Sam Olens: Georgia’s Conduit To A Romney Administration

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Wednesday was Sam Olens night at the Republican National Convention.  While the headliner was Paul Ryan and the show was stolen by Condi Rice, Georgia’s Attorney General was featured in a prime time speech just after the 2008 nominee Senator John McCain.

Truthfully, the speech itself will not be the subject of many headlines.  Olens was teamed with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for a heavily scripted back and forth on the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform as well as a general theme of executive power overreach.  Olens was able to get in a line questioning the administration’s lack of transparency over the Fast and Furious gun running program and apparent coverup, pleasing those who still call for more attention to the issue.

Olens presence in and of itself is a significant one.  He was the only Georgian given a prime time speaking slot, one that was preserved when the lineup was truncated to three days. 

The speakers lineup itself was reflective much more of the Republican Party’s new leadership network than homages to the past.  With former Secretary State Rice as a notable exception, most of the speakers that connected with the audience were those who are more the Republican Party of the future than those whose days are behind them.  Rice, with topics much more broad ranging than foreign policy, hit chords with the party’s base that indicated that she too has elective potential in the future should she choose.

Olens was the only statewide elected official to back Mitt Romney for Georgia’s Super Tuesday primary.  Most of the state’s establishment was in (or back in) the Gingrich fold last March, with another sizable contingent backing Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. As such, Olens has secured not only his speaking position, but a spot in Romney’s circle of trust.  This is potentially a large advantage for him if there is a President Romney for several Reasons.

Olens is likely the “go-to guy” for early interactions with a Romney administration.  Those wanting to be placed on a list for potential political appointments know that his voice will be louder than many other Georgians when counsel is sought on potential candidates.  Thus, being a Friend of Sam is now essential for those with eyes toward political transition in Washington.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that Olens himself would be short listed for an appointment from a Romney administration.  The bigger question is whether or not that is where any future political career ambition lies for the first term attorney General.  Most speculation on Olens future isn’t about him moving to Washington, however.  Olens is also considered a top contender to eventually replace Governor Nathan Deal who would be term limited in 2018.

Olens is sitting in the catbird seat if this is his goal, as being able to curry favor from D.C. for the state would help him firmly establish and grow his Georgia political base during a Romney administration.  The visibility afforded to him in such a roll would be mostly behind the scenes, yet clear to the political and fundraising network required to run an expensive campaign for the top of a ticket in a state with almost 10 million people.

Olens is still young in his political career.  As such, it’s only clear that he has open doors and many options for his future.  He will also have plenty of time to sit back and evaluate those options while he remains an effective Attorney General delivering results through his office’s actions.

The Romney victory in the primary alone has boosted Olens’ visibility and political stock, as evidenced by his Wednesday appearance.  A Romney victory in November would increase the value of that stock significantly more.

There’s no rush to sell this stock either.  Olens has a good future ahead of him in Georgia politics.  The biggest question now is whether or not that also includes national politics too.


  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    I could go for a Governor Olens…I could REALLY go for a Governor Olens.

    Seriously, this state could have REALLY used a Governor Olens back in like 2003 or even 1998, but instead we got Governor King Rat followed by Governor Sonny-Do and we see how that turned out…

    • SallyForth says:

      LDiG, King Rat – really??! Barnes was a statesman whose principled stand on teacher accountability took him down, deserves a bit more respect than that. How about refer to him as Governor Roy or Roy-Do – at least as much respect as you show Gov Sonny Go-Fish?

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Barnes’ repeated screw ups (teachers, the flag, Northern Arc, etc) and Democrats’ repeated ethical “shortcomings” gave us Governor Sonny-Do (Nothing) and a Republican majority in state government whose exceptional ethical deficits and extreme incompetence in the shameful malaise that they have tried to pass off as “governing” have this state on the edge of total obvilion in almost every way imaginable, so spare me the “King Rat deserves as much respect as Sonny-Don’t because it hurts the feelings of poor helpless Democrats who would like to play the victim” line.

        It’s been more than well-documented time and again and again that Sonny Perdue was one of this state’s worst governors EVER to the point that his eight years in office is often a time that many Georgians would like to forget, so if you think that Perdue is rolling around in a surplus of nostalgic respect from this or any other poster in this or any other forum you are sadly mistaken and are obviously just desperately mining for sympathy in a place where you are not going to get it for Democrats who are almost just as much to blame for Georgia’s numerous overwhelming troubles as the inept Republican leadership that is currently guiding the Titanic that is this state towards the iceberg with glee.

        And you calling the failed one-term Barnes a “statesman” is quite the comedic bit of revisionist history, but hey, if it makes you happy then go with it….

