Kingston’s Senate loses means less clout for Ga.

Kingston's Senate loses means less clout for Ga. #965

SAVANNAH, Ga. — For two decades, Rep. Jack Kingston was a congressman who routinely crushed his opponents on election night — winning a new term every other year with vote totals between 63 and 77 percent.

That streak ended Tuesday, along with Kingston’s 22-year career on Capitol Hill. The Savannah Republican fell a few thousand votes short in his primary runoff for the U.S. Senate, losing the GOP nomination for the open seat to businessman David Perdue.


“If you never hear or see from me again, I’ve had more of my fair share of the action, the fun and the honor of serving,” Kingston told reporters after conceding.

The news hit especially hard in coastal and southeast Georgia, where Kingston has represented the 1st Congressional District since 1993. Back home, he was known for an aw-shucks attitude that disguised an ability to get things done — whether it was replacing a constituent’s expired passport at the last minute, funding new Army barracks or pushing through a $706 million harbor expansion for Savannah’s port.

“It’s like, ‘Oh my God, he knows how to get around Washington and get things going,'” said Lis Overton, who chairs the Chatham County Republican Party. “We’re all a little depressed right now.”

Kingston’s defeat lessens Georgia’s political experience in Washington. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring, and all three incumbent congressmen who sought his Senate seat — Kingston and fellow GOP Reps. Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta — have been sent home by voters as well.

“We’ll lose influence,” said Lindsay Thomas, the former Democratic congressman whose decision to leave the House in 1992 opened the door for Kingston to run. “To me, the saddest thing about losing Jack is he would’ve walked onto the Senate floor with immediate credibility. They wouldn’t wonder, ‘How is he going to vote and can I trust him?'”

At age 59, Kingston should have time to attempt a comeback if he chooses. If Gov. Nathan Deal wins re-election, Georgia will have an open race for governor in 2018. Overton said she would like to see Kingston consider running for Savannah mayor. Opportunities should also abound in the private sector.

“I really think the Lord’s going to open a door,” Kingston said.

His friend Eric Johnson in Savannah, a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate, said Kingston might have little desire to run another statewide campaign. Johnson ran for governor in 2010, finishing third in the GOP primary.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears and life into that thing. And now that you know what it’s like, it may be tough to do that again,” Johnson said. “He’ll find something to do. He’s too young to retire. He has too much energy and likes people too much.”

In 1992, Kingston was a state legislator who made a living selling agribusiness insurance when he became the first Republican since Reconstruction elected to Congress from his southeast Georgia district. He got a political boost in his second term thanks to the 2004 Republican takeover of Congress engineered by Newt Gingrich.

Kingston got assigned to the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, giving him considerable influence to steer federal dollars back home. Fort Stewart and other military bases in Kingston’s district benefited from new construction and expansions. The Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, Georgia’s largest bridge, was completed in 2003 thanks to Kingston’s help funding its $110 million construction.

Kingston got Congress to authorize a major deepening of the Port of Savannah’s shipping channel in 1999. Earlier this year, he helped the harbor project clear its final bureaucratic hurdles so that dredging can finally begin 15 years later.

Regardless of their differences, even Democrats gave Kingston credit for putting constituents before politics.

Tony Center was the Democratic Party chairman for Chatham County in 2005 when he frantically called a Kingston staffer at night after discovering his passport was expired just two days before an overseas trip. Kingston’s office called the State Department and Center picked up his new passport the next day.

“I got a phone call from Jack. He said, ‘I heard you had a problem and I just wanted to make sure it got taken care of,'” Center said. “I was chairman of the Democratic committee at the time and he could’ve blown me off. But he was my congressman and he helped me.”

Associated Press writer Kathleen Foody in Atlanta contributed to this story.

