John Barrow, running as a Democrat for Georgia Secretary of State, told Oconee County Democrats last week that he was proud of his endorsements from Republicans, including from Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry and from former Oconee County Commission Chair Melvin Davis.
“Believe me, to have someone like Scott and Melvin on there is an eye opener for folks who know the score,” Barrow said of his list of endorsements.
“I think that is just as true for Democrats as it is for Republicans,” Barrow said.
Barrow was the featured speaker at the Oconee County Democratic Committee meeting on Tuesday night, where he followed Lisa Lott, a candidate running in the nonpartisan election on May 22 for judge of the Superior Court for the Western Judicial Circuit, made up of Clarke and Oconee counties.
Lott said she was challenging Regina Quick, appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the judgship in August of last year, because she felt voters, not elected officials, should pick the Superior Court judge.
Barrow On Office
Barrow, an Athens native, represented Georgia from the 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms following his first election in 2004. He was defeated in 2014.
Barrow was a Scholar in Residence at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs for the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
In his comments to the 29 persons attending the meeting last Tuesday (Feb. 20), Barrow was very critical of the operation of the Office of Secretary of State under Brian Kemp, who is stepping down to run for Governor, saying the Office is not providing needed services to workers, businesses and consumers in the state.
“It is an office that has been neglected for far too long as a result of a kind of cronyism that comes from folks saying I won’t tell the voters what a lousy job you’re doing if you won’t tell the voters what a lousy job I’m doing,” Barrow said.
The most prominent issue facing the Office, Barrow said, is the result of the state’s using voting machines that leave no record other than what is recorded on the voting machine chip.
“We’ve got to overhaul our election technology and infrastructure and entire approach toward voting,” Barrow said.
“I think we need to go back to new and improved versions of paper ballots where the voters actually make their choice and their choice is counted with technology but it doesn’t depend on technology for its interpretation,” he said.
“If I had the authority, the office, we’d be doing that tomorrow,” Barrow said, “because the authority exists right now to do that.”
Barrow said Democrats should not tolerate any voter fraud. “We ought to make sure that everybody can prove who they are.”
“We don’t think in general that it happens hardly at all,” Barrow said of voter fraud. “But you shouldn’t be taking the position that it can.”
“We are making it too hard for people to register,” Barrow said. “It ought to be as easy for everybody to register as it is for anybody to register.”
“For too many people and for too long the Secretary of State’s Office has been a hindrance to registration,” Barrow said. “It ought to be more of a help.”
Barrow has been promoting his list of endorsements, and Dan Matthews, a member of Watkinsville City Council and active Democrat, told Barrow he had a “very pointed question.”
“You came out with an endorsement sheet with 300-some odd officials in the state of Georgia. You had Scott Berry and Melvin Davis. Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you talk to Deborah Gonzalez? Why didn’t you talk to Jonathan Wallace?
"I’m dead serious about that,” Matthews said.
Barrow laughed and acknowledged he didn’t talk to Matthews.
Gonzalez And Wallace
Barrow said he did talk to both Gonzalez and Wallace, Democrats who represent Oconee County in the General Assembly. All other county office holders are Republicans.
“You can ask them what their problems were in trying to resolve their relationships with some of the other candidates in the primary,” Barrow said. “They will tell you. It would be presumption for me to say. But I did talk with them both.”
Other Democratic candidates for Secretary of State are former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler from DeKalb County and former Rockdale Tax Commissioner R.J. Hadley, who spoke to Oconee County Democrats last year.
Republicans in the race are Alpharetta Mayor David Bell Isle, Ken Brown, who owns a sales and business development company in Atlanta, state Reps. Buzz Brockway from Lawrenceville, Brad Raffensperger from Johns Creek, and state Sen. Josh McKoon from Columbus.
Raffensperger spoke to Oconee County Republicans last month.
Lott On Judicial Race
Lott told the Democrats that she is pleased the race for the Superior Court judgship is nonpartisan and that she is seeking the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
Lott said she decided to seek the office when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Quick, a Republican then representing Georgia House District 117, to replace retiring Superior Court Judge David Sweat.
“I am a fervent believer in local control,” she said. “And I am so tired of Atlanta appointing every single one of our Superior Court judges.”
The last time the Western Judicial Circuit had a Superior Court Judge not first appointed by the governor was when Sweat was elected in 2002, Lott said.
Lott On Qualifications
Lott said she is qualified for the office because she has been a practicing attorney for almost 25 years, has been a prosecutor, and is currently the chief assistant in the Public Defender’s Office.
Lott said she has been in the Public Defender’s Office, which serves Clarke and Oconee counties, for almost 18 years.
“I have been immersed in the community in Clarke and Oconee County at the ground level,” Lott said. “Nothing surprises me.”
“I really feel like a good judge for our community should know the community, should know the community that he or she serves,” Lott said.
The video below is of the entire Feb. 20 meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Committee, which took place in the first floor meeting room at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive, Watkinsville.
Ann Stoneburner, vice-chair of the Oconee Democratic Committee, presided at the meeting.
Stoneburner began her introduction of Barrow at 22:01 in the video.
Lott began her comments at 1:58 in the video.
The video contains the business meeting, during which each of those present gave a personal introduction.