Monday, October 11, 2010

Hodges ready to protect the people of Georgia

Georgia Attorney General Candidate Ken Hodges, a Democrat, hopes that Republicans will cross party lines to vote for him because the attorney general's office needs to be independent -- and says he is the candidate with the most bipartisan support and relevant experience.

Hodges, who served 12 years as the district attorney for the Dougherty County Judicial Circuit, was in Newnan this week for a meet-and-greet event held at the Major Long House. The event was sponsored by the Coweta County Democratic Party.

Some local attorneys were on hand, as well as Coweta DA Pete Skandalakis, a Republican and a Hodges supporter.

Hodges' opponent is Sam Olens, who served for many years as chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. Olens is an attorney but has never been a prosecutor, Hodges said.

"I wish everyone could see us side by side, and hear his vision of what's important and hear my vision of what's important," Hodges said at the Newnan event.

"I am a prosecutor. He is a politician," Hodges said. "I've done it. He talks about it."
Hodges said he is running for attorney general for the same reason he ran for district attorney in 1996.

"That is to help protect the citizens of the state of Georgia and help keep them safe."
When he ran for DA, there were people sitting in jail for three, four, five, and, in one case, more than seven years, without going to trial, Hodges said. "That wasn't fair to them, it wasn't fair to the taxpayers, or the victims."

The conviction rate for crimes against children was under 50 percent, Hodges said.
As DA, Hodges said he implemented protocols and procedures to make sure cases went to trial in a timely manner and to improve the conviction rate.

The conviction rate for crimes against children is almost 100 percent now, Hodges said, and the sexual assault nurse examiner program and women and children advocacy center he started now serves more than 1,000 women and children in 27 counties.

Hodges said he only planned to serve one term to "kind of turn the office around and get back into private practice." But he ended up staying for three terms.
Hodges said he also took on predatory lenders and "kicked them out of Dougherty County and eventually out of the state."

After leaving the DA's office, Hodges and his family moved to Atlanta and he went into private practice. He said he left the DA's office because he felt like he had "done everything there was to do" and had a "very capable and competent chief assistant who wanted to do the job.
He said he originally had no intentions of getting back into public service.

But then Attorney General Thurbert Baker declared he was running for governor, and that's the first time there has been an open AG seat since the office became independent, Hodges said.

When Hodges saw candidates for AG "jumping in for the wrong reasons," he decided to run to "make sure the people of the state of Georgia had someone doing the kinds of things for them like I did in Albany."

During his tenure, Hodges said, he prosecuted a sheriff, a judge, an assistant police chief, and several police officers who "thought they were above the law."

He was co-counsel in the prosecution of Sydney Dorsey, who received a life sentence for arranging the murder of his successor in the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, Derwin Brown. The case was moved to Albany, in Dougherty County.

"Public corruption is something the attorney general needs to make sure he takes on when he is confronted with it," Hodges said. "The citizens of Georgia need an advocate, and I will be that advocate."

As for the issues, the current number one issue for the attorney general's office is the tri-state water war.

"I will bring a fresh perspective to that -- and one that is designed to make sure all of Georgia's rights are protected, not just Atlanta's," Hodges said. "Atlanta is important, of course, and I want to make sure that we get the water that we need for Atlanta... but not at the expense of downstream communities like Newnan, Columbus, and Albany," he said. "We need to make sure that we have a solution for all of Georgia."

He also wants to continue his stand on public corruption and fraud. Hodges said he thinks there are millions of dollars of Medicaid and Medicare fraud that could be recouped and put into the state's budget, "so we don't have to furlough teachers... and shut down crime labs."
Why should people vote for Hodges?

"Public safety is my number one priority," he said. "The attorney general is the top prosecutor and the top law enforcement official for the state, and I'm the only one in the race that has the experience to do that."

Hodges said he is a fiscal conservative who operated his office at or under budget for 12 years.
Hodges said he feels Olens is only using the attorney general's office as a stepping stone to being governor.

"It is no secret that he is running for governor," Hodges said. But as attorney general, "he is going to have to make tough decisions, and he is going to have to decide whether or not to prosecute somebody that could be a political ally. If he thinks that doing that may stop him from being governor, then he may make the wrong decisions. He may decide not to prosecute," Hodges said.

"We need to make sure that we have an attorney general who does not let those considerations affect his judgment," he said.

"Partisan politics has no business in the law department," Hodges said. "You need to have an attorney general, like me, who is willing to sit down and work with any governor, regardless of party," he said. "But you also need an attorney general who is willing to stand up to a governor when they are wrong."

"When Barnes or Deal is wrong, I will be willing to stand up to either of them and do my duty and follow my oath -- and that is to represent the citizens and people of Georgia."

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