Thurbert E. Baker

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Thurbert E. Baker
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Attorney General of Georgia
Former officeholder
In office
1997-2010
PartyDemocratic
Websites
Office website
Thurbert E. Baker (born December 16, 1952, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina) was the Democratic Attorney General of Georgia from 1997 until 2010. He was first appointed to the position in 1997 by then-Governor Zell Miller and went on to win subsequent elections in 1998, 2002, and 2006, respectively. In the last election, Baker carried 122 out of 159 counties in the state and received more votes than any other Democrat running statewide in Georgia. He announced in April 2009 that he would enter the race for the Democratic nomination for the governor's office.[1] Baker went on to lose the Democratic nomination to former-Governor Roy E. Barnes on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 after placing second with a little over twenty-one percent of the vote.[2]

Biography

After receiving his law degree, Baker worked for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an attorney, in addition to serving as partner and litigator for his own private practice firm, Baker & Shivers.

Education

  • Bachelor's degree, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1975)
  • Juris Doctorate degree, Emory University School of Law (1979)

Political career

Georgia Attorney General (1997-2010)

Baker was appointed as the state's top law enforcer following the resignation of Republican Mike Bowers in June 1997 who chose to focus on his ultimately unsuccessful bid for governor. As Attorney General, Baker focused on initiatives to fight crime and fraud, including stronger laws against sexual predators who use the Internet to target children, a new law against financial identity theft, and stronger laws against residential mortgage fraud. He also advocated for the abolition of parole for persons convicted of violent crimes, which the Georgia General Assembly had not enacted. He served as the President of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2006 to 2007.

Controversies

ACORN
See also: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

The June 2008 Survey and Scorecard report published by the liberal political organization, ACORN, gave Baker an A letter grade. The report was published to shine the spotlight on state attorneys general "leading the fight to protect homeowners from joining the flood of Americans losing their homes to foreclosure," according to the group.[3] The grade distributed to the individual attorneys general "generally broke down along party lines," with the exception of Louisiana's Buddy Caldwell.[4]

Genarlow Wilson case

Baker was a central figure in the legal proceedings surrounding Genarlow Wilson. On June 11, 2007, Baker filed an appeal seeking to resolve "clearly erroneous legal issues" with the ruling of Monroe County, Georgia Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson that Genarlow Wilson's punishment be declared cruel and unusual, and hence unconstitutional, and that he be released from custody and not be listed on a state sex offender list.

In 2005, Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation after a jury trial in Douglas County, Georgia. He and his co-defendants videotaped themselves engaging in sexual acts with two intoxicated girls, one of whom was 17 years old and the other 15 years old. Wilson was charged with rape due to the intoxicated state of the girls, but was found not guilty. Since the age of consent in Georgia is 16, and 17 year olds can be charged as adults, he was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with the 15 year old. Georgia law sets the punishment for aggravated child molestation at a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment with no opportunity for parole or pardon.

During the 2007 session of the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia law was changed in a manner that would have made Wilson's conduct a misdemeanor because he was only two years older than the victim. The General Assembly specifically declined to make the law retroactive, and Republican State Senator Eric Johnson[5] of Savannah, the President Pro Tempore of the Georgia Senate, strongly opposed it and believed Wilson's conduct as seen on the videotape merited the conviction.

The State Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on October 26, 2007, that Wilson's sentence was cruel and unusual punishment; he was subsequently released from prison later that afternoon. Baker said he would not appeal the ruling.[6]

Legal authority

In 2003, Baker and Governor Sonny Perdue clashed in court, with both claiming the right to control the state's legal affairs. The controversy arose when Perdue ordered Baker to drop an appeal of a case involving a legal challenge to a legislative redistricting map drawn by a Democratic legislative majority and signed into law by Perdue's Democratic predecessor, Roy Barnes. When Baker refused to drop the appeal, Perdue sued him. The Supreme Court of Georgia ultimately sided with Baker, ruling 5-2 that the Attorney General, as an elected constitutional officer, is independent of the Governor and has the power to control the state government's legal affairs.

Issues

Healthcare reform
See also: State Attorneys General Against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

The day after President Barack Obama signed into law the controversial health care overhaul bill, Democratic Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker turned down a request by Republican Governor Sonny Perdue to join at least fourteen other states in filing suit against the federal government in opposition to the measure. He said he did "not believe that Georgia has a viable legal claim against the United States" and that any litigative action would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.[7]

As a result, Governor Perdue, who had the right within the state constitution to appoint a special attorney general with the exact same power and authority as the state attorney general in specific instances such as this, announced that he was assembling a team of pro bono lawyers to serve in Baker's stead. Republican State Representative Ed Setzler threatened that "if Baker moves to block Perdue’s selection of an outside lawyer to act as a special attorney general some House Republicans may move forward with articles of impeachment;" Baker's office said he had no intention of doing so.[8]

Regardless, on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, Republican State Representative Mark Hatfield filed a resolution to impeach Baker, who, he claimed, "abdicated his authority and has committed an act against the state of Georgia."[9]

Georgia House of Representatives (1988-1997)

Baker was first elected to state office in 1988 serving as a member of the State House of Representatives for part of DeKalb County; he was subsequently re-elected to the position four times. At the beginning of his second term, Governor Zell Miller named him as Floor Leader of the House. Within this capacity, he spearheaded a number of legislative measures, chief among them the HOPE scholarship program and the state's "Two Strikes and You're Out" measure that put the worst repeat offenders in the state in prison for life with parole and placed tougher sentences on drunk driving offenders.