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Democrats suffer setback in key Senate race

Democrats suffer setback in key Senate race #666

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

  • Plagiarism report dampens Walsh’s election prospects
  • Lawmakers still divided on border legislation
  • Don’t discount third-party candidates

Walsh confronts plagiarism charges: Sen. John Walsh already faced long odds to winning a full six-year term in November, and that was before the New York Times reported Wednesday that the Montana Democrat plagiarized substantial portions of his final thesis at the U.S. Army War College. The Times’ Jonathan Martin writes: “An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.” The six conclusions put forward in the 14-page thesis, Martin adds, “are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document.” (The Times created an interactive graphic that details the sections of the paper where Walsh used passages either without attribution, or with improper sourcing.) Walsh told the Associated Press Thursday his failure to properly attribute parts of his thesis was an unintentional mistake caused in part by post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq. “I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” Walsh said. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”


Other questions about Walsh’s record: The plagiarism controversy follows the release of an Army inspector general report late last year that Walsh improperly used his position as adjutant general of the Montana National Guard to solicit members to join the National Guard Association of the United States, a private group that lobbies on behalf of the guard. Roll Call also raised questions about Walsh’s educational background in February, noting differences in his resumes available online. Walsh has made his military service a focal point of his candidacy, with phrases such as “Montana courage” and “selfless service” featured on his campaign website, along with photos of the lawmaker in uniform. Walsh’s appointment to the Senate by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock as a replacement for former Sen. Max Baucus, who departed to become ambassador to China, was seen as a tactical advantage in the fall campaign against GOP Rep. Steve Daines. Democrats hoped the move would elevate Walsh’s profile and boost his fundraising abilities. As it happens, the Senate on Wednesday advanced legislation sponsored by Walsh that would give employers tax credits for bringing jobs back the U.S. But Walsh did not appear with his colleagues at a news conference touting the proposal. And Politico notes the measure is nearly identical to a 2012 bill offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow. The Michigan Democrat is a co-sponsor of Walsh’s legislation.

A long shot to begin with: Despite the head start from his appointment, Walsh always faced an uphill climb in November. Most observers were putting this, South Dakota and West Virginia in the GOP column already, but Democrats were hoping to at least make Republicans work — giving them somewhere to go on offense with so few targets. Early polls showed Daines with a sizable advantage (as much as 17 points), but strategists on both sides expected the margin to narrow, especially given Montana’s history of close Senate elections. Earlier Wednesday Stu Rothenberg looked at some of the recent polling data from Montana to determine whether the race is really tightening, or if Democrats are simply manufacturing buzz. Rothenberg wrote that despite polls showing Walsh closing to within five or seven points, he still considered Daines the “clear favorite.” Any hopes for Democrats here suffered a significant setback with this news. One thing is clear here: in the big picture, heading into the summer after this first part of the primary season, Republicans have certainly done everything necessary to put themselves in the best position possible to take back the Senate.

Immigration talks continue, but still no votes: House Republicans introduced their own plan Wednesday for handling the influx of illegal immigrants coming across the southern U.S. border. And it’s $2.2 billion less than what President Barack Obama requested from Congress earlier this month and about $1 billion less than Senate Democrats proposed a day earlier. During a closed-door meeting Wednesday, a House Republican working group led by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, unveiled the proposal, which focuses on the deployment of National Guard troops to the border and expediting the deportation of recent illegal immigrants. Granger told the Washington Post that the intention is not to repeal the 2008 human trafficking law, but to change parts of it. In a letter to the president, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, voiced his concerns about the ability for Republicans to compromise on immigration reform if changes are not made to the 2008 law. “It is difficult to see how we can make progress on this issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 law,” Boehner wrote. Of course, immigration reform had little-to-no chance of advancing in the GOP-controlled House even before this crisis. But even passing the Republican legislation out of the House won’t be easy. Some members have indicated they are leaning no on the House Republican plan. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz met with a group of House conservatives Wednesday morning to discuss the proposal, and, according to those present at the breakfast, per The Washington Post, Cruz urged the members to stick to their convictions. Cruz is not the only senator who does not support the House GOP plan. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., criticized the working group’s proposal, saying, “I think it would be a colossal error to pass any kind of legislation that does not prohibit the president from granting legal status to five or six million people, as he’s indicated he intends to do.” Sessions added in a written statement that “it would be tragic” for the House to compromise on any immigration legislation. And there are just eight days to go until the August recess.

