Posted: 10:34 am Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Michael Thurmond wooed for state school superintendent contest 

By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

021614 thurmond kdj08

Dekalb County School Superintendent Michael Thurmond greets parents of the Fernbank Elementary School at a meeting earlier this month. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

The race for the open state superintendent seat is already one of the most intriguing contests in Georgia this year. It could get even more interesting.

Michael Thurmond, the former state labor commissioner, was drafted last year to take over as superintendent of the DeKalb County school system, even as it was poised to lose its accreditation.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogThurmond is now being recruited by Democratic leaders to run for the state super job, which will be left vacant by its current occupant, John Barge.

Thurmond told us Tuesday that he’s heard from several Democratic leaders and that he’s “flattered” by the attention but he hasn’t made up his mind yet. He noted that he still has his hands pretty full with his current gig.

That’s not the only calculation complicating his decision. Democratic State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell has been in the running for months, but she hasn’t exactly endeared herself to fellow Democrats with her unabashed support of charter schools.

Were he to run, Thurmond has an impressive resume. The Athens native had a long career in the state House before serving three terms as the labor commissioner. He left in 2010 on a failed mission to challenge Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.

He took over DeKalb’s reeling school system in February 2013 as it teetered on the brink of losing accreditation, and six of the nine school board members would soon be ousted (one of them, Nancy Jester, is in the crowded GOP field for the superintendent’s job).

About a year later, a jubilant Thurmond celebrated as DeKalb’s accreditation was upgraded. And Democratic leaders have since been more than eager to heap the credit for the turnaround his way.

***

Should Michael Thurmond enter the Democratic primary, he would be attempting to usurp Alisha Thomas Morgan’s participation in what could become a historic contest — a head-to-head, statewide match-up of two African-American candidates in a general election contest.

On the Republican side, in a large field of candidates, Cobb County businessman Fitz Johnson, a Citadel graduate and former chief executive of a family-owned defense contracting business, has raised the most cash. Healthy portions of Georgia’s business community may be lining up behind him.

Johnson, who is black, received a boost this morning with the withdrawal of Bartow County school board member Matt Shultz from the GOP primary contest. As he exited, Shultz endorsed Johnson:

“Fitz Johnson is highly qualified for this critical role.  We share the same conservative values and goals.  He has the statewide network and financial backing to ensure a strong Republican win this fall against a concerted effort from liberals in Atlanta and Washington.”

***

If you were a teacher who went to the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest changes to your health coverage by the Deal administration, you might be wondering if you have any clout.

Here’s how you know lawmakers were paying attention:

In the Senate, lawmakers were debating S.B. 346 by Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, which would require that the governing board of the Department of Community Health, which oversees health insurance contracting for state employees, include at least one “active participant in the state health benefit plan.”

Three Democratic senators, led by Vincent Fort of Atlanta, then attempted to amend the bill by requiring that future health care coverage be provided by at least two vendors – not a single one, as the Deal administration chose last year.

It was at this particular moment that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is up for re-election this year, decided to take his first break of the year from presiding over the chamber. He handed the gavel to Senate President pro tem David Shafer.

Seconds after the lieutenant governor walked out, Renee Unterman, R-Buford, rose to challenge the appropriateness of the Democratic amendment. Shafer ruled it non-germane. Democrats challenged the ruling, which was upheld, 33-13.

The lieutenant governor returned to the rostrum to preside over the chamber soon afterwards.

This morning, Cagle spokesman Ben Fry insisted that the lieutenant governor’s departure was nothing but a routine break during a long session that lasted until 3:30 p.m. – a chance to refuel with a slice of pizza before a lengthy debate on foster care privatization.

To read anything else into Cagle’s brief absence is “absurd,” he said.

And yet, the episode bore all the characteristics of a classic, “no-fingerprints” moment at the state Capitol.

***

Gov. Nathan Deal gave a rather curt response last week when he was asked at a press conference about his support for House Bill 990, the legislation that would require state lawmakers to approve the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, he elaborated on why he was willing to support the measure, citing other states that also required their legislative bodies to approve an expansion. Said Deal:

“It is an issue that has huge economic impacts and would seriously affect any budget that the General Assembly would come up with. And I think on that basis since they are responsible for passing a budget and yet have no say so under the current process about something that could tremendously impact what a budget might look like, I think it’s altogether appropriate.”

He added: “And I always have a veto pen if I don’t agree with it.”

