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Moreland commission causes controversy for Governor Cuomo

New York

By Kristen Mathews

Albany, New York: Governor Cuomo faced his own scandal on July 23, 2014, resulting from his alleged interference with a commission created in response to the increase in scandals in New York state politics.

On July 2, 2013, in response to an increase in state scandals, Cuomo set up the "Commission to Investigate Public Corruption," a state ethics commission to identify corruption in state politics. The investigators on the commission were to search for violations of campaign finance laws. The "Commission to Investigate Public Corruption" is also referred to as the "Moreland Commission."

After two months, the commission issued a subpoena to Buying Time, a media-buying firm, which had contracted millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party. Andrew Cuomo was a client of this firm which bought airtime for him during his 2010 campaign for governor.[1]

After Cuomo's senior aide, Lawrence Schwartz, heard of the subpoena, he called William Fitzpatrick, one of the commission's three co-chairs, and told him to "pull it back." The subpoena was withdrawn and the panel's chief investigator e-mailed the other co-chairs to explain the situation stating "they apparently produced ads for the governor."[1]

An investigation by the The New York Times stated that the "governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him." The governor's office responded with a thirteen page document which stated that "while he allowed the commission the independence to investigate whatever it wanted, it would have been a conflict for a panel he created to investigate his own administration."[1]

While Cuomo originally stated the investigation would be independent, he maintains that he had the right to monitor and direct the work of the commission. Cuomo had intended the commission run for 18 months, but disbanded the panel halfway through the term. Federal investigators are looking into the role of Cuomo in the panel's shutdown as well as looking into the unfinished investigative work.[1]

After the commission's release of a preliminary findings report, Cuomo and the New York State Legislature agreed to a collection of ethics reforms. The Times investigation claimed that "Cuomo personally suggested a way to squeeze members of the Legislature into enacting ethics-reform measures: by issuing subpoenas to the law firms where many legislators earn sizable incomes for part-time work." The reforms that resulted were much lighter than the commission's recommendations. Cuomo called the commission a success.[1][2][3][4]

Newcomers win three-quarters of school board seats in Georgia runoff elections

By Abbey Smith

School Board badge.png

The Georgia runoff elections saw a number of fresh faces elected to school boards across the state on July 22, 2014. Only four incumbents kept their seats, leaving nine out of the 13 seats up for election won by new candidates. The 13 seats that held runoff elections were part of nine districts across the state: Barrow, Colquitt, DeKalb, Dougherty, Fayette, Hall, Houston, Muscogee and Savannah-Chatham.

Out of the nine incumbents who were up for election in the runoff, only Patricia H. Anderson from Colquitt County Schools, Michael A. Erwin and Jim McMahan from DeKalb County School District and Brian G. Sloan from Hall County Schools were re-elected. Incumbent Karen Carter from DeKalb County School District lost to McMahon after the school board shrunk in size from nine seats to seven, pitting the two incumbents against each other.[5] Thad Mayfield, another incumbent from DeKalb County School District, lost the District 5 seat to Vickie B. Turner. Incumbent John Wells lost the Muscogee District 2 seat to challenger John F. Thomas, and Republican incumbents Randall Holland and Will Dunn from the Barrow County School System lost to challengers Debi Krause and Michael Shelley, respectively, in the Republican primary runoff. Krause will face the Democratic candidate Betty Kinney in November, but Shelley remains unopposed for the general election.

No incumbents ran in the runoff elections for seats on the Dougherty Board of Education, Fayette County Board of Education, Houston County Board of Education or Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education, leaving five seats open to newcomers. Dean Phinazee won the Dougherty District 6 seat, Diane Basham won the Fayette District 4 seat, Hoke Morrow won the Houston Post 6 seat, Bryan Upshaw won the Houston Post 7 seat and Jolene Byrne won the Savannah-Chatham seat for board president.

Between the primary and runoff elections, two districts saw a change in challengers. After receiving 21.5 percent of the vote in the primary election for board president on the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board of Education, David Simons was supposed to advance to the runoff election with Jolene Byrne. Instead, Simons withdrew from the race on May 22, 2014, leaving Chester A. Ellis, the third-place finisher in the primary, to face Byrne in the runoff.[6] John Kimbell, candidate for the District 4 seat on the Fayette County Board of Education, also withdrew from the runoff election after discovering he did not have the necessary voter qualifications. This left Jane L. Owens, third in the primary, to face Diane Basham.[7] In both of these cases, the third-place finishers who got bumped up to the runoff election were defeated.

Legalized marijuana initiative on Oregon ballot, again

By Margaret Koenig

New Approach Oregon logo.JPG

Whether people aged 21 and older will be allowed to legally possess marijuana for non-medical purposes is now in the hands of Oregon voters, just like it was in 2012. Suspecting Oregonians may have rejected the previous marijuana legalization initiative due to the measure permitting possession of an unlimited supply of marijuana, the newly certified initiative draws the line at eight ounces. The Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014 was certified by Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday.[8][9][10][11][12] If approved by voters on November 4, the measure would legalize recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older, allowing adults over this age to possess up to eight ounces of "dried" marijuana and up to four plants. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission would be tasked with regulating sales of the drug.[13][14]

Two years ago, Oregonians rejected Measure 80, a similar, though slightly less stringent, marijuana legalization measure. Measure 80 would have allowed adults over the age of 21 to possess an unlimited supply of marijuana and given an industry-dominated board permission to regulate sales.[13] New Approach Oregon, the main organization supporting the initiative, hopes that this year's more stringent initiative will appeal to more voters. Additionally, the 2012 campaign lacked strong financial backing. This year, supporters are working with donors who backed the successful measures in Washington and Colorado in 2012.[12] Supporters are now hurrying to register as many voters as possible before the election.[15]

Oregon is not the only state that will be considering marijuana legalization this year. Alaska Ballot Measure 2 will decide the issue in that state on November 4, as well. Only one potential Oregon initiative's fate waits in limbo: the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Initiative. That measure is the only remaining initiative to have submitted signatures awaiting certification.