Watch third-party candidates: The two political parties in this country are so entrenched they are unlikely to be dislodged, even in this era of disillusionment with all things Washington and politics. But third-party candidates should not be out and out dismissed, not so much because they have a chance at WINNING many races but because they can have a potential effect on swaying some key races. A Quinnipiac poll out in the Florida governor’s race, for example, shows the little-know Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie pulling in 9 percent of the vote. Democratic challenger Charlie Crist leads Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the poll 39 percent to 37 percent with Wyllie on the ballot. Without Wyllie on the ballot, Crist’s lead grows to 5 points. In North Carolina, it’s the Democrats who could stand to benefit in the Senate race. Libertarian Sean Haugh, who has qualified for the ballot, is getting high single digits to low double digits in some polling — with little to no name identification and pulling from Republican Thom Tillis. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Reid Wilson noted earlier this month that “Libertarians are poised to draw votes in at least 10 other competitive Senate elections this fall — in Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Alaska. The party is working to collect enough signatures to appear on ballots in Kentucky and New Hampshire and is attracting attention with gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Kansas.” Remember, in the Virginia governor’s race in 2013, Libertarian Robert Sarvis got nearly 7 percent of the vote. Democrat Terry McAuliffe won by just 2.5 percentage points, though evidence suggests Sarvis did not sway the election. It’s always unclear how much support these candidates will actually get on Election Day, and they’re easy to dismiss, but they are essentially protest votes. And there’s a lot to protest for some right now. If these candidates have an impact in even one or two places, that could affect control of the Senate or a key presidential swing state governor’s race like Florida.

Quote of the day: “The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, alleging a conspiracy theory that the Federal Aviation Administration shut down flights from the U.S. to Israel because of politics. It’s not like there’s a war going on and another plane hadn’t been shot down in another war zone recently.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1862, former President Martin Van Buren died. What was Van Buren’s first language? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Kathleen Glanville (@KathleenGlanvil) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: What was President Grant’s real name? The answer was: Hiram Ulysses Grant.

  • At 12:40 p.m. ET, President Obama will attend a DNC roundtable. Afterward, the president will deliver remarks on job training at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College at 4:15 p.m. ET. Mr. Obama returns to Washington Thursday night.

  • The president is planning to issue an executive order for a branch of the Commerce Department to develop privacy guidelines for commercial drones operating in U.S. airspace.

  • IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday that the agency is no longer investigating the missing emails of Lois Lerner, so that they will not interfere with the inspector general’s investigation.

  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is using his top position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to work several of his legislative priorities into the military spending bill.

  • In a speech on family values at Catholic University, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio condemned the “growing intolerance” for those who define marriage as between one man and one woman, and that said viewpoint does not make its supporters “anti-gay.”

  • A Marquette Law School poll puts Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a near tie, leading his Democratic opponent Mary Burke 46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. Burke, meanwhile, has a single-point advantage among likely voters.

  • Wednesday night the Arizona Department of Corrections executed Joseph Rudolph Wood. It took them nearly two hours to do so.

  • Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Louisiana all joined an amicus brief in support of Indiana’s appeal of the unconstitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

  • A federal judge in Denver ruled that Colorado’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling, giving the state a month to appeal.

  • Under a proposed EPA rule to curb carbon pollution, demand for electricity from coal would be cut, while demand for natural gas would increase, benefitting Texas and Oklahoma, whose governor and senior senator, respectively, have been among the strongest skeptics of global warming and EPA regulation.

  • In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick write that “there is a reason and a need for compassion” in handling the southern border crisis, but that migrant children who come here illegally from Central America should be deported. They call on House Republicans to take the lead on comprehensive immigration reform.

  • The fate of New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District lies in the political wind, as it has for the past two elections when former Rep. Frank Guinta was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and then in 2012, when Rep. Carol Shea-Porter swept in, campaigning against that wave. This year marks their third face-off.

