, which allows the governor to install an incumbent of his choice in time for the next nonpartisan election. Which usually discourages all challengers. Bestowing these prizes has become one of the great perks of the governor's office.

One can’t rule out the possibility that these departing judges hold a fervent belief in the power of voters. Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, who is retiring at age 72, won her seat on the bench in a 2000 election.  State Court Judge Melanie Clayton first won her seat in an open-field election in 1992.

But we also may be seeing something of a Democratic hangover here. Kathryn Tanksley, another departing state court judge, was appointed as one of the last acts of Governor Barnes before he left office in 2002. And State Court Judge Irma Glover, whose retirement was announced Tuesday in the Daily Report, was a 1995 appointee of Gov. Zell Miller.

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New rules aimed at banning racial and LGBT discrimination are headed to the bustling bars of Athens.

The new rules were spurred in part by the claim that surfaced in October that a downtown bar called General Beauregard’s had a version of a margarita using a racial slur. But an anonymous survey organized by the Student Government Association at UGA revealed several other alleged instances, including the use of dress codes or "private events" to keep out minorities.

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State Rep. Taylor Bennett may be at the very top of the GOP target list for the November elections. The Brookhaven Democrat, who won a special election last year in a Republican-leaning district, has already attracted at least one GOP opponent.

He's also attracted the attention of a local media outlet for a hiring spree. From the Dunwoody Crier:

In a move most legislators say is unprecedented, first-term state Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Brookhaven) has announced the hiring of four staff members and four legislative interns for the 40-day legislative session.

Whether and how much the staffers are to be paid is an open question. We asked Bennett for comment but hadn’t received a reply at press time.

Bennett, who won a summer special election and took office in August, begins his first legislative session next week. He will have to stand for re-election in the fall.

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This should be fun. At 6:30 tonight in the Midtown offices of Bondurant Mixson and Elmore a preview of the fight ahead over "religious liberty" will be front and center.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, the Columbus Republican who championed the controversial proposal, will be there. So will state Rep. Taylor Bennett and Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality, two of the most prominent critics of the legislation. As will Sasha Volokh, an Emory University law professor who clerked for two Supreme Court justices.

One of your Insiders will be there as well, to moderate the shindig. You should come, too. Click for all the details.

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This afternoon, Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus will formally announce that a fleet oiler will be named after U.S. Rep. John Lewis. A Navy spokesman said the ship, yet to be built, will look something like this:

Gay rights groups are trying to use their growing clout in Atlanta elections. Consider it a test run for an even bigger fight next year.

The Victory Fund, which pushes gay candidates for elected office, endorsed three openly LGBT candidates running for open left-leaning House seats representing Atlanta districts in November. Georgia will have five openly gay elected lawmakers if all three manage to win.

The organization endorsed Park Cannon, a health educator, for the Atlanta seat held by state Rep. Simone Bell, an openly gay lawmaker who resigned last year to head legal advocacy group.

It also backed Joshua Noblitt, a therapist and pastor, in the crowded race to succeed state Rep. Margaret Kaiser, who is running for Atlanta mayor. And it supported Delta Air Lines staffer Rafer Johnson, who is running to succeed state Rep. LaDawn Jones after she announced last year she won't run for a third term.

The biggest target, though, looms in 2017. That's when Atlanta residents vote in a jammed-pack contest to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed. Already among the contenders: Cathy Woolard, who would be the city's first openly gay leader.

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who garnered plenty of vice presidential buzz after her swift move to take down the Confederate flag at the state Capitol last year, will be giving the Republican response to President Barack Obama's final State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

The (Columbia, S.C.) State has some context:

The opposition party’s State of the Union response has played into presidential politics in recent years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave the address a year before he was picked as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., delivered the 2013 response to Obama and is running for the White House this year.

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Yes, you read that right: Jimmy Carter, Paula Deen and an Atlanta painter are hosting an art class in Plains on Jan. 23. From our AJC colleague Jill Vejnoska:

Well, the two southwest Georgia natives’s shared hobby serves as the backdrop for this one-of-a-kind fundraiser that anyone with as little as $500 lying around can attend. That’s how much you’ll need to claim a spot in a painting class taught by renowned Atlanta area artist James Richards, which Deen and Carter will attend. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes breakfast and lunch.

The celebrity chef and the former leader of the free world’s relationship goes back at least a decade. Carter cooked a couple of times on Deen’s Food Network show in the mid-2000’s, and the duo teamed up to host a dinner benefiting the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia in 2012. They’ve both been through a lot since then —Deen apologized when it came out she’d uttered racial slurs in decades past andgamely lasted a few rounds on “Dancing with the Stars” last fall. And Carter’s battle with cancer has been well documented.

But “P, P and P” is pretty much breaking the mold when it comes to celebrity mashups for a good cause. A fundraiser for two nonprofit organizations — Plains Better Hometown, which maintains the hometown of the country’s 39th president and Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site , which helps support the National Park Service sites and programs in town), the class size is limited to about 50 people, making for a fairly intimate experience.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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