Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Dax Lopez, facing Senate scrutiny over judicial appointment, resigns from GALEO


DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, a Republican nominated by President Barack Obama to fill a Northern District federal judgeship, has resigned his membership in the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of GALEO, confirmed Lopez’ decision this morning.

Lopez faces a grueling U.S. Senate confirmation process. And as we explained in a Sunday post, sheriffs in Gwinnett and Cobb counties declared Lopez’ membership in the group, which opposed 2011 legislation to push illegal immigrants out of the state, is grounds for disqualification:

“Judge Lopez’ 11 years of service on behalf of [GALEO] would suggest prejudice towards law-abiding citizens and law enforcement across this county,” Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren wrote in letters addressed to U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

“GALEO has called for law enforcement to turn a blind eye towards criminals that have illegally penetrated our borders and then perpetrated crimes against the very citizens I am sworn to protect.”

“Our organization has been through nomination processes before,” he said. “The standard practice in these matters is that there is a roll-off period. We knew that that was being considered. This was something that [Lopez] thought would be prudent.

Gonzalez pointed to the case of Luis Aguilar, an Atlanta attorney nominated to the Securities Exchange Commission by President George W. Bush in 2008. Aguilar resigned his membership in GALEO, too, Gonzalez said.

The GALEO executive director said there’s one more reason that Lopez might have thought his resignation prudent: The organization is currently considering litigation against local governments in the South, challenging at-large representation that may be depriving Hispanics of a voice.

The topic is a hot one in Hall County, as the Gainesville Times has reported.

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Congratulations! Even if you don’t live in Cobb County, you will have the honor of helping to pay for the Atlanta Braves to move there. From the Marietta Daily Journal:

The state of Georgia has agreed to provide about $42 million to Cobb County to help fund 11 transportation projects with a total estimated cost of about $68 million, many of which are near SunTrust Park.

The projects the state will commit money toward include improvements to several intersections around the new ballpark, including at Interstate 285 and Cobb Parkway, as well as upgrades to roads that pass on either side of the stadium and mixed-use development the Braves are building in Cumberland.

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Gov. Nathan Deal's mark on the judiciary is about to grow. A lot.

He's already appointed more than 60 judges since he took office in 2011. But he's now weighing one of his biggest judicial decisions yet: More than 200 applicants for three new seats on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Lawmakers agreed to expand the state's second-highest court to 15 jurists earlier this year. At least 214 lawyers have signed up to be considered for the three new posts. And many of them have already been vetted by Deal. Others are his appointments to the bench on lower courts or other posts. The Daily Report lists a few of the heaviest hitters:

Many of the state's trial court judges have been nominated, including several appointed by Deal: Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Randy Rich, Fulton County Superior Court Judge (and Deal's former executive counsel) Todd Markle and Fulton State Court Judge Eric Richardson. The names of District Attorneys Tracy Graham Lawson of Clayton County and Brian Rickman of the Mountain Judicial Circuit have been offered up, as well.

State Solicitor General Britt Grant, who oversees appeals for state Attorney General Sam Olens, was nominated, as was her predecessor, Nels Peterson, now the top lawyer for the state university system's Board of Regents.

Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss, who was on the JNC's short list for the Court of Appeals in 2013, the last time Deal appointed an appellate judge, is a nominee again. Nominees Macon Circuit Superior Court Judge Tilman "Tripp" Self III and Henry County State Court Judge Ben Studdard III were on the short list when Deal appointed a Supreme Court justice in 2012. Nominee Donald Geary, chief assistant district attorney in Cobb County, was on a Court of Appeals short list for Deal in 2011, as was Studdard.

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While recently visiting with members of the Golden Isles community about various legislative issues, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter visited Parker’s convenience store on the F.J. Torras Causeway in Brunswick. As part of an interaction program sponsored by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Carter spent time working behind the counter in a Parker’s uniform, interacting with store employees and ringing up sales.

Carter said the event provided an inside look at in-store operations and the impact Parker’s has on the local economy.

“Convenience stores are vital small businesses that provide essential services with one-stop shopping, grab-and-go food service, a variety of merchandise and fast transactions,” said Carter. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to witness firsthand the many benefits convenience stores offer to the residents of Brunswick and Glynn County.”

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The Washington Post has a fascinating look at how the sausage is made with U.S. House members seeking re-election. This is the contract put forth by the National Republican Congressional Committee for entry into its "Patriot" program for vulnerable incumbents (no one from Georgia is among them this cycle).

It's a lot about fund-raising, but also says members must provide a:

Detailed, written legislative strategy that provides short-, intermediate-, and long-term legislative goals, including political justifications for those goals. Be sure to include local issues unique to the district or region. Complete a Patriot Policy Priorities worksheet to be used by NRCC staff to evaluate legislative priorities for the current Congress and to promote and advocate for those priorities where appropriate.

Participants in the program also must use only NRCC-approved vendors for their campaign, making sure favored consultants get the lucrative business.

As the Post's James Hohmann points out: "The closely-held document offers a window into how much autonomy lawmakers often must forfeit to unelected Washington insiders."

Georgia GOP strategist Chip Lake, who used to be chief of staff for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, has plenty of first-hand experience with the NRCC and is no fan:

In business, you would call this the price of franchising.

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Keep your eye on the Southern inroads, at least among the establishment, made by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He announced Wednesday that Mississippi U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and former Mississippi Republican Party Executive Director Andy Taggart have endorsed him.

Kasich also has the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. But in Georgia, Kasich did not even crack Gov. Nathan Deal's list of four governors he was supporting.


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About the Author

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