  • A McKinsey report finds that the Social Security Administration has spent $300 million on a computer system that was supposed to streamline disability claims. But it still doesn’t work and lines for claims are backing up, the AP reports.

  • West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin tells National Journal’s Ron Fournier that he would support legislation to make it illegal for American companies to do what his daughter’s did — renounce its citizenship and move overseas to avoid federal taxes. Manchin’s daughter is CEO of the generic drugmaker Mylan, which makes most of its money from Medicare and Medicaid payments, and announced last week it will become incorporated in the Netherlands.

  • Former South Dakota GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent in this year’s Senate contest, isn’t splitting GOP voters the way Democrats had hoped he would; instead he’s cutting into Democrat Rick Weiland’s base of support.

  • Background interviews with officials on the Hill, and especially the White House, are no longer one-on-one, but more like one-on-two, as the “chaperoned interview” becomes the norm in Washington.

  • Mr. Obama is speaking more openly about his daughters, in part to connect with constituents, but also to emphasize the open-mindedness of young people, like Sasha and Malia, on issues like race or climate change.

  • Vice President Biden takes to the white board to explain American infrastructure.

  • Military dogs took over a hearing room of the House Budget Committee Wednesday, as the American Humane Society fights for the Department of Defense to grant them guaranteed retirement in the U.S. “Dogs are magical creatures because they can make a rusty, cranky old curmudgeon like Don Young seem almost lovable,” Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of the Alaska Republican, who reminded colleagues he was the only musher in Congress.

Free idea: Catch Elizabeth Warren while she’s jogging, and if she still says “I am not running” well, then that really hurts her credibility

Inside the office of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

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Gunsmiths Key To Success Of Army Marksmanship Unit

Gunsmiths Key To Success Of Army Marksmanship Unit #102

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Spc. Reuben Anderson uses a dial indicator to ensure that the sights on Staff Sgt. Brandon Green’s rifle are clicking properly and to the right measurement. Green, both a High-power rifle and Interservice Rifle champion, and all of the AMU’s shooter/instructors, rely on the expertise and professionalism of the unit’s gunsmiths to maintain their superiority in competitions around the country. (U.S. Army photo by Michael Molinaro)


FORT BENNING, Ga. –-( Sweeping both the Interservice Pistol and National Rifle Association National Pistol Championships along with wins at the Interservice Rifle and National Trophy Rifle matches, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Soldiers have lived up to their reputation as some of the best shooters in the world.

Yet, similar to how a race car driver would be limited without a fast car or a golfer restricted without good clubs, a competitive shooter would be at a disadvantage without a good gun.

That’s where the Soldiers and civilians within the Custom Firearms Shop complement the USAMU’s elite team of highly-skilled marksmen.

The success on the firing line is the result of hard work in the unit’s shop that begins in the fall and doesn’t end until the final bullet meets its intended target during the national championships every summer.

The service rifle and pistol team’s military coaches meet with the gunsmiths at the conclusion of the summer competitive shooting season to give them a list of guns that need to be rebuilt and ones that require the highly specialized work that only the Custom Firearms shop can provide , said SPC Reuben Anderson, a gunsmith with the unit. That’s when the team in the shop gets to showcase its talents.

“We’ll get a batch of rifles out of the arms room, upper receivers mostly, and we’ll strip them down and give them a good inspection,” Anderson said. “If we are rebuilding, we’ll just go right ahead and tear it down, take the barrel off along with the bolt, gas tube and the sights. We’re always dealing with components.”

The process is similar for the pistols, said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Grieve. They start on the .22-caliber pistols and work their way through the inventory of guns in the arms room.

“We test the barrels, weld up the frames, look at the recoil springs and whatever else that needs to be done to ensure that they get the best pistol possible,” Grieve said.

Becoming a member of the shop is not as simple as telling a recruiter that you want to be a gunsmith or applying for the job as a civilian because you like guns. Steve Young, the custom firearms shop chief, said that for starters, military and civilian gunsmiths must have a two-year certification in gunsmithing or machining.

