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Fulton city results updated, Stonecrest numbers final

The new city of Stonecrest’s leadership is now set after voters chose their initial local leaders in runoff elections Tuesday.

Voters elected three council members to run the city of 50,000 people in southeast DeKalb County. They’ll join Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary and two others on the council who won election outright last month.

Meanwhile in the new city of South Fulton, residents chose their mayor and all seven council members in runoffs.

The South Fulton mayor’s race pits Bill Edwards, a former Fulton County commissioner, against Benny Crane, an entrepreneur who helped lead the cityhood movement. Both rose to the top in a nine-way race to lead the city of nearly 100,000 people.

In early results, Edwards was leading the race by a large margin. And by Wednesday morning, he had won 59.85 percent of the vote.

Edwards, 67, said he wants South Fulton to have good schools and low crime. Crane, 60, wants to increase community policing, get the new city’s fire department accredited and improve entertainment options, which he said will lead to economic development.

In the council races, Catherine Rowell beat Willie Davis in District 1; Carmalitha Grubs beat Damita Chatman in District 2; Helen Willis won against Louis Bell in District 3; Naeema Gilyard took the lead spot against Manisha Thomas in District 4; Rosie Jackson beat Corey Reeves in District 5; Khalid Kamau won against Charlean Parks in District 6; and Mark Baker bested Linda Pritchett in District 7.

In Stonecrest, the winners of the council races were Rob Turner, a Georgia Department of Labor program manager; George Turner, a retired MARTA manager; and Diane Adoma, an H&R Block franchise owner.

Turner defeated a 19-year-old candidate, Mary-Pat Hector, who may be the youngest person ever eligible to run for elected office in Georgia.

Additionally, voters in Roswell and Johns Creek each elected a new council member. In Roswell, Lori Henry won against Marie Willsey in a runoff. In Johns Creek, Chris Coughlin beat John Patrick Flores.

Unofficial results for Metro Atlanta municipal runoffs

Stonecrest numbers represent final results. All numbers represent voting totals with all precincnts reporting.

JOHNS CREEK CITY COUNCIL

Chris Coughlin 10,010 - 63.81%

John Patrick Flores 5,676 - 36.19%

ROSWELL CITY COUNCIL

Lori Henry 10,601 - 57.81%

Marie Willsey 7,738 - 42.19%

STONECREST CITY COUNCIL

Post 2

Rob Turner 437 - 53.1%

Plez A. Joyner 386 - 46.9%

Post 4

George Turner Jr. 867 - 50.64%

Mary-Pat Hector 845 - 49.36%

Post 5

Diane Daniels Adoma 662 - 54.4%

Tammy L. Grimes 555 - 45.6%

SOUTH FULTON

Mayor

Benny Crane 5,302 - 40.15%

William Bill Edwards 7,904 - 59.85%

District 1

Willie G. Davis 606 - 28.43%

Catherine Foster Rowell 1,519 - 71.48%

District 2

Damita Kay Chatman 1,133 - 45.94%

Carmalitha Gumbs 1,333 - 54.06%

District 3

Louis M. Bell 690 - 33.48%

Helen Zenobia Willis 1,371 - 66.52%

District 4

Naeema Gilyard 1,052 - 54.59%

Mandisha Rhomas 875 - 45.41%

District 5

Rosie Jackson 690 - 51.45%

Corey Alan Reeves 651 - 48.55%

District 6

Khalid Kamau 1,127 - 66.80%

Charlean Parks 560 - 33.20%

District 7

Mark Baker 879 - 58.60%

Linda Pritchett 621 - 41.40%

— Staff Writer Lauren Foreman contributed to this story.

Former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis repaid $755K for attorney costs

Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis will be paid $755,000 to reimburse his legal defense costs after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make the payment, which is allowed under state law when a government official is found not guilty or charges are dismissed.

The compensation to Ellis covers the amount paid to his legal team through two trials and a successful appeal. After the Georgia Supreme Court threw out his convictions, District Attorney Sherry Boston dropped the charges of attempted extortion and perjury.

