Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 9, 2012

Dog Rescue

This dog, 28406, is still looking for a permanent home or five-month foster, or she’s likely to be euthanized in the coming days. You can adopt her for keeps, or foster her until a Gwinnett County inmate is released in five months; the inmate has bonded with her and would like to adopt her when he’s released.

The volunteers at Gwinnett County says she’s very well-behaved and sweet, great on a leash, and calm.

Black Friday sales continue at Gwinnett, where the following dogs are available today for $30 all-inclusive.

28472 above is a friendly, young baby lab mix who is available today.

28425 is also a young female black lab who is available today.

Here are two labs, one yellow and one black, who have become best buddies, and play together whenever they are allowed to. If anyone is interested in adopting them as a pair, we have a sponsor who will pay the difference between a “Black Friday Sale” price and regular adoption fees for them. So you can get both for $30 each. Contact us if you’re interested.  [Update: since posting this, we have learned that both these boys have been rescued.]

Also getting in on the “Black Friday Sale” action is DeKalb County Animal Services, where this beautiful black lab female is ready for adoption, and looking for someone to play with.
$40 takes her home today.

Finally, Angels Among Us Rescue is trying to save two mother dogs and their impending litters. Six hundred dollars and a foster home save this beautiful mother and her puppies. Please consider making a donation today. Please put “For yellow lab mother and puppies via GaPundit.” in the online donation form when making your gift. By identifying the source of donations, we gain credibility with the rescue organizations so that they’ll be able to take our word when we say, “the money will come to save this dog.” Thank you for the gifts you have made that saved six puppies in the last two weeks and for your continuing readership and support.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Democrat John Barrow returns to Congress, having soundly beaten Republican Jed Clampett Lee Anderson.

In his victory speech, Barrow said his win was proof that residents voted on the issues rather than by party.

“That is the only hope for our country, that members of Congress can do the same thing and look beyond the labels and focus on the issues we have in common,” Barrow said. “If the members of Congress would take the cue from the voters of the 12th District, we could actually get something done in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Richmond County was key to Barrow’s victory in the redrawn district. The Democrat won 72 percent of the votes in the largest county in the district, getting more than 55,000 votes.

Barrow had an uphill battle in defending his seat. The 12th District was redrawn by Georgia Republicans last year for the second time in his eight-year tenure, this time excluding his Savannah Democratic base and replacing it with most of Republican-leaning Columbia County and the remainder of Richmond County.

The redrawn 12th District includes only two counties – Richmond and Burke – that favored President Obama in 2008 and shifted the voting-age population from 45 percent black to just 33 percent black.

The east Georgia district’s counties are Appling, Bulloch, Burke, Candler, Coffee, Columbia, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Laurens, Montgomery, Richmond, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen and Wheeler.

Also returning to Congress is Paul Broun (R), who thrashed his write-in opponent Charles Darwin, though pulling 4000 votes in Clarke County after having been dead for 130 years may signal the next evolution in Georgia partisanship.

A campaign asking voters to write in Darwin’s name in the 10th District, which includes half of Athens-Clarke County and takes in a swath of eastern Georgia, began after Broun, speaking at a sportsmen’s banquet at a Hartwell church, called evolution and other areas of science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

“I can’t ever remember seeing a (write-in ballot) report that long,” Athens-Clarke County Elections Supervisor Gail Schrader said after releasing the write-in numbers to news media Thursday morning.

In addition to the write-in votes cast for Darwin in the district race, a handful of votes for the long-dead British scientist were cast in other races, and a host of other names were included as write-in votes in races, including the congressional contest.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D) was reelected.

Republican Meg Daly Heap was elected District Attorney for Chatham County, beating incumbent Democrat Larry Chisholm. Congratulations.

With all 89 precincts counted, Heap, who led throughout the night and will become the first woman to hold the office, had more than 56 percent of the vote to Chisolm’s total of just more than 44 percent, according to unofficial tallies.

“This has been a long and hard battle but one that I felt duty bound to fight,” an elated Heap said from the Mulberry Inn as her supporters celebrated around her.

She called the results humbling “because of the overwhelming support I have received over this past year.”

Heap was this election cycle’s fresh face against an incumbent in what was initially seen as a long-shot challenge. It featured her appeal to the entire community fueled by what she contended was a job that was not being done.