“They must be highly knowledgeable on a wide variety of military and match-grade firearms, including rifle, pistol and shotgun designs, assembly specifications, parts fabrication and repair,” Young said.

Once the guns are built and tested for competition, the gunsmiths continue to provide support for the teams leading up to and at their biggest matches. Anderson said the Soldiers may try to change something with their sights, or feel that their trigger isn’t feeling right and needs a slight adjustment.

“Depending on match conditions, sometimes they want to swap out different sight arrangements for the weather,” he said. “If it’s a cloudy day and the targets look different from way back at the 600-yard line compared to the 200, they’ll have to adjust accordingly to a different aperture to get more light into their eye.

Besides assisting USAMU shooters, the gunsmiths will also help out civilian shooters and teams at the national matches, despite the fact that these civilians are trying to beat the USAMU shooters. Anderson said that they cannot give the civilians parts to repair a gun, but if they come to their truck and it doesn’t cost anything to help, the gunsmiths will provide a service to the civilians.

“If we fix their gun it makes their day and they walk away saying ‘hey those Army guys are pretty cool,’” said Anderson.

Winning in national and international competitions is how the unit demonstrates and proves its skills, said Young. The shooters and gumsiths together use this expertise for developing weapons and ammunition to increase the accuracy of Army marksmanship.

“It brings a lot of satisfaction,” Anderson said. “When you put the time and effort into building something for a shooter and they do well with it, it feels great.”

About USAMU:
The USAMU enhances the Army’s recruiting effort, raises the standard of the Army’s marksmanship proficiency, and supports the Army’s small arms research and development initiatives in order to raise the Army’s overall combat readiness. For more information on the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, contact the Public Affairs Office at (706) 545-5436, or

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Perdue wins Republican Senate runoff in Georgia

Perdue wins Republican Senate runoff in Georgia #186

Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia on Tuesday, defeating Rep. Jack Kingston in a close race that went down to the wire.

Perdue will now face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in what’s expected to be a closely watched race both parties are expected to contest. They will compete for the seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).


Republicans need to gain six seats to win the Senate majority. Democrats, defending many more competitive seats, view Georgia as one of their two best pickup opportunities, along with Kentucky.

With nearly all of the vote tallied, Perdue led Kingston 51 percent to 49 percent.

The outcome is a blow to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which made a sizable investment on behalf of Kingston. The nation’s largest business organization had been on a hot streak. It supported Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who each defeated challengers backed by national tea party groups earlier this year.

Tea party groups stayed on the sidelines in the Kingston-Perdue showdown. Neither candidate pitched himself as a tea party hero.

The Chamber was the biggest spending third-party group, dishing out more than $2.3 million to help Kingston, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Kingston emphasized his government experience during the campaign, even at a time when polls show Congress is woefully unpopular. He also secured the endorsement of notable current and former lawmakers.

Tuesday’s runoff was conducted because no candidate won a majority in the May 20 Republican primary. Perdue finished first that day with 31 percent of the vote.

Perdue will now turn his attention to Nunn, a philanthropist who used to head up Points of Light, a nonprofit encouraging volunteerism.

Nunn has been one of the most prolific fundraisers of the year. Polls show her running competitively against Perdue.

Perdue, a cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue (R), ran in the primary as an outsider ready to shake up Washington. He used his personal wealth to help finance his campaign.

But his wealth and business dealings will be a target for Democrats. Kingston sought to attack him for both.

In a debate, Kingston knocked Perdue for living “in a gated community” and accused him of being out of touch with everyday voters. Perdue said he would make no apologies for his success.

“It’s clear multi-millionaire David Perdue is only looking out for himself,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil in a statement responding to Perdue’s win.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (Kan.) countered in his own statement: “David’s experience in the private sector will be put to good use in Washington, and his firsthand experience in creating thousands of good paying jobs will help Georgians.”

Three U.S. House districts in Georgia also held runoffs Tuesday, including Kingston’s. There, state Rep. Buddy Carter defeated tea-party backed retired Army Ranger and surgeon Bob Johnson. The district leans Republican.