“DeKalb made the right decision. It’s the fair decision to make," said Craig Gillen, who was Ellis’ lead attorney. “Even though he has been repaid the attorney fees, he simply cannot be repaid in any way for the time that he spent away from his wife and his children as a result of this case. That precious time cannot be given back.”

Ellis, who was twice elected as DeKalb’s chief executive, served eight months in prison after a jury found him guilty in July 2015. He had been accused of strong-arming county contractors into giving him campaign contributions.

He didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

The Supreme Court ruled in November that Ellis didn’t receive a fair trial because he wasn’t allowed to present evidence that could have cleared him.

Kathie Gannon, the DeKalb Commission’s presiding officer, said the payment is appropriate.

“Of course, it’s a lot of money,” she said. “When a person in their capacity as an elected official is found not guilty of a crime, they can be reimbursed for their defense.”

Please read the full story on MyAJC.com.

Glenn Jacobs, WWE star 'Kane,' officially announces his bid for mayor

When Glenn Jacobs' treasurer filed the necessary paperwork for a potential political campaign last month, it became national news that the World Wrestling Entertainment star known as “Kane” might run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.

>> Read more trending news

On Tuesday, Jacobs made it official. Speaking to a crowd at Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, the pro wrestler announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for mayor.

>> RELATED: Libertarian Republican Eric Brakey, “Maine’s 28-year-old political wunderkind” announces U.S. Senate run

“As Knox County mayor I promise to keep taxes low and make Knox County a place everyone can be proud of,” Jacobs promised. “I see my role as that of a facilitator among the different communities in our area. And also I think that Mayor (Tim) Burchett has done a very good job with transparency in government and I would continue along those lines.”

The 2018 election for Knox County mayor will be for an open seat to replace Burchett.

Jacobs focused on the themes of jobs, education and smaller government, repeating a version of Ronald Reagan’s conservative mantra that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Glenn Jacobs announcing his bid for mayor

The WWE star told Rare on Tuesday that his belief in free markets and individual liberty were part of what interested him in becoming involved in politics, and he saw his Republican brand as being similar to that of libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul, Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, and also his own congressman, Rep. Jimmy Duncan.

Jacobs has lived in Knox County for over two decades, roughly the same amount of time his “Kane” character has endured as one of the top stars in the pro wrestling industry.

“For the past 22 years I’ve had the pleasure of living here in East Tennessee,” Jacobs said Tuesday. “Because my career with the WWE has taken me all around the world on a weekly basis, me family and I could live pretty much anywhere in the U.S.”

“We live here because we want to,” Jacobs said to applause. “We live here because we love it here.”

Jacobs and his wife Crystal own an insurance agency in the Knoxville area.

>> RELATED: WWE superstar puts libertarian charity first in dancing appearance back home

At least two other challengers for mayor are expected to run, including County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who has already announced, and Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones.

Though Jacobs wrestled under other monikers prior for a number of years, his “Kane” character was introduced to WWE fans in 1997.

Disclosure: Glenn Jacobs is a Rare contributor.

Census: Metro Atlanta’s population approaches 5.8 million

Thousands of people are moving to metro Atlanta from around the country, increasing the region’s population to nearly 5.8 million, according to the U.S. Census.

Metro Atlanta gained the fourth-most residents in the nation last year, with 90,650 additional people making the area their home.

The Atlanta area is the ninth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country. The region grew by 1.6 percent from 2015 to 2016, boosting its population to 5,789,700.

Many people came to Atlanta for jobs, especially in its suburbs. The sharpest population increases were in Forsyth, Cherokee and Paulding counties.

The region added 77,000 jobs last year, the third-highest total among the nation’s 12 largest metro areas last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Atlanta Regional Commission. The 29-county Atlanta area trailed only Dallas and Phoenix.

Overall, the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw the nation’s biggest population increase, adding 143,435 residents, according to the Census.