Heap, 48, and a veteran of 18 years as an assistant district attorney — 15 here — ran a tireless campaign for more than a year in which she pledged to return the office to its core mission of prosecuting criminals and providing justice to crime victims.

Chisolm, 53, four years ago was the community’s fresh face on the stump when he defeated then-Chief Assistant David Lock to become the county’s first black DA after a 28-year run by Spencer Lawton Jr.

He contended his experience as an assistant for 19 years under Lawton and four as district attorney made him the more experienced candidate this time around.

Heap made management style the biggest difference between the two, pledging to provide assistants with training and assets then “get out of their way was let them do their job.”

She criticized Chisolm for high turnover in the office and questioned his claims of courtroom successes in major cases.

Republican Jim Wright was elected District Attorney for Henry County in an open seat vacated by his boss, Tommy Floyd.

Wright defeated DeKalb County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Darius Pattillo. Wright got 45,766 votes, or 52.58 percent, and Pattillo got 41,234 votes, or 47.37 percent.

Wright has worked in the Henry County District Attorney’s office for 26 years, including 21 years as a prosecutor. Floyd, who has served six 4-year terms in office, announced his retirement in May.

Richard Roundtree, newly-elected Sheriff of Richmond County see some changes ahead for the Department.

“I just took a day to myself to reflect,” he said Thursday. “Now it’s back to work. There is a lot to do.”

Roundtree leaves Sunday for a four-week training course for new sheriffs in Forsyth, Ga., so his main goal this week is to meet with Sheriff Ronnie Strength to begin discussing the transition. Strength has pledged to help in any way he can.

“I want everything to be in place by Dec. 20,” Round­tree said, referring to the day he will take his oath of office.

After he completes training, Roundtree said, he wants to focus on personnel changes. He plans to get a handle on the number of open jobs and any impending departures before making decisions about reshuffling positions or creating new ones.

The only major change he intends to make is the creation of a Volunteer Services Division, which will administer a volunteer deputy program, a citizens advisory board and an Explorer program for youths.

Clayton County has only themselves to thank for the fact that felony-indicted Victor Hill was elected again as Sheriff.

Analysis

We’ll continue in upcoming editions to cover election results from across the state, but with the results chosen above, we’ll offer our analysis today.

For those of us who have been in Georgia politics for 20+ years, it’s an uncomfortable parallel: a party that completely dominates Georgia, holding all the statewide offices, and large majorities in the General Assembly and Congressional delegation, but has been shut out nationally at the Presidential level. In the early 1990s, that was the Democratic Party of Georgia, but now it’s us.

For some the story of election night at the state level was that the GOP gained a supermajority in the state Senate with the election of Republican Hunter Hill, but narrowly missed one in the House. Here’s one problem we have as a party moving forward:

In reality, however, it promises to be difficult for Republicans to muster every one of their House members or senators to line up behind any given legislative proposal.

We now know that Independent State Rep. Rusty Kidd, whose district tends toward electing Democrats, may join the GOP.

“I don’t feel like I owe the Democratic Party anything… not even the time of day.  Because in the last four years , they’ve spend over $250,000 trying to get me defeated,” he says.

Kidd would give House Republicans the 120 seats needed for a super majority there.

He says he plans to meet with House Speaker David Ralston in the next two weeks, although there is a House Republican caucus meeting Monday to elect party leaders.

“I was hoping to have another Independent or so to win this year so we could move to a larger phone booth for our caucus meetings, but that didn’t take place,” Kidd jokes.

The bigger problem is that we unfortunately mirror Mitt Romney’s failure to convert swing states by our continuing inability to convert marginal districts, especially in the Metro Atlanta area. As demographic changes threaten our ability to elect statewide officials and large numbers of legislators. Here’s Walter Jones, whose article is worth reading in its entirety:

Tuesday’s election results leave Georgia’s political leaders facing a question with three options.

Republicans spent all fall pooh-poohing national polls that showed President Barack Obama ahead because they said the pollsters were wrongly assuming that blacks, Hispanics and Asian voters would turn out at the same level as they had in 2008. Well, the pollsters were correct after all.

That means ‘08 wasn’t a fluke but the start of a trend, one that is driven by a demographic steam engine that continues to barrel forward, disrupting 236 years of political dominance by mostly men who trace their ancestry to Western Europe.

In recent years, the political parties have cleft along racial lines, and Tuesday’s voting followed that pattern.

