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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

A portrait of a political reporter, by a political columnist

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Pettys Portrait

An oil painting of the late political reporter Dick Pettys, by political columnist Dick Yarbrough

In politics, respect is hard-won, but often expires with the last ballot. So to see it displayed well after death is a rare and stirring thing.

In state Senate chambers this morning, a portrait of Dick Pettys, the former state Capitol journalist who died some 18 months ago, will be unveiled. You can see a version of it above.

The oil painting will hang on a wall on press row in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. The memorial came at the urging of state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, a high school classmate of Pettys.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogBut here is the strangeness of the tale: It is a portrait of a political reporter executed by a political columnist – something we’ve never heard of.

Dick Yarbrough made his career as a spokesman for several causes, including the 1996 Olympics. For the last 15 years, he has dabbled in syndicated columnizing, and for the last seven years, he has supplemented that interest with oils and brushes.

“I knew Dick well, so it was hard to look at his eyes, day after day,” Yarbrough said. But he has done a fine job – though we think the portrait implies that Pettys visited the barber far more often than he actually did.

“As I told someone, when [lawmakers] found out I could paint, it was like discovering a possum could play a banjo,” Yarbrough told us.

Yarbrough pointedly asked us to mention his art teacher, Kristopher Meadows of Marietta, for his assistance. We hope this doesn’t mean his last tuition check bounced.

Just in case you’re not familiar with Yarbrough’s subject, here’s a passage from the obituary the Associated Press, his chief employer over the years, penned for him:

Pettys covered Georgia politics from the time of Govs. Lester Maddox and Jimmy Carter through the end of the Democratic Party’s political control of the state and the election of Georgia’s first Republican chief executive since Reconstruction.

“For years, Dick was every Georgian’s eyes and ears on the state budget and those who controlled it,” said Maryann Mrowca, the AP’s assistant bureau chief for the South Atlantic Region. “Even when politicians did not like what he reported, they knew he was fair, accurate and kept the same eagle eye on all in power to make sure they were held accountable for their actions and inactions.”

Dubbed the “dean” of the Capitol press corps, Pettys was a fixture under the Gold Dome for 35 years. An insider with a reputation for evenhanded reporting, he had the ear of everyone from governors and House speakers to low-level clerks.

We’re told Pettys’ sons will be sporting blue blazers and khakis — their father’s uniform — in his honor at today’s ceremonies.

***

State Sen. Jason Carter, the Democratic candidate for governor, is shifting his rhetoric on the White House’s Savannah port funding snub.

Carter said last week that the Obama Administration’s decision to block the dredging of the port was linked to Gov. Nathan Deal’s “stick in the eye” attitude toward the Democratic president.

In a piece published in the Savannah Morning News over the weekend, Carter no mention of a vindictive White House upset at Georgia’s GOP leaders. Instead, he targeted Deal’s go-it-alone threats to start the process without federal sign-off.

From Carter’s op-ed piece:

I share in the frustration many have expressed at President Obama’s failure to include funding for this project in his budget, but I also believe Gov. Nathan Deal’s pledge to plow forward alone is short-sighted — and in fact, will set the project up for further delays.

It may be that Georgia can commence deepening the harbor without federal funding, but not if it exposes us to court battles with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and not if it means the permanent dissolution of the partnership with the federal government.

We can’t afford a knee-jerk reaction as a state. Georgia taxpayers can’t be left holding the bag, and the federal government can’t be let off the hook.

Rather than retreating to partisan corners and tossing in the towel, Georgia’s bipartisan leaders must stand united and hold President Obama to his word to secure the funding we need.

Carter concluded by invoking two bipartisan figures he’s mentioned often on the campaign trail:

No matter how angry we are, now is the time to bring people together in a constructive way to solve this crucial problem. That is the legacy of service that leaders like U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Ambassador Andrew Young have brought to our state.

***

While her GOP counterparts were doing debate prep on Saturday, Michelle Nunn, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, sat down with the Marietta Daily Journal and declared herself opposed to easing restrictions on guns in houses of worship and on public university campuses. She also defended Common Core, the new educational standards for k-12 public school students:

 “I see Common Core as an effort that was germinated through the states through the leadership of governors like Jeb Bush, like Sonny Perdue,” Nunn said. “I’ve heard Jeb Bush talk eloquently and passionately about this, and I believe that we need to continue to see it through. There was just a poll in the AJC in the front page today that talked about how teachers believe that we need to continue to see this through.”

***

Washington will have its eyes glued to the Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin – or so says one of us:

***

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swept through the state Capitol on Friday, dropping in on House Speaker David Ralston:

ralstonchristie

Christie was in town for a Republican Governors Association fundraiser.

***

The Associated Press, via the Augusta Chronicle, reports that the next mayoral election in Augusta is guaranteed to make history, regardless of who wins.

All five candidates who filed qualifying paperwork last week to run for mayor are African-American. And that means Augusta-Richmond County will have its first elected black mayor since the city and county governments consolidated 18 years ago.

***

Those mapping out Georgia’s general election races for U.S. Senate and governor will have their eyes on Florida tomorrow. From the Washington Post:

The Tampa Bay peninsula will serve as the first real test of 2014 voter moods on Tuesday in a down-to-the-wire congressional race that each side is using to hone its messages for November.

Republicans, returning to their 2010 and 2012 model, are trying to turn Democrat Alex Sink into a clone of President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), focusing heavily on Obama’s health-care law. Democrats, for the first time since the law’s bungled rollout last fall, are fighting back with a defense of the law that accuses Republican David Jolly of wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and “take us back” to the era when preexisting conditions could lead to a denial of health insurance.

***

And this morning-cycle item from the Associated Press should figure into the last 36 hours of campaigning in Florida:

With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama’s health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months — or calendar quarter— of 2013.

That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people getting coverage.

Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.

The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.

***

A couple of endorsements this morning to report. Karen Handel picked up the backing of tea party activist Julianne Thompson, who predicted Handel will be “a conservative Senator who is not interested in being a part of the club.”

In the coastal First District U.S. House race, which has another crowded GOP primary, surgeon Bob Johnson picked up the backing of the Madison Project, a conservative group that endorsed Paul Broun in the Senate race. Madison Project called Johnson “the prototype of a Tea Party candidate.”

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