In the district being vacated by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R), who ran for Senate, tea party-backed state Sen. Barry Loudermilk easily defeated former congressman Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian nominee for president.

In the conservative 10th district, Baptist minister Jody Hice defeated businessman Mike Collins. Rep. Paul Broun (R), who also ran for Senate, is vacating the seat.

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DSCC hits the airwaves in Iowa Senate race

DSCC hits the airwaves in Iowa Senate race #852

Senate Democrats’ campaign arm is hitting the airwaves in the Iowa Senate race beginning Tuesday with a sizeable advertising buy that comes as polls show a close contest between state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee commercial charges that’s Ernst’s ideas “are just too extreme for Iowa.” It says she wants to privatize Social Security.


The committee has reserved more than $500,000 in broadcast air time over the next two weeks in four media markets, according to public records. The buy comes as a pair of recent polls from NBC News/Marist and Quinnipiac University have shown a close race.

“Joni will protect social security for seniors like her parents, and ensure it’s there for generations to come, like her daughters and grandchildren,” responded Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel in a statement.

NBC News/Marist, the most recent poll taken, showed Braley and Ernst deadlocked at 43 percent.

Iowa is increasingly shaping up as a key battleground in the fight for the Senate majority. Republicans need to pick up six seats to win control of the chamber.

Ernst is on active duty with the Iowa Army National Guard though Friday. Allies and opponents have engaged in an ad war in her absence.

A pair of Republican groups are on the air giving Ernst cover: The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads, which was co-founded by Karl Rove.

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Florida City Speedway: Racing Into History

Florida City Speedway: Racing Into History #279

  Homestead is annually home to the NASCAR championship race, which brings our community to the attention of millions of racing fans around the world for three days of racing and the week leading up to it. 

  South Dade’s first honest-to-goodness auto racetrack was the Florida City Speedway built in the early 1960s.


  But even before that, organized auto racing took place at the former Homestead Army Air Field after the September hurricane of 1945 destroyed the base.

  The FloridaPioneerMuseum even houses a copy of that track’s insurance policy.

  Lack of a race track did not hold back the young men of South Dade, however. 

  I have seen several photos of cut down cars and real race cars. 

  The one I remember the best is the one owned by Archer Smith, son of Dr. and Mrs. James Archer Smith.

  Florida City Speedway was a high-banked 1/8 mile asphalt oval track located on Davis Highway in FloridaCity where the flea market later stood.

  It was built in the early 1960s and closed in 1976, in part due to a serious accident and concerns for safety.

  TQ (3/4) midgets raced at the weekly shows with occasional appearances by race karts.

  Mini-stocks were later added, both the modified “A” class, and the stock “B” class.

  The track measured 240 feet in the straightaway with corner radii of 120 feet.

  The track had a width of 35 feet with the bank estimated at 15 degrees.

Alton Brooks, Sr. celebrates winning a race at Florida City Speedway.

  The original plans called for a 4 foot grade on the curves which was increased to 8 feet, which gave the track the reputation as the fastest 1/8 mile track in the country.

  The original track was designed by Sam Peloit, a racer who was a Miami fireman. 

  Some folks remember Calvin Chalker as the contractor who did the grading and laid the asphalt surface, probably pro bono, or at cost.

  Former track champion George Sweeting, who raced nearly everywhere, including the Daytona Beach road course, said that FloridaCity was the toughest track he ever drove.

  The South Florida Racing Association, a TQ midget group, operated the track in the 60s.

  The South Florida Racing Association’s first races in Homestead were at the rodeo grounds, thanks to the help of Dr. John DeMilly, Homestead Rodeo Association President.

  The Speedway was a popular family attraction which also involved community non-profit organizations. 

  Events were sponsored by local people and businesses like Ed Brown, then owner of the South Dade Plaza Barber Shop and now the owner of the Royal Barber Shop. 

  Everything changed on May 24, 1969 when Gary Smith, a 21-year old TQ racer, was killed in an accident at the track.