        Any politicians out there want respect? Then DON’T SCREW UP!

        Respect is something that is EARNED, not given.

        • SallyForth says:

          Well, damn! Tell me what you really think! 🙂 We all have our own perspectives.
          My point was not to show more respect for lead driver of the clown car, Perdue, than you did for Barnes, who actually is a statesman – regardless of party. I was not referring to either party.

          I must say that trying to hold teachers accountable for actually teaching was not a “screw up” but something to help GA’s children and future. It was a brave action that cost him the election because it made them mad and they raised hell, got out the vote of their family, friends, neighbors against him. The flag was actually good looking. And, boy, could our nightmare traffic use that Northern Arc now!

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            It wasn’t necessarily what Barnes was trying to do, but it was the way that he poorly handled each of those situations that got him into deep political trouble with the public.

            As for the Northern Arc, it is an idea that is definitely a good one in theory as many other major North American cities have Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter/Outer Bypass-type of roads to attempt to take thru traffic off of clogged original outer loops.

            The major thing that works against building an Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc type of road in the Atlanta Region is increasing public outrage against overdevelopment which has been encouraged by many metro local governments at the behest of the real estate developers who have traditionally heavily financially backed many local politicians.

            Other major things that work against a Northern Arc in the Atlanta Region is an extremely-strong libertarian streak that many Georgians, especially private landowners, exhibit and that, unlike many other cities with outer bypasses that just merely often run through flat and sparcely-wooded agricultural land, the proposed route of the Outer Perimeter, particularly the Northern Arc portion, runs through some very desirable near-pristine mostly heavily-wooded land in the foothills of the Blue Ridge section of the Southern Appalachians, the mere mention of the possible disturbance of which was always going make the prospect of attempting to run a road through that area an exceptionally-tough sell to an overdevelopment-wary public.

            Heck, one of the (many) major reasons why the T-SPLOST went down in flames was that many people thought that the tax would fund a resurrection of the very-unpopular Northern Arc.

            The major mistake with the Northern Arc was that by spectulating land near the proposed interchanges of the road, it appeared to the public that Barnes and the Democrats were trying to personally profit from a road that was already only a marginally popular concept with the public, at best.

            Barnes also made the very serious mistake of pursuing an the construction of an unpopular proposed road instead of pursuing long-overdue transit upgrades, particularly regional commuter rail service within state-owned rail corridors.

            As Cobb County Commission Chairman, Sam Olens did a fairly decent and competent job of running that county’s government and was fairly well-received and even somewhat popular with voters in Cobb County when he left office to run for state Attorney General (people in Cobb were actually sad to see him move on from the Commission Chairman spot), which lends me to believe that, if the Republicans who now dominate state government could make it a few more years without completely cutting their own throats politically (an increasingly doubtful proposition given their seeming desire to continuous screw-up and give an all-but-clinically dead Georgia Democrat Party new life), Olens would be a fairly-decent and substantially sane and competent Governor, because unfortunately, sanity and competence seems to thick out like a sore thumb around these parts these days.

  2. Well he’ll have plenty of time to interface with a potential Romney administration seeing as he isn’t wasting time doing his job re: Don Balfour and other (we can only imagine) corrupt politicians out there stealing from the state. And to be honest, the more they steal from Ga taxpayers, the more federal money we’ll need to divert here to make up for it. Curious way to make yourself useful, but hey.

  3. newby says:

    Sam would be far superior to Holder as US AG. Would not surprise me to see him in that office when Romney wins.

    • Calypso says:

      ____________(fill in the blank with any human or vertebrate of your choice) would be far superior to Holder as US AG.

    • Yes. A US Attorney General whose never (successfully?) prosecuted a case. As US Attorney for DC, Eric Holder successfully prosecuted Dan Rostenkowski – think of him as like the Don Balfour of the US House in the late 80’s/early 90’s. What has Olens done? Lectured the Savannah city council about open records? Time for a promotion!

  4. Calypso says:

    ______________ (fill in the blank with any human or vertebrate of your choice) would be far superior to Holder as US AG.

  5. I’ll be more impressed with Olens when he actually addresses any of the multiple crimes committed by our local officials instead of ignoring e-mails about open records act violations and prison labor abuse. So far he seems to only care about the law when it benefits his career.

    — LU

  6. SchedulesUSA says:

    Not to discount anything Sam has done or is doing. The real power players close to Romney in Georgia are Former Speaker Mark Burkhalter and Eric Tannenblatt. Both stood with Mitt in 2008 and in Burkhalters case knew him pre-presidential campaign.

    They have raised the bulk of the money from Georgia all behind the scenes.

    When Romney wins, these are the 2 guys you want advocating for you in DC.

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