CountyPop. 2015Pop. 2016Fulton1,010,5621,023,336Gwinnett895,823907,135Cobb741,334748,150DeKalb734,871740,321Clayton273,955279,462Cherokee235,900241,689Henry217,739221,768Forsyth212,438221,009Paulding152,238155,825Douglas140,733142,224Fayette110,714111,627

Video: Top reasons people are moving to Atlanta

Dems call for Gwinnett commissioner to resign after John Lewis comments

One of the highest elected officials in one of Georgia’s most diverse counties waded into controversial territory over the weekend when he wrote a Facebook post calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis – a Civil Rights legend already locked in a war of words with president-elect Donald Trump – a “racist pig.”

The reaction to Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter, a Republican, taking on Lewis a few days before the holiday honoring the life of counterpart Martin Luther King Jr. was varied – but swift.

Many took to the comments section of Hunter’s Facebook posts to support him. Others did quite the opposite.

“Hunter is a disgrace to Gwinnett County in particular and Georgia in general, and he should apologize for those comments,” Gwinnett Democratic Party Chairman Gabe Okoye told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

He later called for Hunter to resign. 

Hunter, who was first elected to Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners in 2012 and narrowly won re-election in November, made the Facebook post in question on Saturday afternoon. It came amid a well-publicized feud between Lewis and Trump, which started when Lewis told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he didn’t view Trump as a “legitimate president.” 

Trump then responded on Twitter, calling Lewis “all talk” and proclaiming his Congressional district — which includes most of the city of Atlanta — to be “in terrible shape and falling apart.” 

In addition to calling Lewis “a racist pig,” the subsequent Facebook post from Hunter – whose Gwinnett district lies many miles east of Lewis’ congressional one – referred to “Demonrats” as “a bunch of idiots.”

On Sunday afternoon, Hunter addressed Lewis on Facebook a second time, calling his election wins “all illegitimate.” 

Hunter later posted an image that included this phrase: “If you’re easily offended and looking for a ‘safe place’ my page ain’t it.. Move along snowflake.”

Sometime shortly before 11 a.m. Monday, however, the “racist pig” post was no longer on Hunter’s timeline. The page’s privacy settings also appeared to be changed, but the other posts mentioned above were still visible to “friends” and “followers” — along with additional posts mocking U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, asking if there were “any white guys" on the University of Alabama’s football team and criticizing Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to declare a state of emergency ahead of last weekend’s ultimately uneventful winter storm. 

In November, he used the word “libtard” in a comment on one of his own Facebook posts.

The privacy changes on Hunter’s Facebook page were likely in response to an influx of nasty comments, many of which called the commissioner disparaging names or urged him to “stay classy.” 

MORE: Bernie Sanders in Atlanta: MLK would be outraged at Trump White House MORE: Mike Pence: I am ‘so disappointed’ in John Lewis MORE: Photos from Gwinnett County’s 2017 MLK Day parade

Hunter is the vice president of a local environmental testing firm and, prior to his time on the Board of Commissioners, worked in the county’s department of public utilities and served on its water and sewage authority (2005-09) and its planning commission (2011-12). Controversial or contentious votes are generally few and far between for Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners, but Hunter represents himself as a staunch conservative. 

He represents District 3, which covers a wide (and diverse) swath of southern and eastern Gwinnett, including parts of Snellville, Loganville, Grayson and Dacula. 

Though much of suburban Gwinnett remains a Republican stronghold, Hillary Clinton won the county in November’s presidential election. It was the first time a Democrat took Gwinnett since Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

Gwinnett is the second-most populous county in Georgia and is also a majority-minority county, meaning non-white residents account for more than half of its population. 

Hunter’s fellow commissioners, all Republicans, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. Nor did several other local, state and federal Republican party members with Gwinnett ties. 

Some local Democrats were happy to weigh in, however. 

Georgia State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, whose District 93 touches part of Hunter’s Gwinnett territory, shared her thoughts on Twitter, saying she was “ashamed” of him.

For his part, Hunter later told The AJC that his “racist pig” comment was “probably an overreaction out of aggravation” — but he didn’t back down from the rest of his message. 

In a lengthy message sent to a reporter, he defended Trump, saying the president-elect isn’t racist and downplaying reports of Russian hacking possibly influencing the election.