  This was at a time before roll cages and most of the safety equipment we know today was introduced.

  The other drivers ceased to believe that Florida City Speedway was too small of a track at which to get hurt, and their participation dropped.

  It was not long before the track closed temporarily for about a year.

  The Southern Mini-Stock Racing Association, a group made up of race drivers and owners, had been presenting races at the Hialeah and Hollywood speedways.

  They stepped in to operate the Florida City Speedway and reopened it in August 1970.

  The TQ racers from the South Florida Racing Association returned to racing also; they often ran every other week.

  The owners and drivers often spent all day Saturday at the track, either cutting grass, cleaning, or repairing, and then raced at night.

  The track operated off and on until the summer of 1976 when the gates were locked for good.

  Bob Jensen is Vice President for Community Liaison at 1st National Bank of South Florida, president of the FloridaPioneerMuseum and a retired Navy Commander.

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Female Army vet in race for De Baca sheriff


Mylessa Denny, a De Baca County sheriff’s deputy and Democratic nominee for sheriff, stands beside her cruiser in Fort Sumner. Denny, who faces a write-in opponent in the general election, would be New Mexico’s first female sheriff since the 1960s if she wins. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)


FORT SUMNER – Mylessa Denny has much in common with her neighbors in this eastern New Mexico ranching community of about 1,250.

The De Baca County sheriff’s deputy identifies herself as a church-going Christian, and speaks proudly of her son, 14, and daughter, 17, who were both away at Baptist church camp last week.

A 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran, Denny won the Democratic nomination for De Baca County sheriff by defeating her boss, Sheriff Dennis Cleaver, by a vote of 227 to 171 in the June 3 primary.

If Denny defeats a write-in opponent in November, she would become the first woman elected sheriff in New Mexico in nearly five decades, according to the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association. No Republicans are in the race.

De Baca County sheriff’s deputy Mylessa Denny, left, speaks with her partner, Christi Scovel, during lunch at the Dariland restaurant in Fort Sumner. Denny, who is openly gay, won the Democratic primary for sheriff. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Denny is also openly gay. She lives with her partner of five years and their two children in a modest home in the Pecos River Valley, just south of Fort Sumner.

Denny said her decision to run for sheriff had nothing to do with making history or proving a point. “I don’t have an agenda,” Denny said Wednesday, seated in a booth beside her partner, Christi Scovel, at the Dariland restaurant on N.M. 84 in Fort Sumner.

“I am openly gay, which is kind of odd for a small town,” she said. “I believe you should run on how well you can do the job and not the fact that you are male, female or gay.”

Denny said she and her family were accepted “with open arms” by the De Baca County community after they moved here from Austin in 2011 seeking better schools for their children. “I’d like to think that people accepted us here because of who we were and what we stood for, not because of anything else,” said Scovel, a compliance officer at the De Baca Family Practice Clinic.

The community’s welcome included the congregation at the First Baptist Church in Fort Sumner, where the family attends regularly, the couple said. “Religion has always been important to us,” Scovel said.

Denny commuted for two years to her job as an officer with the Clovis Police Department before Cleaver hired her as a De Baca County sheriff’s deputy in January 2013.

Cleaver treated his new deputy fairly, Denny said, and never considered her sexual orientation a factor in her employment.

Denny announced her candidacy for sheriff this year, promising better training and education for deputies, technology upgrades and, most important, better relations between the community and the sheriff’s office.

“I feel like I’m a good cop,” she said. “I feel like I’m a fair cop and I feel like that’s what our community needs.”

Mylessa Denny, a De Baca County sheriff’s deputy, displays a pair of hair barrettes given to her by a local resident. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

One of Denny’s co-workers, Chief Deputy Kurt Griego, filed Thursday as a write-in candidate for sheriff in the Nov. 4 general election. A lifelong De Baca County resident, Griego told the De Baca County News that Denny lacks the law enforcement experience and a knowledge of the county needed to serve as an effective sheriff.

