Senate Squabbling Could Reach Crescendo

On Monday at 2:00 pm the GOP Caucus of the Georgia Senate will meet, most likely at the Commerce Club, according to the extremely well-sourced Jim Galloway. They’ll be electing various folks to various positions, and the contests are being conducted now. The most visible challenge is Sen. Butch Miller’s desire to replace Sen. David Shafer as president pro tem. As Galloway discerned: “…over the weekend, Miller apparently decided to up his game, and will challenge the No. 2 leader of the Senate, incumbent President pro tem David Shafer of Duluth. Renee Unterman of Buford is already challenging Shafer for his job.”

Nothing like ambition to make things interesting, in the Chinese curse sense of the word.

The rumors are flowing and plentiful, and what little truth may be currently in them is likely to change between now and Monday. Votes are being lined up, promises are being made, minds are being changed and backs are being stabbed. Current speculation is that Sen. Jeff Mullis will nominate and support Sen. David Shafer as president pro tem, and is urging Miller to re-consider his earlier desire to seek the position of majority leader. A nascent alliance between Unterman and Miller could possibly create a plum committee chairmanship for Unterman. Lindsey Tippens is said to have tested the water, but his current intentions are unknown.

Sen. Bill Cowsert is likely going to challenge Sen. Judson Hill for majority leader. Sen. Josh McKoon had shelved his desire to play in this game of musical chairs, but nobody knows what’s completely off the table as this now seems to be changing hourly. The one Senator that many of the other Senators would like to run for something, Charlie Bethel, won’t. Or will he? At the state of entropy these races appear to be in, why rule a drafted candidate out at this point?

The race for Majority Whip appears to be between Steve Gooch and John Albers. Other offices that will need to be filled include Caucus Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Secretary.

We’ll know for certain after the meeting is concluded on Monday who ended up where, and that will tell us a lot about how this body will get along with each other, the Lt. Governor (the Republican who received the highest number of votes statewide last Tuesday) and the GA House (who avoided this unpleasantness by nominating exactly one person for each office on Monday). Thus the headline “Could” reach crescendo. It could, or it could just be a preview of more squabbling in January. We’ve seen that before. It wasn’t pretty. Dear Senators: Take a cue from Ed Lindsey. It’s not time to bicker, it’s time to lead.

In the meantime, feel free to leave your speculation, facts, rumors, gossip and desired outcomes in the comments -that’s what they’re for.



  1. SabrinaWorks247 says:

    Would Renee Unterman be an appropriate choice for president pro tem of the Georgia Senate? Perhaps one thing to take into consideration when answering that question is to look at the wisdom of some of her past decisions.

    Senator Unterman, when she was a Gwinnett County commissioner, gave the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce 5 acres of county-owned land free of charge on which they could build their headquarters building. In order to do this, the county commission declared the county-owned land unserviceable. Real estate appraisers have said this property on Sugarloaf Parkway is some of the most valuable commercial real estate in Gwinnett County. Apparently the Gwinnett Chamber did not consider it unserviceable, as they built a $4.2 million headquarters building on it. Was this is good deal for Renee’s taxpaying constituents?

    Senator Unterman, in a meeting with me that she requested, when asked why taxpayers should feel comfortable that a taxpayer-paid CEO of the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau was acting as interim CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber for 6 months, responded by saying,” I asked them to do that. He was the only one we could trust.” Why was a state senator asking the Gwinnett Chamber, a private non-profit, to name a taxpayer-paid employee to run the chamber for 6 months, and why did she say he was the only one they could trust? Trust to do what?

    She also expressed an opinion that Gwinnett judges would not rule fairly** in my open records lawsuit (her opinion, not mine), said she could not get a bill through that was not approved by the Gwinnett Chamber because, “They control everything”, said, “I fight with Wilbanks on everything”, and when asked why anyone should feel comfortable that laws were being violated in Gwinnett, said, “That just the way it works.” She asked me if I understood how powerful “these people” are. If she thinks “these people” are so powerful that she cannot get a bill approved, is she the person who should be the Georgia Senate president pro tem?
    ** She did not say if this was her opinion because a Gwinnett Chamber Marketing Strategy Committee put in writing their willingness to lobby a judge in the largest tax apportionment lawsuit in Georgia history.

    Her most urgent sounding question to me? “Are the GBI or FBI involved in this?”

    I have a verbatim transcript of my conversation with Senator Unterman and would be glad to discuss this with her if her memory of our conversation is different from mine.

    • ryanhawk says:

      Considering all that, I’d have to say she would fit right in. But please do post that verbatim transcript.