***

Last week in Wheeler County, Lower Oconee Community Hospital closed its doors – citing financial difficulties posed by the unintended squeeze on hospitals in states that aren’t expanding Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act.

Several more hospitals in rural Georgia are expected to follow. In the Senate, David Lucas, D-Macon, has pitched S.B. 338 to help replace disappearing hospitals. From Georgia Public Broadcasting:

The bill would encourage the establishment of what he calls “medical stabilization centers” in under-served communities. Lucas says the bill would essentially relax the state’s Certificate of Need, or C.O.N, rules on establishing a rural medical facility…

The bill is getting bipartisan support, but has run into questions about how would these medical centers be funded.

While the bill doesn’t come with any money, Lucas says there are several ways to potentially fund these rural centers, and it might be possible to tap into the federal agriculture agency.

Tapping the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be the alternative to starting yet another debate over Obamacare.

***

In the 10th District Republican race to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens, Barbara Dooley – wife of former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley – has endorsed former state Rep. Donna Sheldon of Dacula. Dooley, as quoted in the press release:

“Donna was a leader in the State House and was known as a woman who could get things done, bring people with different opinions to the table, but never compromise her conservative principles,” Dooley said.  “She is exactly what we need in Washington and I am proud to give her my total support.”

***

A Georgia Court of Appeals panel on Tuesday took up the issue of whether the Atlanta Braves’ argument that the team shouldn’t be subject to suits by fans hit by flying bats or foul balls. From the Fulton County Daily Report:

The Braves’ lawyer, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, said the appeals court should adopt the so-called “baseball rule,” which says teams are immune if they provide enough seats behind home plate shielded by a net to meet demand.

Hearing the case with two colleagues, Judge Michael Boggs wondered why the baseball industry should get its own rule. “The concern being, of course, if you carve out a rule for baseball, if we adopt the baseball rule, next week we’ll be adopting the hockey rule, and the week after that we’ll be adopting another rule,” he said.

Boggs, of course, is under consideration for a federal judgeship. The case involves a 6-year-old girl struck by a foul ball at Turner Field in 2010.

35 comments
HowdyJune
HowdyJune

Michael has absolutely no chance nor should he.  But then again, I would celebrate his leaving Dekalb County.

honested
honested

Another little note, what constitutes donna sheldon's legislative achievements?

honested
honested

It would be nice to have a real Democrat in the Superintendent's race (as opposed to an unabashed corporatist tool with no real comprehension of 'Education' other than to sell canned programs).


As for the rural hospitals, I guess we have to accept the current gop is demonstrating the behavior that was bound to be elicited after they closed all the state mental treatment facilities. I guess a new Georgia motto would have to include 'who cares what happens to those lacking the means'.

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

Leah Ward Sears, said the appeals court should adopt the so-called “baseball rule,” which says teams are immune if they provide enough seats behind home plate shielded by a net to meet demand.

Does Mrs Sears even understand the case she is arguing. The young lady hit by the baseball wasn't behind home plate but in the standsalong the baseline, right behind the dugout.  In the old ball parks there was a ton of room between the stands and the foul line. New stadia have eliminated this extra space in order to crowd in more seats, to the point it is a real danger to sit behind the dugouts and along the foul lines. In playoff games some teams decrease this space even more by putting in extra temporary seats to sell more playoff tix. It is going to be only a matter of time before some real tragedy results from this. In this case, with a six year old being hit by a line drive, it was sheer good fortune that she was not more seriously injured.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

I was once inside a closed rural community hospital as they tried to reopen it. It was eerie, all the equipment and supplies still in place, sitting in the dark, gathering dust.

scrappy-22
scrappy-22

In other words, its ok for us to try for federal money when we say so and from the Ag Agency, but it not ok for us to take federal money when we don't want to and when its associated with the ACA. Typical GOP. 

"Lucas says there are several ways to potentially fund these rural centers, and it might be possible to tap into the federal agriculture agency."

 

Red Dirt Chronicler
Red Dirt Chronicler

I don't expect Michael Thurmond to run for State Superintendent because it would be a huge pay cut for him. 

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

I'll probably get busted by Galloway for going off topic here, but since the cons were so gleeful on this site last Saturday regarding VW worker's rejection of the UAW at the Chattanooga plant: 

Volkswagen's top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.