“It’s a big jump without an understanding of the county, the people and the demands of a limited budget,” Griego told the News. “I know the people, their situations and their families.”

Griego, who has been a De Baca County deputy since 2008, said he chose not to run in the Democratic primary out of loyalty to Cleaver, the News reported. Griego asked the Journal to provide him with written questions by email when a reporter visited the sheriff’s office on Wednesday. Griego had not responded to the questions by Friday.

The sheriff, who oversees six deputies, will earn about $40,000 a year when a pay raise takes effect in January. Deputies investigated one homicide in 2013, along with methamphetamine trafficking, burglaries, drunken driving and other crimes.

Several Fort Sumner residents said they view the sheriff’s race as a contest between a candidate with deep roots in the community and a newcomer with a fresh approach to law enforcement.

“I’m impressed with Ms. Denny,” said Dan Craig, manager of the Valero Self Serve in Fort Sumner. “To me, she’s a lot more fair-minded than a lot of people who have lived here a long time.”

Too often, law enforcement officers in this tight-knit community tend to pre-judge people based on their family and personal histories, Craig said. “They treat everybody by their histories rather than by circumstances,” he said.

Denny said many county residents believe a “good-old-boy system” in De Baca County results in unequal enforcement of the law. “They don’t feel like they get equal treatment because of where they live, or maybe their socio-economic status, or even mistakes they’ve made in their past,” Denny said.

Chris Bedaw, left, stands beside his mother, Audra Campbell, outside a Family Dollar in Fort Sumner where he works. Mylessa Denny, a De Baca County sheriff’s deputy, helps Bedaw study for his GED and supervised his probation after he was charged with felony crimes. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Chris Bedaw, 23, credits Denny with keeping him out of jail after he was charged last year with felony crimes for providing liquor to minors. A judge agreed to sentence Bedaw to probation after Denny agreed to supervise Bedaw.

Denny tutors Bedaw twice a week in preparation for a GED exam next month and has encouraged him in his plans to join the U.S. Navy, which requires completion of a GED, he said.

Denny “put herself on the line to help my son,” said Bedaw’s mother, Audra Campbell. “She just 100 percent went out there for him. She has a huge heart.”

A native of rural Arkansas, Denny served nine years in the Army’s Military Intelligence Corps., including a yearlong tour in Afghanistan in 2001-02, reaching the rank of platoon sergeant.

She received an honorable medical discharge in 2003 after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. She received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Texas State University in 2007.

New Mexico last had a female sheriff in 1966 when Hidalgo County voters elected Doris McCarty to fill the post vacated by her husband, Charles LeRoy McCarty, who had served two terms as sheriff and was ineligible to run again.

Doris McCarty named her husband chief deputy and ran on the slogan, “He’ll catch the crooks, I’ll keep the books,” the Journal reported at the time. She stepped down after a single two-year term because her husband was eligible to run again.

Jack Levick, executive director of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association, said he expects that more females will run for sheriff as a growing number of women enter law enforcement. He did not know how many female sheriff’s deputies there are in New Mexico.

Mylessa Denny, the Democratic nominee for De Baca County sheriff, chats with Tina Cruz while standing in line at the Dariland restaurant in Fort Sumner. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

In the Taos County sheriff’s race earlier this month, Betty Martinez-Gonzales made a strong second-place showing in the June 3 Democratic primary, drawing 26 percent of the vote in an eight-way contest.

Denny’s sexual orientation did not emerge as an issue in the De Baca County primary, several residents said.

“The openly gay thing wasn’t an issue in the election whatsoever,” said Scot Stinnett, publisher of the De Baca County News. “Nobody made a big play on family values or anything like that. It really was basically ignored.”

Unknown is whether the issue will weigh more heavily in the general election, Stinnett said. “When you throw Republican voters into the mix, that obviously changes the way things go.”

Milton Hawthorn, 51, said he hopes county residents won’t factor Denny’s sexual orientation into their voting decision. “It’s 2014,” Hawthorn said. “It shouldn’t matter what your sexual preference is. It should be about the person you are, the person who works the hardest.”

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