Elections

2010

See also: Georgia gubernatorial election, 2010

Baker announced in April 2009 that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination in the state's gubernatorial contest.[1] A survey conducted by the Atlanta-based Strategic Visions, LLC in June 2009 showed the state attorney general well behind the leading Democratic candidate, former governor Roy Barnes, but still in a decent position given the early nature of the campaign.[10] Since then, however, Baker's level of support deteriorated considerably as the July 20 primary contest became more crowded. A Rasmussen poll published in mid-December 2009 exhibited Barnes's margin of victory over Baker widening to 48 - 17 percent.[11] Baker went on to lose the Democratic nomination to former-Governor Roy E. Barnes on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 after placing second with a little over twenty-one percent of the vote.[2]


Thurbert Baker for Governor 2010 Campaign logo
2010 Race for Governor - Democratic Primary[2]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Roy E. Barnes 65.6%
     Democratic Party Thurbert E. Baker 21.6%
     Democratic Party David Poythress 5.5%
     Democratic Party DuBose Porter 4.5%
     Democratic Party Carl Camon 1.1%
     Democratic Party Bill Bolton 0.9%
     Democratic Party Randal Mangham 0.8%
Total Votes 395,467


2006

  • 2006 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[12]
    • Thurbert Baker ran unopposed in this contest
2006 Race for Attorney General - General Election[13]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Thurbert E. Baker 57.2%
     Republican Party Perry McGuire 42.8%
Total Votes 2,073,654

2002

  • 2002 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[14]
    • Thurbert Baker ran unopposed in this contest
2002 Race for Attorney General - General Election[15]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Thurbert E. Baker 55.6%
     Republican Party Shannon Goessling 44.4%
Total Votes 1,968,730

1998

  • 1998 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[16]
    • Thurbert Baker ran unopposed in this contest
1998 Race for Attorney General - General Election[17]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Thurbert E. Baker 50.9%
     Republican Party David Ralston 45.3%
     Libertarian Party Walker Chandler 3.8%
Total Votes 1,737,086

Campaign donors

2006

2006 Race for Attorney General - Campaign Contributions
Total Raised $2,951,156
Total Raised by Primary Opponent N/A
Total Raised by Gen. Election Opponent $969,633
Top 5 Contributors Abar Hutton Media LLC $30,483 (1.03% of Total)
Democratic Attorneys General Association $15,000 (0.51%)
W. A. Billy Crider, Jr. $15,000 (0.51%)
Perry Golf Course Development $13,000 (0.44%)
Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan $10,000 (0.34%)
Individuals v. Institutions $1,021,294 (34.6%)
$1,170,858 (39.7%)
In v. Outside State $2,120,500 (72.9%)
$788,064 (27.1%)

Personal

Baker currently resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia with his wife, Catherine. The couple has had two daughters together - Jocelyn and Chelsea. Baker is also a practicing Baptist.

Other roles

  • Delegate, National Association of Attorneys General - American Bar Association’s House of Delegates
  • Board Member, DeKalb College Foundation
  • Vice Chair, Dekalb County Board of Appeals
  • Trustee, Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • Member, Emory Law School Council
  • Board Member, Emory University’s Board of Visitors
  • Advisor, Harrell Center for the Study of Domestic Violence at the University of South Florida
  • Trustee, Martin Luther King, Jr. Charitable Foundation
  • Convener, National Association of Attorneys General - Civil Rights Committee
  • Executive Committee, National Association of Attorneys General
  • Board Member, National Medical Society at Emory University
  • Member, National Rifle Association
  • Chair, Southern Regional Conference of Attorneys General
  • Member, Executive Committee, Dekalb County Democratic Party
  • Board Member, DeKalb County Library Board
  • Trustee, Metro-Fair Housing Board


Awards

  • Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award (2003) from the Georgia First Amendment Foundation
  • Leadership Award (2005) from the Atlanta Bar Association
  • Individual Achievement Award (2006) from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
  • Kelley-Wyman Award (2007) from the National Association of Attorneys General
  • Trumpet Award (2008)
  • Barack Obama Political Leadership Award (2009) from the National Bar Association

See also

External links

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Suggest a link

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine was used to recall this version of the website from April 5, 2009.


References


Political offices
Preceded by
Mike Bowers
Georgia Attorney General
1997–2010
Succeeded by
Samuel S. Olens