 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/19/us-vw-usplant-idUSBREA1I0S820140219?feedType=RSS&irpc=932

John Stewart, as usual had a brilliant take on this on last night's daily show, showing video of bob corker and other TN politicos ranting about how gummint needs to stay out of the way of corporations, and allow them freedom to conduct business as they see fit. But, with usual repup hypocrisy, they made every effort to discourage unionization of the Chattanooga plant, over the objections of VW corporate execs who wanted the union to be voted in.  Now the TN politicos can reap the whirlwind they stirred up. Gotta laugh.

Bernie31
Bernie31

People...Mikey is NOT anyway Qualified for this Position. Period. Do Not be Fooled by this State Party.

Wrong advice at the Wrong Time.

DS
DS

Wonder how much Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia has contributed to Cagle, Shafer and Unterman?

"To read anything .. into Cagle’s brief absence is absurd” --- Cagle spokesman Ben Fry

Of course it is.

TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

Remember when Michael Thurmond ran against Johnny Isakson for the U S Senate four years ago? Thurmond got slaughtered. Thurmond was never able to raise any money and was a habitual no-show at campaign events. The veteran insiders within the GA Democratic Party all know that he is a nice, affable man who doesn't seem to want to work very hard in a State-wide campaign. He would probably be a good State School Superintendent if he could get appointed to the job....but getting elected to the job ain't in the cards for him. Vernon Jones has a better chance at being elected Sheriff of Dekalb County than Michael Thurmond has of being elected State School Superintendent.

Hs2094
Hs2094

Almost a year of experience as a school administrator, yep, that's a pretty impressive resume. Why shouldn't he run the state's education system?

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

The only reason that DeKalb schools dodged the bullet was because of Gov. Deal removing the board members. 

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Like all statewide elected offices in Georgia, the next state school superintendent will be a Republican.  My early prediction is Nancy Jester.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Red Dirt Chronicler - It would getMIKEY out of Dekalb County and give the taxpayers a break on that Iron Clad contract. Yes I like it...Let Mikey go and destroy some White Kids Lives too! I think its only Fair! In light he has Not done a  thing for the Students,Teachers and Parents of Dekalb County. The Final Product is not Prepared.

let Mickey have yer Kids too....

Uh,,,huh

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@Red Dirt Chronicler it would be a huge pay cut for him.  

Not necessarily. He can always use the don balfour rules of accounting, or take the $7000 car allowance like john barge (an allowance that was discontinued almost 10 years ago).

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

And the fact he has no chance of winning.

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

BTW:  The complaint by cons earlier was Galloway's "librul bias" for not reporting on the rejection of the UAW.  No word yet from the repuppies whether this shows a conservative bias by not reporting on this story.

Charles50
Charles50

@TrueBlueDem  Running against Isakson was just a bad choice.  I can't  honestly think of any Democrat who could have beat him.  I wasn't happy with the party running Thurmond.  I think he probably could do a good job as State Supt., but I don't know if he has the heart for it.  I think he's doing a great job and doesn't have all of the headaches that go with a state level job.  Unfortunately I think Morgan is the right candidate either.  

Charles50
Charles50

@MiltonMan  Which was all SACS really wanted.  I don't think it really had anything to do with how the Board was operating.  SACS needs to get its own house in order.

Red Dirt Chronicler
Red Dirt Chronicler

@The_Centrist You are right.  It is also interesting how some people fear her.  They know their little party will stop with her watching them.  No one else comes close to understanding the problems. 

DannyX
DannyX

@The_Centrist, the same Nancy Jester that was kicked off the DeKalb County school board by Gov Deal???  LOL.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@The_Centrist - what you do not want MIKEY over your Children's education?

I am SHOCKED...Horrified...No Kidding.  Yer don't Say?

uh.....huh.


AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@DaltonbywayofBickley @AuntieChrist  "VW corporate execs who wanted the union to be voted in."

That was not meant to imply that the work council consists of corporate execs. It does mean though that the executives at VW want labor representation, as close to their European model of labor/management as they can attain in the US.
 

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

Let's just ay that consistency is not the strong point of conservatives like TheNorthAtlantaCentrist.

(with props to DannyX...)

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

She stepped up and accepted the entire dysfunctional DeKalb County school board removal.  She puts education ahead of personal agendas which made her Dekalb position untenable.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@The_Centrist - may i have some of what you are drinking? that must be some good stuff. Nancy is a LOSER!  Nancy is a JUDAS GOAT of the people of Georgia.


look up the definition....and learn something.