A look back at Georgia politics in 2015

A look back at Georgia politics in 2015

By Patrick Hickey –

2015 is just about in the books, and oh what a year it was.  I mean, you could say that about any year and it would be true, sure, but let’s take a moment to look back on this year and remember some of the political highlights, and lowlights, that made it memorable.

Presidential politics come down to Georgia

Trump Norcross

Trump speaks to a crowd in Norcross

For those invested in presidential politics, 2016 is going to really be the exciting year.  2015 though set the stage, winnowed the field, (well at least a little) and gave us a look at who the GOP and Democrats will send to square off in the General Election next year.  While Hillary Clinton came into the year as a big front-runner for the Dems and has managed to hold onto that title despite Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ best efforts, the flip side of the primary race has been anything but predictable.  Early favorite Jeb Bush failed to gather any steam at all, and despite scooping up a huge portion of the early endorsements and money, is all but finished before the calendar turns to the new year.  Instead it was Donald Trump, of business and reality TV fame who surged to the front of the pack soon after announcing his candidacy, and has refused to relinquish it since.  The latest polls in Georgia have him out in front by nearly 20 points, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz sitting safely in second.  Every major candidate has already been to the Peach State at least once, but expect more visits as they gear up for what promises to be a vitally important SEC Primary on March 1st, with Georgia the crown jewel of that voting day.

RFRA fight finds face in former Fire Chief

Former City of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired from his post in January for distributing copies of his self-published book, which contained negative views about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, to co-workers.  According to a report from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who swiftly moved to oust Cochran upon learning of the situation, “contents of the book have eroded trust and have compromised the ability of the chief to provide leadership in the future”.

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran

Cochran was quick to hit back, claiming that by firing him over the book, the city was violating his constitutional right to free speech.  His lawyers claimed that not only did Cochran not do anything out of sorts, but he was actually being fired as a result of intolerance for his personal religious views.  The entire case drew parallels to the Religious Freedom fight that had just played out during the 2015 legislative session, and in 2016 look for Cochran to once again to figure into that battle as the more Conservative elements of the party clash with Chamber of Commerce interests over the bill.

More drama for DeKalb

lee may

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May discusses the infamous corruption report

It was a banner year for the state’s most infamous county, as not one but two county CEO’s found themselves in the spotlight after allegations of corruption.  First former CEO Burrell Ellis was found guilty of four counts of extortion attempt and perjury for his actions in 2013 following a drawn out trial.  Ellis was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by 5 years of probation.

His successor, interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, had a better year.  Still pretty bad, but better.  Earlier in the year May hired former state Attorney General Mike Bowers to do an investigation on the county to dig up any corruption left over by the previous regime.  Bowers did just that, but in an ironic twist uncovered several allegations of ethics violations by the DeKalb CEO himself, including receiving county-paid repairs on his home and suspicious counts of borrowing money.  May quickly did his best to distance himself from the report, released in October, but considering he had promised to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a report which was expected to help clean up the county he soon found himself under fire from both sides.  As of now May remains in office, but it’s probably a smart bet to assume a third CEO in two years will take office in 2016.

More to come this week as we look back on the year that was…