On Monday, March 18, State Sen. Cecil Staton appeared on Macon's WPGA-TV and spoke about his efforts to push through non-partisan legislation along with promoting other legislation which would take away the taxing authority of the Bibb County School Board.
In Staton's opening remarks to the morning hosts, Rick Knight and Gary Thigpen, the Monroe County Republican said that "I had enough" and that he wanted to push forward non-partisan legislation for Bibb County (Macon) because it was long overdue.
Staton shrugged off that HB-1171, which was passed last year in the General Assembly and survived a July 31 referendum, included that partisan elections be part of the new consolidated government and elections would be in November.
Subsequently, Staton and Peake flip-flopped unapologetically and confirms that it has always been 'all or nothing' for the opportunistic Republicans even if a legal challenge ends up in court.
In early January, Staton and first-term State Sen. Bert Jones, signed off on non-partisan legislation --SB25, SB26, SB27, SB29 SB30, SB31, SB32-- in an effort to establish non-partisan municipal elections for the Macon-Bibb consolidated government.
Instead of being a 'honest broker', Staton became a political opportunist and his disingenuous stance on non-partisan is not about bringing people together, but a political tactic to circumvent the Voting Rights Act.
Staton said the following to WMAZ-TV: "We made it very clear that this was something we would want to do as soon as we possibly could, and with the change in the delegation this year, we were able to do it through local legislation. So, I have no apologies to offer for this."
The measure passed on January 29 with a 34-15 party-line vote in the Georgia Senate. After clearing the Georgia House with the rubber stamp of North Bibb Republican Allen Peake and fellow Republicans via a affirmative vote, the push began to get it signed into law.
By mid-February, Republican governor Nathan Deal quickly signed the legislation into law.
However, the Bibb County Democratic Party responded with a correspondence to the Justice Department and cited the effort to pass non-partisan legislation--led by Rep. Allen Peake and State Sen. Cecil Staton-- as a “veiled attempt to thwart democracy” by diluting minority voting.
On a side note, the city of Macon --pre-consolidation-- which holds two-thirds of the total county population has an African-American population of 68 percent and an overall -- 72 percent minority population.
For Republicans such as Peake and Staton, violating the Voting Rights Act willfully is the only way for conservatives to increase their chances of gaining control of a majority-Democratic Bibb County.
Certain details of HB-1171 such as the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass a budget on the Bibb county Commission is unprecedented and requires judicial scrutiny.
The alleged gerrymandering of Macon-based commission districts look like more like a snake in an effort to increase chances of Republicans winning in a non-presidential year.
Additionally, the effort to move local elections from November to July is a big over-reach and this effort was done in Augusta and struck down by the Justice Department in January 2013.
In essence, Republicans such as Peake and Staton-- are attempting to replicate what Tea Party House Republicans have done on the national level with President Obama (debt ceiling debate, filibuster, etc.) and that is to obstruct in an effort to use as leverage to cut spending on social programs.
Republicans have lost four of the last six presidential elections and there has been a renewed focus for Republicans to clog up local government via the general Assembly and now this attempt to 're-constrict' Bibb County government with the intent to diminish the electoral impact of African-Americans.
The local delegation is majority Republican, and all the Republicans except one -- North Bibb's Allen Peake-- live outside of Bibb County.
So in essence, Republicans are attempting to control Central Georgia's most progressive county and largest city--Macon-- by takeover.
Staton, who resides in Monroe County, has faced opposition to what some critics believe is a political power-grab of the city of Macon and Bibb County by opportunist Republicans with no regard for the Voting Rights Act.
Staton, who began his political career in 2005 after winning in November 2004 is beginning his eighth year in the Georgia General Assembly.
Staton has received primary opposition from Republicans, but has run mostly unopposed up to this point. However, five-term state senator is likely to face Democratic opposition in a general election in 2014.
Staton's represents District 18 and this conservative-leaning district encompasses five counties which includes western Bibb, parts of Houston County including the city of Centerville. Crawford, Upson (Thomaston), Monroe (Forsyth) and Peach (Fort Valley/Byron).
Bibb County has primarily elected Democrats in the majority of election cycles and with Republicans in control of the Georgia General Assembly, Staton and fellow Republican Rep. Allen Peake have attempted to make a move to reduce the electoral impact of Democrats--African-Americans specifically-- in Bibb County.
“I believe it is important for us to make every effort to hold non-partisan elections in Bibb” said Sen. Staton. “These elections will help create a more informed electorate and ensure the most qualified individual has the opportunity to serve.”
Under the Voting Rights Act, Georgia is one of the jurisdictions that is required by law to recieve federal pre-clearance before any change in voting laws.