Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 3, 2014

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Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 3, 2014

The Stars and Stripes first flew in battle on September 3, 1776 at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware.

A fleet of 22 French ships arrived off the coast of Savannah on September 3, 1779 to help wrest control of the city from the British.

On September 3, 1862, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in Atlanta and within five miles of its border by the Confederate government. Two years later, September 3, 1864, General William T. Sherman would occupy Atlanta.

The Georgia General Assembly expelled 25 of 29 African-American members from the State House on September 3, 1868, arguing that Georgia’s constitution did not allow them to hold office.

Anne Frank, age 15, and seven other Jews who were hiding together in Amsterdam were the last Dutch prisoners transported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.

Having received the Democratic nomination for President, Jimmy Carter began the General Election with an address from his front porch in Plains, Georgia on September 3, 1976.

Lunch today?

Today, I’ll be speaking to the North Metro Republican Women’s lunch at 11:30 AM, at Heritage Sandy Springs, 6110 Blue Stone Road, NE, Sandy Springs, GA 30328. The cost for lunch is $18.oo and will be provided by Royal Affair. I’ll be discussing “Lessons from the 2014 Georgia Senate Primary” and maybe we’ll dig into a poll that was released yesterday. I hope to see you there.

Georgia Politics

GaPundit.com ran a poll for WRBL News 3 Columbus, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and PMB Radio that included the Gubernatorial and Senatorial races, along with State School Superintendent, the only other statewide office without an incumbent.

Here are the numbers:

Governor of Georgia
Nathan Deal (R) 43.60%
Jason Carter (D) 41.51%
Andrew Hunt (L) 6.59%
Undecided 8.30%

United States Senate
David Perdue (R) 43.09%
Michelle Nunn (D) 44.74%
Amanda Swafford (L) 7.41%
Undecided 4.75%

Georgia State School Superintendent
Richard Woods (R) 46.89%
Valarie Wilson (D) 43.6%
Undecided 9.95%

Voters will also decide three ballot questions in November.

Constitutional Amendment One: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the maximum state income tax rate?

Yes 57.03%
No 21.42%
Undecided 21.55%

Constitution Amendment Two: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional reckless driving penalties or fees to be added to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative services for Georgia citizens who have survived neurotrauma with head or spinal cord injuries?

Yes 51.46%
No 29.15%
Undecided 19.39%

Referendum Question: Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

Yes 59.19%
No 23.19%
Undecided 17.62%

We’ll be digging into the crosstabs this week for some more analysis, but first, here’s some of what I told Jessi Mitchell from WRBL yesterday:

“It is a much more competitive race than anyone thought six months ago,” GaPundit.com Editor Todd Rehm told WRBL News 3′s Jessi Mitchell Tuesday. “Democrats are at a disadvantage but less of a disadvantage than they have been historically.”

Rehm speculates a democratic win in this recently republican-controlled state would be a huge boost for the party’s national agenda.

“If Georgia joins those states that are a toss up in the electoral category that makes the map much more favorable to the democrats not just in 2016 but for the future beyond that,” Rehm said speaking about both future presidential and congressional races.

“Carter has a lot going for him but what he doesn’t have is a clearly articulated plan,” Rehm said. “Without a clear vision he’s left to flail around and criticize the incumbent.”

The WRBL/Ledger-Enquirer/PMB poll shows that while third party candidates have some weight they do not currently have enough favoritism to win. Rehm speculates those voters may decide to throw their weight beyond other leading candidates.

“One of the things we’ve seen across the nation is a detachment of a lot of voters from traditional party structures,” Rehm said. “At end of the day as people turn up in the voting booth I think they’re likely to revert to their typical habitual behavior.”

Democrat Michelle Nunn shows a slight lead over republican David Perdue in Tuesday’s poll. Nunn was selected by 44.74% of those polled; Perdue was selected by 43.09%.

Rehm said a lot of this election is going to have to do with gender.

“Michelle Nunn does poll better among women,” Rehm said. “Her campaign is designed to do better among women. She was chosen and promoted partly to do better among women.”

Candidates who typically do well among men are doing better amongst male voters while those who typically do well among female voters are holding onto more of that vote, Rehm said. He speculates Nunn could benefit well from this because typically more women turn out to vote than men.

Analysis

This is the most rigorous analysis of the Georgia races that you’ll read anywhere. If you disagree with something, be prepared to back it up with citations and numbers. I may be wrong, but you’ll have to prove it.