  2. SabrinaWorks247 says:

    RYANHAWK: As requested:

    Renee: Where are you on the lawsuit?
    Sabrina: Just waiting for the next hearing.
    Renee: You know they have all of those lawyers at the chamber who are advising them on what to do, don’t you?
    Sabrina: Sure.
    Renee: You know I was on the commission when we gave them that 5 acres of land, right?
    Sabrina: Yes. Why are the taxpayers paying the chamber twice for economic development? The reason they got the land was because they were supposed to promote the county. Then they started getting the $500,000 a year to do the same thing.
    Renee: I have been working on this and have put in so many hours. You know I got them to get Jim Maran out of there, right?
    Sabrina: I don’t care who is the CEO. I just want the records.
    Renee: Who is doing this? Is your attorney doing this pro bono?
    Sabrina: No. Chris McClurg.
    Renee: Didn’t he run for probate judge?
    Sabrina: Superior Court.
    Renee: You know you have to get this out of Gwinnett County or you’ll never win. That’s just the way it works. You’ll never win with a Gwinnett judge. They’re all part of the same club.
    Sabrina: Then I guess we’ll go to the Supreme Court.
    Renee. I was just appointed to the board because I’m a senator. I haven’t even been to a meeting in I don’t know when.
    Sabrina: OK.
    Renee: What does Sam Olens say about this?
    Sabrina: He gave Stefan Ritter permission to assist Chris.
    Renee: I have been fighting Wilbanks on everything. You know how powerful these people are, right?
    Sabrina: Sure. That’s what’s wrong.
    Renee: I admire you for trying to do this on your own. I can’t even get a bill through against these people. They control everything.
    Sabrina: Isn’t that sad? You’re a state senator and you can’t get anything done. After all of the scandals in Gwinnett, you would think they would bend over backwards to ensure that everything was above board and well-documented, even if it was a pain in the neck to do it. Instead, you have the GCVB giving the chamber up to $199,000 per year with no contract and the chamber’s CEO sitting on the board of the GCVB, approving a $200,000 bonus to Preston. Why was Preston, while being paid by the GCVB, serving as president of the chamber for 6 months?
    Renee: I asked them to do that. He was the only one we could trust.
    Sabrina: Do you think taxpayers should feel good about paying him to be the chamber president?
    Renee: Well, how much did the chamber pay him?
    Sabrina: I don’t know. They don’t share their records with me. You don’t see a conflict of interest there? You don’t understand why people think the GCVB giving a $200,000 loan to the golf non-profit that has common board members with the GCVB, with no documentation, why that’s not OK? There is a reason why the IRS frowns on that kind of thing.
    Renee: I can’t believe that. They had to have a contract.
    Sabrina: Then why didn’t they provide it in response to an open records request? Either way, it’s not right. They either broke the law and didn’t provide the contract, or they made a no-doc loan to themselves with taxpayer money.
    Renee: Well, they have minutes of those meetings. You have to be wrong. There has to be a contract.
    Sabrina: I’ve read the minutes. Why didn’t they give the contract in response to an open records request?
    Renee: Because you filed a lawsuit. They aren’t going to give you anything when there is a lawsuit. They know you would use it against them. They wouldn’t even give it to me if I asked for it because they would know I could give it to you. You’re not going to get anything if there is litigation.
    Sabrina: You think that’s right? It is a public record and you’re a state senator, and by law, they’re supposed to give it to anyone who asks, but you’re saying they won’t give it even if they have it. Why should anyone feel comfortable about this? What does it say about all of the elected officials in Gwinnett if a taxpayer has to file a lawsuit because no one is following the law and not one elected official will speak up or do one thing about it.
    Renee: That’s just the way it works.
    Sabrina: That’s why there’s a lawsuit.
    Renee: My job is at the capitol. I work on state issues, not county issues.
    Sabrina. The chamber could have stopped this a long time ago by answering my question about which government entities provided money to the chamber and in what amounts. Charlotte could have stopped this by going over there. She doesn’t think she should see how they’re spending taxpayer money? When the PG documents, not the chamber documents, say they are taking the lead on lobbying for T-SPLOST, and you don’t think taxpayers should ask if their money was used to support a tax measure?
    Renee: Didn’t Charlotte fix it by setting up the new entity? What does PFE stand for?
    Sabrina: Public Funding Entity. No, why should taxpayers feel good about it? It is just a separate checking account and a filing with the Secretary of State’s office. Nothing has changed. Why should taxpayers feel good about GCPS illegally giving money to this new entity? If Charlotte was interested in fixing it, why didn’t she say, the county will not give money and I won’t sit on the board as long as it is accepting illegal money? Why won’t the chamber, if they are so interested in a clean start, why won’t they refuse to take illegal money? Why should anyone think this has been fixed?
    Renee: Are the GBI or FBI involved in this?
    Sabrina: There are a lot of people looking at this. At this point, I’m really just on the sidelines. You do know the Office of Civil Rights is talking to John Barge and GCPS about the IE2 contract and the different performance goals by race, don’t you? That’s part of why the NAACP and the ACLU got interested in this.
    Renee: Yeah, I know about that. What do you do?
    Sabrina: I spend 90% of my time in SC taking care of sick relatives.
    Renee: I mean what kind of work do you do?

    • Will Durant says:

      Gwinnett has no ethics commission. Gwinnett has definitely been lacking in ethics for decades. 98% of it has never seen the light of day. With only one exception due to intercession from the feds, no elected officials in Gwinnett have seen any real punishment. If Sabrina has the time to pursue it then where’s the harm?

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