Republican superintendent runoff poised for recount: Georgia state executive elections review, 2014


By Maresa Strano

July 23, 2014 Election Review

Jump to the section for:
*Georgia State Superintendent of Schools

ATLANTA, Georgia: Former Decatur School Board Chairwoman Valarie Wilson was declared the Democratic nominee for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools over state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan late on election night, while the Republican runoff between chief academic officer for the state Department of Education Mike Buck and veteran Irwin County educator Richard Woods was too close to call. The latter contest remains a mystery as of midday of July 23.[16][17]

At 100% precincts reporting, Woods leads by 727 votes out of 397,790 cast, not accounting for provisional ballots.[18] Georgia law allows candidates to request a recount if the margin of victory is less than one percent, which in this case applies and will likely come to pass.[17]

The superintendent seat is the only open seat out of the ten state executive offices up for election in the 2014 electoral cycle. Rather than seek a second term as superintendent in 2014, first term Republican incumbent John Barge chose to run for governor. He was defeated by incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary on May 20, 2014. Barge's term expires on January 12, 2015, when he will have to cede the superintendent's office to his elected successor.

The superintendent is charged by state law to "carry out and enforce all the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and the laws governing the schools receiving state aid." Additionally, he is directed to make recommendations to the board on matters related to the "welfare and efficiency" of the public school system.[19]

Below, Ballotpedia has put together a recap of the Democratic and Republican runoffs for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The vote totals are unofficial.

2014 elections review: Unexpected winner in Georgia Senate runoff

By Ballotpedia's Congressional team

In an unexpected twist, businessman David Perdue, a political newcomer and cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, managed to beat out three Reps. and a former state executive for the Republican nomination in the race for the Senate seat.[20] After advancing past the primary election on May 20, 2014, beating out Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun and former secretary of state Karen Handel in the process, Perdue won out over Rep. Jack Kingston for the nomination in the Republican runoff primary election yesterday.[21] Perdue defeated Kingston 51 to 49 percent.[20][22]

The crowded field of candidates in the race for the Senate seat and three House seats narrowed to the top two candidates after the primary elections on May 20, 2014. Georgia law dictates that if no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top two candidates were required to advance to the runoff primary.[23]


January 2014

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March 2014

April 2014

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 New York Times, "Cuomo’s Office Hobbled State Ethics Inquiries," July 23, 2014
  2. Capital New York, "Cuomo critics charge illegality after Times' Moreland expose," July 23, 2014
  3. The Journal News, "Report: Cuomo meddled in ethics panel," July 23, 2014
  4. Reuters, "New York Governor Cuomo's office intervened in corruption probe -NY Times," July 23, 2014
  5. 90.1 WABE, "DeKalb School Board Races Draw Crowded Field," March 18, 2014
  6. Savannah Morning News, "Simons is out, Ellis is in for Savannah-Chatham school board race," May 24, 2014
  7. Fayette Daily News, "Kimbell out of Board of Ed. race; runoff now between Basham and Owens," June 2, 2014
  8. The Daily Chronic, "Oregon Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the 2014 Ballot," July 22, 2014
  9. KOIN 6, "Marijuana legalization in Oregon going to a vote," July 22, 2014
  10. Al Jazeera America, "Oregon to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in November," July 22, 2014
  11. The Oregonian, "Initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use cleared for November ballot," July 22, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Associated Press, "Your vote: Oregon marijuana measure qualifies for November ballot," July 22, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1, "With national backing, marijuana advocates file legalization measure," October 25, 2013
  14. The Oregonian, "At marijuana legalization hearing, question is how much regulation should go before Oregon voters," November 22, 2013
  15. HeffX, "Recreational Marijuana To November Ballot In Oregon," July 23, 2014
  16. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, "Recount looks likely in Republican superintendent race," July 23, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Rome News-Tribune, "UPDATE: Woods edges Buck for Georgia Superintendent Republican runoff, results within margin for recount," July 23, 2014
  18. Georgia Secretary of State Election Results, "General Primary Runoff and General Nonpartisan Election Runoff July 22, 2014," accessed July 23, 2014
  19. Georgia Code, "20-2-34," accessed September 15, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 Associated Press, "Runoff Primary Results," accessed July 22, 2014
  21. WSB TV, "David Perdue wins Senate primary runoff," accessed July 22, 2014
  22. Politico, "Perdue wins Georgia Senate runoff," accessed July 23, 2014
  23. Washington Post, "The Fix’s top 10 Senate races of 2014," accessed December 10, 2013