So, the white Republican men who hold every top elected office in this state can either (a.) modify their positions enough to win support from voters of color, (b.) convince voters of color to modify their positions, or (c.) eventually become a permanent minority.

The people of color have their own challenges. They must stop electing incompetent or unethical people. The black majority in Chatham County elected its first black district attorney four years ago, Larry Chisolm, and then booted him Tuesday for repeated incompetence. Likewise in Clayton County where voters had elected their first black sheriff eight years ago, Victor Hill, then ejected him in the next election for ethics problems, only to put him back into office Tuesday because his replacement was incompetent, meaning they re-elected a man with multiple indictments who’s legally ineligible from serving.

Plus, Clayton County’s school board members were just the first of several in which people of color have been removed for ethical problems.

As Republicans rehash Tuesday’s presidential results, they are likely to initially grasp at the least disturbing explanation, that Mitt Romney executed poorly. It’s easier to blame the candidate than to have to confront the three choices. Some pragmatists will note that option (b.) hasn’t worked to convince voters of color to change their views, and so they will push for the first option, the hardest because it requires compromise and personal change.

How the party makes its choice, here in Georgia and nationally, will be interesting to watch in the coming months.

Blaming Romney isn’t enough, because if we intend to remain competitive for the next twenty years, we need to look closer at home. The first step is figuring out we have a problem and admitting it to ourselves. That problem lies in competitive districts.

Chris Boedeker’s loss to Democrat Scott Holcomb in House District 81 is easy to shrug off as having been caused by the incompetence and mean-spiritedness that led them to run a TV ad lying about Holcomb’s military service. But simply writing if off that way ignores the fact that Boedeker was able to become the GOP nominee over an arguably moderate Carla Brown, who almost certainly would not have made such a stupid move in the General Election. If Clayton County has only itself to blame for Victor Hill, DeKalb Republicans must take responsibility for Chris Boedeker.

Mike Jacobs in neighboring House District 80 has avoided such missteps, but he is a distinct version of what being Republican can mean. Fiscally conservative and socially moderate, he built a record of near-70% wins in a district that leaned Democrat before the latest redistricting supplemented GOP numbers there. But the GOP might not have accepted that ideological combination if he’d first entered the legislature through a Republican Primary.

DeKalb County’s Senator Fran Millar (Dunwoody) fits the same mold as Jacobs, fiscal conservatism with less social conservatism. Most won’t remember it, but in 1998, he won the GOP nomination against a more conservative candidate who took him to task.

Sam Teasley in Cobb County cannot be said to be anything but a stalwart Conservative, but he was able to win a marginal district in 2010 through shoe leather and not looking crazy. That’s another model for winning these districts, and again, Sam didn’t have to go through a Republican Primary, which might have damaged him enough to make the General Election against a Democratic incumbent impossible to win.

Bob Snelling in Douglas County lost to his Democratic opponent Kimberly Alexander after a bruising GOP Primary and Primary Runoff. I don’t know enough about that race to know whether Bob was forced to run too far left in the Primary to be viable in the General, or if other factors effected it, but it does appear to fit the pattern for Metro Atlanta GOP losses.

Moving forward, we as Republicans must consider whether bruising GOP Primaries contribute to our losses in marginal districts, and whether there is a constructive way of moving forward with our principles intact. The first step, to reiterate, is admitting we have a problem.

Ends & Pieces

An elections investigator from the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be visiting Rockdale County today for prayer meetings with the Board of Elections.

Chris Perlera, deputy press secretary for the Secretary of State’s Office, said he could not elaborate on why the investigator will be in Rockdale. A phone call seeking information from the Board of Elections was not immediately returned.

The investigator will be in Rockdale on the same day that the Board of Elections will be counting the final ballots in Tuesday’s General Election. Most ballots were counted Tuesday night, but the ones that could ultimately decide the race for Rockdale County sheriff will be counted Friday.

According to Cynthia Welch, Rockdale’s elections supervisor, all military/civilian overseas, absentee by mail and provisional ballots will be counted today at 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections and Registration Office, 1400 Parker Road, Lobby C. The results will be announced at that time.

Prior to the count, the Board of Elections is determining how many of the 237 provisional ballots cast Tuesday will be rejected and how many will be accepted. Because the sheriff’s race was determined by a razor thin margin, those ballots will play a key role in determining who will be the next sheriff of Rockdale County.

