The Judges and the Governor

Attending the investiture of new Judge Layla Zon are, from left, Gov. Brian Kemp, Senior Judge Samuel D. Ozburn, Zon, Chief Judge John M. Ott, Judge Ken Wynne Jr., Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. and Judge Eugene M. Benton. The group posed for a photo June 2, 2020, at the state Capitol in Atlanta.

Walton County and Newton County are similar in so many good ways.

That’s the main reason I was interested in buying The Covington News when the opportunity presented itself.

The two communities are connected geographically, similar in population size and are similar demograph ically in many respects.

They both have vibrant county seats and work together on important economic development opportunities like Facebook and others, knowing they are a more attractive location combined than individually.

However, one important way Walton County and Newton County are in no way alike is their respective political leanings.

I’ve written columns about national politics for The Walton Tribune recently that were universally praised by all but my friend Stanley Kelley, but those same columns cost me subscribers and advertisers when they ran in The Covington News.

I’m not making that up, folks.

Walton County is solidly red and is working to keep Georgia that way. Newton County is almost as solidly blue and looking to make the rest of Georgia that way. The two combined are a microcosm of why the state has become increasingly solidly purple.

Most of the time it’s to each his own relative to local politics. Walton County can elect all the Republicans they want and Newton County can elect all the Democrats they want, and the other doesn’t care.

The only time this political divide really comes into play locally is the counties’ judicial races — Superior Court judges and district attorney — because the two counties combined make up the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

Which is why it came as no surprise, at least to me, that a majority of the Newton County Board of Commissioners voted to approach members of that county’s local legislative delegation about sponsoring legislation to separate Newton County from the circuit.

Given the with-us-or-against-us politically charged environment we are living in right now, or maybe more accurately living through, this is a fairly predictable move, honestly.

Still, I think the request would have come off better, and would have a better chance of success, if the commission had gathered input regarding the proposal from the likes of newly elected District Attorney Randy McGinley or longtime chief judge of the circuit, John Ott. They might have liked to have discussed the move prior to reading about in the paper.

I’m glad to hear the proposal has received a lukewarm reception from the delegation. I’m not sure there is a lot of benefit to the taxpayers or the efficiency of the already COVID-backlogged system for the circuit to be divided.

Here’s hoping this proposal fails for lack of a second from the delegation.


Patrick Graham is the owner of The Walton Tribune, The Covington News, The Sand Mountain Reporter (Albertville, Alabama), Times-Journal (Fort Payne, Alabama) and Jackson County Sentinel (Scottsboro, Alabama). He is a graduate of the University of Alabama.

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