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Gov's daughter starts ruckus in Habersham

State patrol post at issue



In what can be described as a case of bad political timing, the oldest daughter of Gov. Sonny Perdue has stirred up a feud with the board of commissioners of predominantly Republican Habersham County, where she makes her home.

In an article in last week's Northeast Georgian newspaper, Commissioner Douglas Vermilya accused Leigh Brown, Perdue's daughter, of having publicly threatened the county board if it didn't pony up the funding to build a proposed Georgia State Patrol post on State Route 365, the county's main highway.

"I don't appreciate a political gun being put to my head and I don't like being pushed into a corner with these types of threats," said Vermilya, a Republican who teaches at North Habersham Middle School.

The tiff began Oct. 13, when the newspaper printed a letter to the editor by Brown in which she sharply criticized the commission for failing to approve funding for the state patrol post. She then implied that troopers may not bother to enforce the speed limit along the route unless they're given a new facility.

"Does [the commission] not understand that if the county does not build the GSP post after it has told the State Patrol twice that it would, that the troopers are not going to have much motivation to patrol 365?" Brown's letter asks.

Her warning carries some weight because, in addition to being the governor's daughter, Brown also is married to a local state trooper.

In last week's article, Vermilya said he is so livid at Brown's apparent intimidation tactics that he is all but ready to scuttle any further discussion of funding for the post.

"When the daughter of the most powerful man in the state of Georgia publicly in a newspaper threatens that [state troopers] will not come and patrol our roads if we don't build their state patrol post ... I want to publicly say my support is seriously jeopardized," he told the newspaper.

Although there's no sign yet that his daughter's latest trooper-related imbroglio will cause Perdue any embarrassment, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2004, she divorced her schoolteacher husband, with whom she had two children, and quietly married a state trooper who worked in her father's security detail.

But even if the hostility between Brown and the county commission doesn't rise to the level of statewide consciousness, it adds to the level of political strife being felt in the extreme northeast corner of the state, where two of Georgia's most contentious legislative races are being waged.

In Habersham County, Republicans are worried about losing the state Senate seat occupied by far-right Christian activist Nancy Schaefer, who has recently alienated some longtime supporters by aligning herself with Scientologists in launching screwball attacks on the field of psychology. Next door in Stephens County, Jeanette Jamieson, a 20-year veteran House member, is in the fight of her political life, largely for having a "D" behind her name in a GOP stronghold.

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