“While I am grateful for what the Congressman did in Selma and other times during the civil rights movement, you get respect by showing respect,” Hunter wrote. “He is using his fame as a way to continually divide the races and in this case standing on the very much unsubstantiated claim that the guy I voted for [Trump] is racist and only won because of Russians hacking the election—which, of course, we all know didn't occur.” 

“So, true to exactly what the political pundits said would happen, he makes the claim that Trump, and all of us that voted for him, are illegitimate,” Hunter’s message continued. “Therefore I claim [Lewis] is illegitimate and make just as many unsubstantiated claims as [Trump] does. After all, in today's world, it's not about the evidence, but the seriousness of the charges.”

Shortly after sending that message, Hunter took to Facebook again — this time to wish his followers a “Happy MLK Day.” 

Gwinnett County’s annual parade celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. was held Monday morning in Lawrenceville. Donna McLeod, a Democrat who narrowly lost her bid last year for Georgia House District 105, which is partially in Hunter’s district, was there. 

She said she wasn’t surprised by Hunter’s comments.

“This is the kind of campaign that the president-elect ran,” McLeod said.

Susan Clymer, another member of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, said she thinks Lewis represents everything that King would have – fighting injustice and inequality. 

“This Tommy Hunter is painting a horrible picture of Gwinnett County,” Clymer said. “He’s reflecting poorly on all of us, black, white or whatever.”

Not all of the feedback on Hunter’s comments was negative, though. On Monday afternoon, a woman who described herself as a personal friend of Hunter’s posted on his Facebook page.

“He is a fantastic man with an exceptional heart, and that’s all that matters,” she wrote. “So what if he openly put his view on [Facebook]. We ALL do a little too much of that. So if expressing yourself on [Facebook] is now wrong we all need to get off.”

Hunter and the rest of Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners are scheduled to have their next bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday.

—Staff writer Lauren Foreman contributed to this article. Please return to AJC.com for updates.

College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

>> Read more trending stories

Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Hillary Clinton TODAY on the TJMS

Hillary Clinton will be back on the campaign trail Thursday with events in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Then she addresses the Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington.

But first she'll be on the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning at 7:50 and 8am.  It's her first major interview since pneumonia forced her to take a few days off after a 9/11 event on Sunday.

Wednesday, her doctor released a two page letter updating her health.  It included results of a test on her heart revealing a calcium score of zero.  Clinton's doctor says she's fit to serve at commander in chief.

Protesters take opposing sides on proposed Newton mosque

About a dozen protesters, several of them armed, gathered in front of the historic Newton County courthouse Tuesday to protest the presence of Muslims in America generally and a proposed local Muslim burial ground and mosque, specifically.

 

“Who are we to say it’s not going to be a refugee compound?” said Phillip Morris, a Walton County resident who turned out against the mosque.

 

Nearby, a sign read “Unite against Islam, stop the Islamic immigration refugee invasion now!”

 

A young teenage boy waving an American flag wore a shirt that read “God hates Islam.”

 

As the protest got underway, James Stachowiak, of Evans, Georgia, wielding a semiautomatic rifle, railed against Islam and Muslims through a megaphone.

 

“Islam is not here to assimilate,” he said. “Mohammad preached the establishment of a global caliphate.”

 

The anti-Islam protesters were met with a slightly smaller group of counter protesters who said they were there to support religious freedom.

 

“I am personally Christian and we believe defending other people’s right to worship will keep our right to worship safe as well,” said Newton County resident Kendra Millerd.

 

Georgia Security Force III%, a local militia, called for the rally after posting a video that caused the county to cancel a meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday. At that meeting, commissioners were expected to lift a temporary moratorium on new places of worship, clearing the way for the cemetery and mosque, which the militia opposes.

 

The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the armed protest by what the organization called “anti-Muslim extremists.”

 

“These armed bigots do not represent the people of Newton County, who are as warm and welcoming as other Georgians,” CAIR Georgia executive director Edward Ahmed Mitchell.

 

As of Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Newton County had not invited the agency to get involved. A spokesperson for the local Sheriff’s Office confirmed the group was still under investigation.

 

The militia’s video, which was posted online over the weekend but has since been taken down, shows several members of the militia decrying Islam and allegedly trespassing on the Muslim congregation’s property to hang an American flag. The Newton County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into the group.

