Considering state Sen. Hardie Davis is seen as one of the frontrunners in this year’s race for mayor, many folks were disappointed when he chose not to attend last week’s political forum sponsored by the Richmond County Association of Educators.
It was the first political forum held for Augusta’s mayoral candidates.
Obviously, the legislative session going on was a good excuse, but many local voters are looking forward to seeing Davis live and in person.
Davis is a local preacher and state senator, which would logically make him a strong speaker. Having never heard from him directly, though, leaves many Augustans wondering who Hardie Davis really is.
His credentials are outstanding. He has a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech, has served two terms in the Georgia House and is currently the senator representing the 22nd District.
But one of the biggest criticisms against him is that he hasn’t done much in Atlanta.
One of the achievements that Davis boasts is sponsoring House Bill 500, the Employment Readiness Program for Georgia’s Unemployed Act.
This bill prevented more then 22,000 Georgians from losing extended unemployment benefits totaling about $176 million from the federal government.
Of course, critics of the bill insist that extended benefits frequently cause the unemployed to avoid seeking jobs below their desired wages because they would simply prefer to receive the federal unemployment checks.
Either way, Davis probably might want to rethink listing that as one of his biggest accomplishments in Atlanta.
While in office, Davis has managed to fly under the radar of much of the Atlanta press. Whether that means he was doing a good job in the Gold Dome or not getting much accomplished is debatable.
He caught the attention of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution only a few times last year.
First, in a May story focusing on lawmakers receiving perks from lobbyists, Davis was briefly mentioned in a section about public officials accepting meals and travel in excess of $75 cap.
“On April 6, a lobbyist for the University System of Georgia took Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, and his wife out for a $90 dinner,” the May 12 article stated. “Is that in excess of the $75 cap or could Davis claim his dinner was $45 and therefore under it?”
In response to the newspapers questions, Davis said he believed “the cost should be apportioned, which would put him well under the cap.”
Specifically, Davis told the paper that the dinner was an event at Georgia State University with visiting South African trumpet player Hugh Masekela.
“There was nothing improper about that event,” he told the Atlanta paper. “I am confident that it was $45 per person.”
More recently, in October, Davis was again included in a larger story by the Atlanta paper about candidates receiving special-interest support during a campaign.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that about 67 percent of the money Davis raised to win a special election to the Senate in early 2010 came from outside his district.
However, since that time, it’s been “almost 80 percent,” the paper reported in October.
So who are some Davis’ largest contributors? State trial lawyers, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Atlanta Gas Light.
Davis insisted that was nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, he said it was the mark of a good legislator.
“You develop a reputation for being a champion for business, of understanding the issues … as you increase your stature and seniority, you understand how important it is to fund raise and you make those phone calls,” he told the Atlanta paper. “You’ve got to pick up the phone and call. If you don’t ask, you are not going to get the support you need to be successful in public office. You’ve got to work at it.”
That’s one way to look at it.
Let’s just hope Augustans get to see a lot more of Davis before the May 20 election because, right now, there is not much to go on.