First of all, the minute differences between the candidates at the top of the ticket are relatively meaningless. After the 2014 Senate Primary elections, we can say that a point or two can be driven by voter enthusiasm for their candidate, direct voter contact, social media, or even the weather and traffic patterns locally.  A race like this is too close to be called, and we may be headed into extra innings in the form of a runoff election or elections.

Second, trends at the national level favor Republican candidates and I don’t see this changing between now and the election. Basement-level approval ratings for Democrat Barack Obama and the traditional “surge and decline” in which the party holding the White House tends to runs more weakly in the midterm elections both mean that independent and undecided voters should break for Republican candidates.

Republicans have the advantages of a friendly turf, the history of this political cycle — which favors the party that doesn’t hold the White House — and the waning popularity of President Barack Obama, who sometimes seems indifferent.

Democrats hope to minimize losses as stronger candidates face a few gaffe-prone opponents, and by benefiting from a superior ground game or voter turnout machine and the waning popularity of the Republican brand.

As the nine-week home stretch starts, Republicans have a tailwind. They are solid favorites to capture three seats of retiring Democrats: Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Then, of the eight races both sides agree are very competitive, Democrats are defending six. A half-dozen states — Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina — were carried by Mitt Romney two years ago; Colorado and Iowa went Democratic then. There are only two Republican-held seats subject to serious challenge, Georgia and Kentucky, where the party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, is almost as unpopular as Obama.

Democratic strategists [] believe that in a number of states their candidate will outperform polls by a point or two because of a superior voter targeting and turnout apparatus, building on Obama’s campaign infrastructure. Unlike the last midterm elections, in 2010, when Republicans dominated, they predict respectable turnouts from black voters, Hispanics and unmarried women.

Republicans counter that their voters are more enthusiastic and thus more likely to turn out. They acknowledge that the party’s brand name is worse than it was two or four years ago, though they argue that this midterm contest is overshadowed by the president’s negatives.

Third, while I think that many within the electorate here in Georgia have become alienated from the two party structures, I suspect they’ll revert to habitual behavior. The alienation of voters from the political parties is indicated by low approval ratings for the parties, and, I would argue, David Perdue’s winning the Republican Primary for United States Senate in a runoff where most activists seemed to be in the Jack Kingston camp. In Georgia, for many voters, that means checking the box next to the Republican. This means that while the Libertarian candidates for Governor and Senate are showing strongly in this poll, I expect their numbers to decline. It’s not uncommon for third-party candidates to poll better than they pull on election day.

Popular dissatisfaction with both parties — and bitter campaigns that are driving up candidates’ negatives on both sides — have helped boost third-party candidates in a number of states into the high single digits.

It’s not that common that third-party candidates can sway an election, and they often fare much better in early polls than on election day as “protest voters” come home to the major parties or stay home.

Nationally, a lot of polls are showing stronger than usual polling for third-party candidates.

In Georgia, of course, strong showing by the Libertarians have the possibility of forcing a runoff.

Fourth, I weighted African-American respondents to 29.72% in this poll. Some folks think this is too high, but trends over the last two elections suggest that if anything it may be too low. Earlier this summer, Nate Cohn wrote in The New York Times:

Georgia might well be moving down the same road as Virginia. No other plausibly competitive state — not Nevada or Virginia, not Colorado or North Carolina — has had a change in the racial composition of the electorate that’s as favorable for Democrats.

Since 2000, the white share of registered voters in Georgia has fallen to 59 percent, from 72 percent. That’s mainly because of demographic change — the white share of eligible voters has fallen to 60 percent from 68 percent over the same period.

What makes this decline particularly helpful for Democrats is that 48 percent of the newly eligible nonwhite voters are black.

Over the past decade, Georgia’s pool of eligible black voters grew by nearly 600,000, compared with about 375,000 newly eligible white voters. Some of this is because of generational change, but many new black voters have moved from expensive northeastern cities to growing middle-class suburban communities on the south side of Atlanta.

Thanks in part to the surge in voter registration ahead of President Obama’s election in 2008, more than 500,000 new black voters have been added to the rolls since 2000, along with 466,000 other nonwhite voters, compared with 111,275 more registered white voters. Georgia is now one of only a few states where a larger percentage of eligible nonwhite voters is registered than eligible white voters.

John Barrow: Honorable Mention?

One notable development this year was John Barrow leaving most of the published lists of most vulnerable incumbents, but Roll Call has added him with an “honorable mention” addition to their latest list.

By the numbers, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., should belong on this list, especially since both campaign committees started airing advertisements in the 12th District weeks ago. But Barrow’s own memorable advertisements, plus his survival rate in a district Romney won by 11 points, keep him off of this list – for now.

