Sen. Jesse Stone (SD 23): What’ll it be, judge or senator?
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Jesse Collins Stone
District 23 (Richmond, Columbia, McDuffie, Burke, Emanuel, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Screven & Warren counties)
(UPDATE: Stone withdrew his name from consideration for the Burke County State Court judgeship a week after winning re-election.)
Jesse Stone is a candidate for both the Senate and a Burke County judgeship — a quandary that’s raised questions as to how open he was with constituents when he qualified for re-election.
Stone told a writer for website Peach Pundit in March that he had not applied for or accepted the judgeship, denying reports by an Augusta radio talk show host that he had done so. Later that week, just hours after qualifying for his Senate seat closed, Stone announced on Facebook that he had decided to seek the judgeship after all.
The mixed messages gave the appearance that Stone was hedging his bets by discouraging anyone else from seeking the Senate seat.
Stone told me that he knew in March that the widow of the late Jerry Daniel, whose death had created the opening, had nominated him for the judgeship. He said he hadn’t decided whether to accept it, though.
“It was a quick decision,” he said.
When we talked in September, Stone said he wouldn’t accept the appointment if it came before the general election because it would affect the outcome of the Senate race.
What about after the election, I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’d have to make that decision then.”
Later, though, Stone told the Augusta Chronicle that he’d withdraw his name from consideration for the judgeship if re-elected to the Senate. That promise came after his Democratic opponent, Diane Evans, made a campaign issue of his indecision.
Gov. Nathan Deal interviewed Stone in June for the judgeship. By late October, eight months after the vacancy occurred, Deal still had not decided on the appointment.
Stone filed his personal financial disclosure for 2014 on Sept. 28, six months after it was due and shortly after I told him I couldn’t find it on the state ethics commission’s website. He paid a $125 late fee.
- Elected mayor of Waynesboro in 2003, serving for four years.
- Elected to the Senate in 2010, winning 93% of the vote over write-in candidate Diane Evans. Dem candidate Leon Garvin, who qualified after incumbent J.B. Powell pulled a last-minute switch and ran for agriculture commissioner, withdrew after his residency in the district was questioned.
- Re-elected with 59% of the vote in 2012 and 61% in 2014.
- Won his 2016 Republican primary, 77-23%.
- Appropriations (2015 – present)
- Banking and Financial Institutions (2011 – present)
- Education and Youth (2011 – present)
- Ethics (2013 – present)
- Judiciary (2011 – present; chair, 2017 – )
- Higher Education (2011 – 2012)
- Judiciary Non-Civil (chair, 2013 – 2016)
- Attorney, Merrill & Stone LLC, specializing in the practice of business reorganization, bankruptcies and commercial litigation.
Business ownership interests
- Co-owner & managing attorney, Merrill & Stone LLC.
- President, B. Meile & Co., employee management.
- Limited partner, Pine Lake Subdivision, Swainsboro, Ga.
Other fiduciary positions
- UNDISCLOSED CEO, Burke Heritage Foundation. Founded as a non-profit in 2005, the company is a shell and has never been active, Stone said.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Waynesboro valued for tax purposes at $245,000
- Contributory IRA, Charles Schwab
- SEP-IRA, Charles Schwab
Payments from state agencies
- None disclosed.
Friends and Family
- Stone’s father, grandfather and great-uncle all served as mayor of Waynesboro before him.
Stone has raised more than $404,000 in political donations. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2010: $45,264
- 2011-12: $143,727
- 2013-14: $48,415
- 2015-16: $159,078
- Reported cash on hand (Oct. 2016): $124,429
- $70,375 Sen. Tommie Williams & other Republican legislators
- $14,400 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $10,000 Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, Atlanta & Columbus, Ga., personal-injury law firm
- $5,100 Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen
- $5,000 Select Management Resources Inc., title-pawn lender
- $5,000 Workplace Injury Network
- $4,650 Community Bankers Association of Georgia
- $4,500 Georgia Apartment Association
- $4,000 Georgia Affordable Housing Coalition
- $4,000 Students First, charter-school advocacy
- $3,900 Georgia Optometric Association
- Stone’s campaign reimbursed his law firm $6,017 in January 2013 for rent for its campaign headquarters and campaign support.
Campaign to campaign donations
Candidates may make political donations with campaign funds, allowing prolific fund-raisers to share their contributions with other legislators or candidates. Some advocacy groups believe such transfers should be limited to an aggregate of $10,000 per election cycle. Stone’s committee made these political donations:
- 2011-12: $2,450
- 2013-14: $8,100
- 2015: $250
Lobbyists have reported paying for meals and other gifts for Stone valued at more than $4,600 since 2010. The big spenders: State Bar of Georgia ($410), Georgia Trial Lawyers Association ($378), Georgia World Congress Center ($329). BFF lobbyist: William Clark ($365).
- 2010: $33
- 2011: $1,864
- 2012: $1,209
- 2013: $438
- 2014: $925
- 2015: $151 through Feb. 11
Committee days & travel expenses
When the Legislature is out of session, members may collect $173 per diem, plus mileage, for attending a committee meeting or conducting other official business. Lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, which were originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging.
- 2011: $1,038 (6 days)
- 2012: $8,166 (34 days)
- 2013: $13,024 (54 days)
- 2014: $7,699 (31 days)
- 2015: $18,276 (84 days) #3 in Senate
Updated Jan. 10, 2017