Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Democratic Candidate for Secretary of State Michael Mills Staement on Kemp Appointment

Poll-after-poll and trend-after-trend shows Georgians are increasingly cynical about politics and resentful of government. The latest partisan power grab that was the appointment of a new Georgia Secretary of State will only reinforce these disturbing trends. Citizens must take the power back and make their voices heard - at the ballot box in 2010 and every day in-between.

While an abdication of her sworn responsibility, Secretary of State Karen Handel's decision to resign to better serve the office being vacated and her campaign for governor seemed innocent enough. At face-value, we could support the decision because it ensured Georgians had someone in the Secretary of State's office fighting for their rights instead of advancing personal and partisan agendas. But scratch the surface, and it smacks of politics.

Handel - a close ally of Governor Sonny Perdue - resigned, leaving him to appoint a successor. This presented the governor an opportunity to do the right thing by selecting someone to do the people's work, and not use the situation as a launching pad for the Republican Party or his selection's own campaign. Governor Perdue selected Jim Cole, his House Floor Leader, to fill the term. Cole immediately announced his intentions to accept the nomination and run in 2010. Oddly, something changed during the weekend and Cole declined the appointment. Governor Perdue scrambled to pick a replacement, settling on Brian Kemp, a Republican already in the race.

Any Georgian actually paying attention to the process would need a tour guide and scoreboard to keep up. This appointment process fails to pass the smell test, coming off as a partisan power grab in an election year - ensuring the Republicans have an incumbent on the ballot. And at best, it looks mishandled. Georgians will be further disenchanted with government and its leaders when this fiasco is combined with the recent scandals that came to light during the replacement search for former House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

I've heard first-hand, as a candidate traveling statewide, how families are suffering in a poor economy where jobs are scarce and their futures are uncertain. I've listened to eligible voters afraid of losing their rights because of partisan attempts to limit ballot access (see federal lawsuit Handel v. Morales). I've talked with small business owners who are outraged that Georgia government is doing little to support their efforts to create jobs at a time they are so sorely-needed. And I've consoled consumers who lost their life savings or were ripped off by fraudulent business practices.

These are the issues covered by the Georgia Secretary of State's five divisions (Archives, Elections, Corporations, Securities and Licensing). And they are the issues Georgians care about. Its time our leaders move beyond rhetoric and partisan power grabs to instead focus on protecting voter rights, making government more effective and supporting job creation, which will lift us out of recession.

Governor Perdue had a chance to place the interests of Georgia citizens - and our futures - first. He rejected that obligation and opportunity. Accordingly, it's time Georgia voters take back the power and elect leaders who rise each day to ensure our individual and collective futures are brighter than our past. Or we can settle on leaders more interested in personal gain and politics than creating forward looking policies that will stave off the efforts of neighboring states like North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina, who are stealing our moniker - "Engine of the New South." Our future is too precarious to remain silent and on the sidelines.

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