 

“ …. A self-made video circulated on social media of a militia group from a neighboring county, [which] may have been trespassing on private property, and exhibiting harassing or violent behavior,” County Manager Lloyd Kerr wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately in today’s society, uncivil threats or intentions must be taken seriously.”

 

He added that the temporary moratorium on new places of worship will expire on September 21 if the commission takes no action.

 

“The Board of Commissioners intends to honor the expiration date and has no plans to extend the moratorium,” Kerr wrote.

 

For more on this story visit myajc.com

Wright State withdraws from holding first presidential debate

Wright State president David Hopkins announced Tuesday the university has withdrawn from hosting the first presidential debate in September.

He said Tuesday that Wright State is withdrawing as host of first presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 26, citing escalating costs for security and the inability to raise enough money.

Hopkins said in an exclusive interview that he was motivated in part by security concerns raised by the recent attack in Nice, France.

“I can’t assure the safety of our students and the community,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins informed the Commission on Presidential Debates at noon Tuesday, and hopes to recoup at least some of the $2 million fee that was paid to the commission in advance. Approximately $500,000 had been spent already on Nutter Center upgrades.

The university has raised about $3.5 million in contributions, state funding and in-kind pledges.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, was listed as the debate’s backup site.

The Commission on Presidential Debates posted this announcement on its website:

“In light of Wright State University’s announcement of earlier today, the September 26, 2016 Presidential Debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The Commission very much appreciates Wright State’s efforts. Hofstra University served very successfully as a presidential debate site in 2012. On September 23, 2015, the Commission announced that Hofstra University had agreed to serve as an alternate site this debate cycle if needed. The Commission looks forward to working with Hofstra once again.”

The president of Wright State’s faculty union, Martin Kich, said canceling the debate was probably for the best.

“I think It’s unfortunate we’ve gotten two months away from it and we have to pull the plug on it. I don’t think that makes anyone look good," Kich said. "But if the alternative is we would be left with a sizeable financial liability because of this, then I think it’s the smart thing to do,” he said.

Kich said he felt the university was low-balling what the debate was actually going to cost.

“Under ideal circumstances, I think it would be a nice thing for the university to host this kind of an event, but given the financial issues the university is grappling with, from the start this seemed like a kind of dubious proposition.”

Read more here.

The Obama administration issued guidance on transgender access to school bathrooms

The growing bathroom backlash from Georgia Republicans.

Greg Bluestein  @bluestein

Tamar Hallerman

Georgia conservatives are riled up about the Obama administration’s recent directive to public schools over bathroom rules, and the backlash has spanned from carefully-worded responses to potty-mouthed outbursts.

The White House’s guidance last week directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, intensifying the debate over LGBT rights that’s already raging as the Obama administration battles North Carolina over the policy. It didn’t take long for Georgia Republicans to wade in.

“It is absurd that we need a ‘federal restroom policy’ for our nation’s schools,” wrote Rep. Tom Price on Facebook. “This is yet another abuse and overreach of power by the ‪#‎Obama‬ Administration, and a clear invasion of privacy. Schools should not have to fear retaliation for failure to comply.”

House Speaker David Ralston opined on  Fannin County fight, urging Georgia senators to protect schools from a federal government that’s “dictating to our locally-elected Board of Education with regards to the policies they enact in a way never before seen.”

And Rep. Doug Collins, locked in his own primary battle, said on Facebook that “Obama is once again disregarding the separation of powers.”

 

“Girls should use girls’ bathrooms, and boys should use boy’s bathrooms,” he wrote. “It is as simple as that.”

Gov. Nathan Deal has so far kept mum on the debate, though several other Republican governors have vowed to defy Obama’s directive.

And then there was the press release from former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, who’s running in the crowded GOP race to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

Here’s the (PG-13) statement his campaign released over the weekend:

“Common sense has fled the addled brains of our nations leaders. Kickstands to the left, hoo ha’s to the right. We don’t need the President to make this decision for us.”

Yes folks, nothing but the news here.

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