Tesla under fire in Georgia

Georgia Politics Tesla Model S at Georgia Capitol

Tesla Motors, an American success story, is under fire in the Peach State for having the audacity to sell cars to people who want to buy them. From the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

Georgia could become the latest state to ban Tesla Motors from selling its all-electric sedans.

The Georgia Automobile Dealers Association (GADA) filed a petition with the state Department of Revenue Aug. 28, arguing Tesla’s direct sales model violates Georgia law.

Unlike the rest of the auto industry, Silicon Valley-based Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) sells its $100,000 Model S sedan directly to customers, bypassing franchised dealer networks. Tesla declined comment.

Tesla, which argues its hands-on model offers better control on the buying experience and eliminates middleman costs, is trying to overturn dealership-friendly laws in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. State lawmakers in New York nearly passed a bill last year that would have made Tesla sales illegal in the state.

Tesla, late Tuesday, said it is in compliance with all Georgia laws in the opening and operation of its retail operations in the state.

“The petition filed by the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to stifle new innovation and eliminate consumer choice by trying to establish a monopoly that restricts the way consumers can buy new vehicles,” Tesla noted in a statement. “As with similar battles in other states, Tesla will use all means necessary to defend itself and the rights of consumers to decide how and where they spend their hard-earned money.”

It’s like if CompUSA (remember them) had sued Apple to prevent the manufacturer from opening Apple stores and from selling computers online.

Here’s the real money quote, from Bloomberg:

Musk, 43, has said Tesla’s sales in China may match its U.S. business by as early as 2015, and eventually become its biggest single market. The company’s overseas prospects may lessen the significance of its domestic disputes with dealers, Ibara said.

“It may be that Tesla’s future rests more with sales in China so these battles will become less critical for Tesla to win.”

So the CEO of an American company is saying that China’s market is more open than Georgia? What’s the issue between Tesla and Georgia? The issue is protecting an existing group of businesses, franchised auto dealers.

Tesla has been battling with dealer organizations nationwide over its rights to sell cars directly to shoppers. Most states require carmakers to use independently-owned dealership networks to sell their cars, but in some states there are loopholes that allow Tesla-owned stores to operate.

Tesla argues that it needs to be able to sell directly to customers because company-owned stores have sales people who are familiar with the advantages of electric cars and who are motivated to sell them. Dealership groups argue that having independent dealers sell the cars provides a level of protection to car buyers that’s unmatched in company-owned stores.

Here’s some more from Yahoo:

Tesla’s crime? Selling 173 cars directly from a factory-owned store located 25 miles away from Atlanta, the only Tesla retail location in Georgia. The dealers say Tesla can only sell 150 cars a year from the shop under state rules, and therefore should lose its dealer license entirely.

“It’s just very simple — we want them to comply with the law the way others are,” Bill Morie, president of the Georgia dealers association, told Automotive News.

The elimination of one store in a state of 10 million people may seem like a minor blow given that there is still a five-month waiting list for the Tesla Model S. But the long-term cost to Tesla may be far greater than most consumers and investors would imagine.

If the dealers prevail, here’s where the nearest Tesla outlets would be, and their respective distances from metro Atlanta:

Nashville: 4 hours
Tampa: 6 hours
St. Louis: Over 8 hours.

This is possible becase special-interest groups in the auto industry have extremely tight relationships with statehouse legislators. These relationships are so well-honed that certain dealer-sponsored legislation can often pass unanimously —even if it will amount to a substantial tax increase for the citizens of that state.

That is exactly what took place in Georgia in 2013. Private sales of motor vehicles used to be non-taxable in the Peach State. A private-party transaction resulted in no taxes charged or collected between the parties. This law made sense, since most car owners are not car dealers.

Unfortunately for Georgians, the state wanted more revenue. This resulted in the introduction of a “Title Added Value Tax” which meant that everyone would pay a flat 6.5% tax based on a vehicle’s value. Everyone paying the same sounds like a fair deal, but in the end that’s not what happened.

Georgia dealers that self-finance vehicles (buy-here, pay-here dealers) were given a 2.5% tax reduction that lowered their tax rate to only 4%. Also, trade-ins were allowed to be used as deductions, which gave dealers another edge over private sellers. The bill passed unanimously through the Senate with 95% of House members voting for it as well.

So the allegation is that auto dealer lobbyists are so close to state legislators that not only are they able to prevent you from buying a legal and safe product, but the existing dealers were able to finagle themselves tax advantages in a bill that raised the price of buying a new or used car for Georgia consumers. Is that what we stand for?

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