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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

A black lawmaker takes up for federal judicial nominees caught in Democratic crossfire

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062913 brooks HS11

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

A tight-lipped Mike Boggs made the rounds at the state Capitol on Thursday, trying hard not to say anything that would get him noticed.

Boggs sits on the state Court of Appeals, but is also one of four who have been nominated for federal judgeships in Georgia’s Northern District by the White House. A hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is imminent.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogBoggs is also one of two nominees who have attracted the attention of House Democrats in Georgia, who are miffed at President Barack Obama for the deal he worked out with U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. Too few African-Americans were nominated, say U.S. Reps. John Lewis, David Scott and others.

They point out that Boggs, as a Democratic state House member from Waycross, voted against removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag in 2001. Another nominee in the federal judicial package, Atlanta attorney Mark Cohen, led Georgia’s defense of the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law as a hired gun for the state.

Congressman Scott has requested time in front of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s committee to make the case against Boggs and Cohen. He will not get it. The Senate is very jealous when it comes to giving advice and consent to the White House.

But you can see why Boggs has kept his lips zipped.

Shortly after lunch in the cafeteria near his judicial offices, Boggs brushed by state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta. They shook hands in the cold. And this is where things got interesting.

Brooks, who is African-American, is known for two accomplishments during his 34-year career at the Capitol. His name was on a lawsuit in the late 1980s demanding more African-Americans be appointed to state judicial posts. Brooks was also the lead advocate for pulling down the segregation-era state flag and its St. Andrew’s cross.

After Boggs had left the scene, Brooks told me he’d had a longer conversation with the judicial nominee last week, after a Martin Luther King Day ceremony in the Capitol. Brooks agrees with his friends in Congress, Scott and Lewis, that the federal bench in Georgia needs more black judges. Said Brooks:

“There should be no package recommending appointments to President Obama out of Georgia that’s less than 30 percent African-American. That package ought to reflect the demographic diversity of Georgia.

“But here’s where I disagree with my friends. We need President Obama and Attorney General [Eric] Holder to agree on diversity in the package. But we don’t need to trash the nominees in the package – no matter who they are.”

Brooks then referenced that long talk he had with Boggs:

“I said, Mike, you’re my friend. I said, you might have voted the opposite way on the flag than I did. But your voting record on the flag is identical to DuBose Porter’s record. And he’s the chair of the Democratic party of Georgia….

“The flag was not a defining litmus test for me. I said, ‘Mike, you’re my friend. I’m not going to be critical of you based on your voting record. And I’m not going to be a part of anything to block your confirmation.’

Brooks also took up for Cohen, a litigating partner at the influential firm of Troutman Sanders:

“He took a job for Thurbert Baker to defend the voter ID law. [An African-American and a Democrat,] Thurbert Baker was the attorney general. Not Mark Cohen. But what people fail to realize is, Mark Cohen went to the University of Georgia at the request of president Michael Adams, and defended the University of Georgia’s affirmative action plan. Michael Adams hired him to defend the UGA program on affirmative action, because Thurbert Baker wouldn’t. Thurbert would not.”

***

We don’t think Gov. Nathan Deal was too miffed when word broke Thursday that the campus carry portion of a push to expand gun rights was off the table. The governor was asked whether he thinks the measure was an absolute must to pass this session.

With a wink, he answered: “You should notice it is not part of the governor’s agenda.”

***

The news yesterday that Deal was having second thoughts about the changes to the state insurance plan that his administration orchestrated elicited a strong reaction from Democrats.

State Sen. Horacena Tate rejected Deal’s attempt to tie the higher costs of the insurance premiums with President Obama’s health care overhaul.

“Every time I hear Republicans blame a decision we make at the state level on our President or Obamacare, it infuriates me,” said Tate. “Obamacare has nothing to do with the decisions made on the State Health Benefit Plan.”

***

This legislative session is already dominated by guns and pot. Could booze be next?

The Georgia Craft Brewers Guild is taking aim at a Senate study committee designed to investigate stalled legislation that would allow more breweries to sell beer for consumers to take home.

The guild is dismissing the committee’s findings, which didn’t go as far as the group wanted. From the press release:

“The report does not seem to understand or appreciate this sophistication, and the recommendations seem to indicate that these sophisticated consumers in Georgia should just accept the status quo.”

***

But another alcohol-related measure, H.B. 784, may actually be headed somewhere. The bill is local legislation sponsored by the Savannah-area delegation, and would allow bars to sell booze on a Sunday – the next time St. Patrick’s Day falls on or near the Christian Sabbath. This year, for instance.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Current law only allows establishments to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks on Sunday afternoons in Savannah if the majority of their money comes from the sale of food. So last year, when the Irish holiday fell on Sunday, local restaurants had a business advantage over bars.

“We’re leveling the playing field for the bars and the restaurants,” said Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah.

The city asked the Savannah legislative delegation for a local bill to give the council authority to vote for an exception on those years when there is a Sunday anywhere between March 16 and 18.

St. Paddy’s Day, March 17, falls on a Monday this year. But crowds are expected to be present and thirsty on Sunday, too.

***

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is one of nine U.S. mayors currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. We’re told that he’ll be on CNN around 12:30 p.m. today, but below is an interview Reed gave to the Huffington Post, shortly after his arrival on Tuesday:

From the Huffington Post website:

Reed argued that mayors around the United States don’t have a dismal approval rating like the U.S. Congress.

“That’s because we actually get things done, we’re much more accessible to people and we’re more accountable,” he said.

“Mayors do more things, and we can do them faster,” Reed said. “And we know that there is an end to our service, that gives it a real sense of urgency.”

***

Qualifying is only a few weeks away, and a May 20 primary looms. But another Republican, state Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glennville, is thinking of joining Augusta businessman Rick Allen and congressional staffer John Stone in a bid to challenge U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the Deep South’s last white Democrat in Congress. From the Augusta Chronicle:

 “We’re checking into it. We’re getting a lot of calls on it,” he said Wednesday. “But there’s been no desire, no commitment at all.”

Dutton, a Savannah native who lives in Glennville, would bring political experience to the contest after winning a special election in 2011 to the state House of Representatives.

After winning re-election in 2012, he unsuccessfully challenged the chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, Donna Shelton of Dacula, who had endorsed him in his 2011 special election, but he was decisively trounced in the caucus balloting.

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