Winfred Dukes, Albany State, and Transportation

By now, you’ve probably heard that State Rep Winfred Dukes has been accused of costing Albany State University the funding for the Ray Charles Fine Arts Center.

You may have even heard that he got into a very verbal and visual altercation with his accuser around lunchtime today.

I can verify that the accusations are indeed accurate, and to steal a phrase from the late great Paul Harvey, here’s the REST of the story…

It all began, according to several sources, on January 30. On that day, the House of Representatives debated the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grants. At about one hour and 36 minutes into the debate, Rep Dukes makes the comments shown in this video – which was taken directly from the video in the GPB archives. Now, the comments Rep Dukes makes about Delta and Gulfstream could be taken as attacks on Reps Burkhalter and Keen, respectively. Rep Burkhalter’s district is in the North Fulton/Alpharetta area, where Delta is a major player due to the proximity of its home base at Hartsfield Airport. Rep Keen’s district in Brunswick is the site of a major Gulfstream office. Burkhalter and Keen are also 2nd and 3rd in charge of House leadership, right behind Speaker Glenn Richardson.

So the comments in the video, and the fact that this early in the session he was already balking on major initiatives of House Leadership, didn’t earn Rep Dukes too many favors. And ultimately, as we all know, the way politics unfortunately works is who owes who favors. I personally can’t STAND this, but until we elect people with spines that will stand for right no matter what, it is the way the game is played.

So Rep Dukes already was shooting himself in the foot, when ANOTHER major pet project of House Leadership came up. Indeed, this particular project was SB 200, the Department of Transportation reorganization that was signed by Governor Perdue today, and has been a pet project of his throughout the session. House Leadership knew this particular bill was going to be extremely close, and the voting was kept open for quite a long time – roughly 5 minutes, about 5x as long as any other vote. While it was speculated then by myself, Jason Pye, and many others, that much deal making was going on during this time, I can now confirm this – and Reps Dukes and Fullerton were at the heart of it.

You see, according to what I am hearing, a deal was made whereby if Reps Dukes and Fullerton voted for SB 200, BOTH the Ray Charles project at Albany State AND the project at Darton would be funded in this year’s budget. Rep. Fullerton upheld her end of the deal and voted for SB 200, and Rep Dukes simply walked away from the chamber and did not vote. Because he did not vote, the Speaker himself was forced to take the EXTREMELY unusual move of casting a vote himself, and the Speaker’s vote – that should have been Rep Dukes’ vote – was the deciding factor in the passage of the bill.

Because of Rep Dukes reneging on his end of the deal, and because he had made no secret that the Albany State project was a pet project of his, Leadership then decided to strip the Albany State project from the budget during the final conference committee.

So you see, Rep Dukes DID, in fact, cause Albany State to lose the funding for the Ray Charles project, no matter how much he protests it.

SB 200 House Vote Record

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7 Responses

  1. I’d just like to add one thing. Rep. Dukes continues to claim that since Darton is in his district, and Albany State is in Rep. Fullerton’s, that if they wanted retribution against him, they would have cut funding from Darton. This is untrue.

    It’s not about what comes to the district, but what you want to deliver. If you, as a representative, want funding for project A, then that’s what gets cut. Dukes claims that he voted out of principle, which is all fine and good. In fact, if I believed it, I’d call this something worthy of respect.

    I don’t believe it primarily because principle demands that he acknowledge what happened. Let’s face it, this is an easy spin. Evil republicans cut funding to Albany State because heroic Representative Dukes refused to back down from principle and was punished in a way normal for those evil republicans. Seriously, this could have been turned into a great opportunity, but he’s missed it.

    I will acknowledge that it’s possible that Dukes doesn’t realize what happened. Unfortunately, I think this might be worse than trying to deny the funding issue was punishment, since it relays an ignorance of how the House works.

    When Atlanta insiders are saying it’s because of Dukes, it’s because of Dukes. Frankly, it adds up with the information Jeff has gotten and shared with me. Denying it, unfortunately, doesn’t make it any less true.

  2. […] legislator said was unfair to average Georgians. There’s also some speculation at the web site SWBA Politics that Duke’s failure to vote for or against S.B. 200, the bill to reorganize the state Department […]

  3. As of 7:45 a.m. May 7, 2009 The Governor has not signed SB200 – just hinted that he will.

  4. Dukes was punished for telling the truth that the GOP leadership gave us the largest property tax increase in GA history by not funding the Homestead Exemption Tax Credit. When your property tax bills come out this fall, every homeowner will be billed separately for an average of $300. This is going to kill the GOP across GA, I think this is a great opportunity for the Libertarians to step up and become the second party of our GA two-party system.

  5. Roger: In all honesty, I don’t disagree with Dukes positions as I remember them. I think he missed the boat in not understand that it was political retribution and calling it such, which would have been 100% honest from what I can tell. This would have, in my opinion, eased any ill feelings towards Rep. Dukes from people here in Albany, if there is any. What I personally fault him for is not having the political skills to recognize this.

    Libertarians like to claim to be the “party of principle”, so it would be hypocritical of me to say that Dukes was wrong to vote his principles (provided that’s what he did. I can’t say what’s going on in anyone’s mind and I definitely don’t know Mr. Dukes well enough to speculate). But not recognizing what happened? He’s been in the General Assembly long enough to know how this all works, wouldn’t you agree?

  6. If my memory serves me correctly, Rufus Montgomery worked for Albany State University as an administrator a few years ago—unofficially, I always thought he was considering rooting himself in the community to challenge Rep. Sanford Bishop in the future and Rufus is made of congressional timber.

    Some folks say those plans went south when he realized that Bishop would be harder to beat (at the time) than one would think. The fallout of this whole mess might Albany leaders questioning Montgomery’s commitment to the city against his commitment to his GOP brethren to run state government. That might be a mistake because Rufus’s firm was hired in part based on his connections and relationships with state GOP leaders.

    What we just witnessed was the legislative and appropriations process functioning in plain sight and it is a bloody process. All of the Obama and McCain supporters who wanted transparency in government just saw some on the state and local levels. Dukes and Montgomery will be just fine because both rose to their level of success from being sturdy. Next time, this situation will be resolved over cigars in the proverbial backroom and we will be back to business as usual because what we saw was Dukes basically saying “bro you should have come to me first rather than blindsiding me with the truth.”

    Actually, Montgomery should have (and like did) alert Dukes to the coming punitive actions during the developing drama. Dukes would have option of capitulating or standing firm in his beliefs. Warn-a Brother

  7. There’s an old saying that says there are two things you never want to let people see you make, laws and sausages. This is definitely one of those moments.

    As for how Dukes makes it through this mess, I really think it depends on how this is spun. Contrary to what many think, everyone spins news to make sure they look the best they can. Dukes’ spin, if sufficient, may actually improve local support. It’s all in how you play the game. So far though, Dukes looks like a freshman class vice president who suddenly found himself handling politics on a DC level.

    That’s never a good thing.

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