In Tuesday’s balloting, incumbent Republican Sheriff Jeff Wigington received 49.98 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Eric Levett’s 49.93 percent, a difference of 18 votes.

In an email Thursday, Welch said the BOE had not yet finalized the number of provisional ballots that would be accepted and counted.

“We are continuing to research and validate provisional ballots; therefore, we do not have a count on how many will be accepted and rejected,” Welch said. “We hope to have this number by (Friday) morning at the latest.”

Perhaps Kemp will send someone a couple streets over to Fulton County to pray with the Elections Board there. I’d start with the serenity prayer, and segue into the competence prayer.

Election officials in the Atlanta area are defending their decision to allow singer Usher to bypass long lines and cast his ballot on Election Day, infuriating voters who had to wait.

Fulton County election officials tell WSB-TV (http://bit.ly/SxrgzP) that Usher Raymond IV was escorted to the front of the line to minimize distractions at his Roswell polling place. They said in a statement that poll manager Frank Padula was directed to move Usher through the process as quickly as possible.

WSB reports that Usher took cellphone pictures of himself voting, then posted them on Twitter.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann questioned the decision. Hausmann said she can think of only a few people who might deserve such treatment, such as people with disabilities, the elderly and voters with small children.

Also, maybe the General Assembly should consider this year putting in place procedures for stronger oversight by the Secretary of State in counties where the Board of Elections has a proven track record of problems. I’m looking at you, Fulton County.

Across the county on Election Day, voters complained of broken machines, outages and incorrect address listings that led to a high number of provisional ballots. It’s exactly the kind of widespread problem Fulton County election leaders had hoped to avoid.

The problem got so bad that many precincts ran out of provisional ballots and led Secretary of State Brian Kemp to launch an investigation.

“I’m very frustrated,” Kemp said. “I think I’ve been clear about that, and I think I’m not the only one.”

On Tuesday, Mitchell called it a training issue. Poll managers inexplicably either didn’t know, or didn’t know how to check the supplemental voter rolls.

“I don’t know why that we continue to have problems in Fulton, and we’re not having them in other places,” Kemp said.

Kemp is now turning up the heat on elections officials to verify and count what he calls a “historic” number of provisional ballots by the Friday deadline.

“We’re going to continue our investigation to make sure we know exactly what happened, and if there were election rules that were violated or laws, they’ll have to answer to that,” Kemp said.

Meanwhile, Kemp said his top priority will be working with the county to make sure all the provisional ballots are properly counted and will then look long-term at how best to fix any systemic problems.

The number of provisional ballots in Fulton County exceeded 11,000.

Sarah Shalf, chairwoman of Georgia Election Protection, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, expressed concerns about whether Fulton officials would be able to review so many provisional ballots by the Friday 5 p.m. deadline. She said her organization is encouraging voters to follow-up with the registrars with evidence that they were properly registered by Tuesday. That could be as simple as a print out from the master state voter list on Kemp’s website.

“Longer term, we are concerned about voters having confidence in the elections process in Fulton County,” Shalf said, referring to a series of elections mishaps in recent years. “The specific nature of the problems may differ from year to year, but the mismanagement and failure to anticipate a crisis suggests systemic problems across multiple elections directors.”

The number of complaints about Fulton County’s handling of the elections is at “75 and rising.”

The state is continuing to investigate and respond to new complaints — about “75 and rising,” according to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp — of poll workers having trouble locating people on voter rolls, even though they registered in time; wrongly steering some voters to provisional ballots — paper ballots that are counted only after voter registration information is verified; and denying those ballots to others.

An unknown number of precincts ran out of the provisional ballots and possibly disenfranchised voters who gave up and left.

“Given the constant and systemic nature of election failures in Fulton County, I think that every option for remediation of Fulton County elections should be on the table moving forward,” Kemp said Wednesday.

Those options include changing state law to give Kemp’s office the authority to more quickly intervene in what he has called a “debacle.”

Add this to the list of things that I wouldn’t say.

Calvary Baptist Church of Trenton posted a message that reads: “Election / Gays Win / Unborn Lost.”

Congratulations to Chris Wright, who was elected Mayor of Dawson, Georgia at the ripe old age of 22. That’ll look great on his resume after he graduates from Albany Tech.

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