Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 30, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 30, 2015

On November 30, 1782, British and American signed a preliminary treaty in Paris to end the American Revolution, which included withdrawal of British troops and recognition of American independence.

Georgia ratified the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution on November 29, 1794, which reads,

The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution to partition Palestine and allow the creation of a Jewish state of Israel.

The Tawana Brawley case began on November 28, 1987; the greatest lasting impact would be the rise to celebrity of community activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

For those who are involved in elections in the coming year, I’ve created a Google Calendar with the important election and ethics filing dates for the 2016 Elections. Click here for the online version. If you know what you’re doing, you can add this to your personal calendar on your iPhone or whatever other device you use. When you open that page, you won’t initially see any events, as they’re far enough in the future to not show up in Agenda view, but just click “Look for More” until it shows you the time range you’re interested in.

Today, the Donald Trump show rolls into Macon for a rally at 7:30 PM at the Macon Centreplex.

The campaign is distributing free tickets online for the event. Brandon Phillips, the Georgia director of Trump’s campaign, deferred questions about the number of tickets distributed as of Friday to Hope Hicks, Trump’s national media spokeswoman. Hicks did not respond to an email, however.

David Higdon, the coliseum’s event manager, said he didn’t know how many tickets had been distributed, but he’s expecting a big crowd. Based on the numbers Trump has drawn at similar events — and the buzz he’s been hearing about the Macon rally — Higdon said he looking for a capacity crowd of 8,000.

“I’m anticipating a full house,” he said. “I think a lot of people are going to come.”

[Bibb County Sheriff David] Davis said deputies will help escort Trump to and from the event and with directing traffic. He did not expect there would be reimbursement for the cost, but Davis said that is standard practice for such events.

Suzanne Wood, a former chairwoman of the Bibb County Republican Party, said the local group’s involvement with the event has primarily been to round up volunteers to help with the crowd and seating. She said she expects people to come from a wide area of the state, and she has even had people from Florida contact her about coming.

Wood said she has heard many people say they are coming — even though they don’t necessarily support Trump.

One of those is Mary Huffstetler, who is going with her husband and their two children. She called herself a conservative and said she is undecided on which candidate she will vote for in the primary.

“I am very excited to hear what he has to say,” she said. “I think he is unconventional and people are always looking for something that is not predictable.”

I’ll be checking in from Macon on Twitter using the hashtag #TrumpMacon.

Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy of the AJC puts Trump’s visit in the context of the mounting competition for votes in the SEC Primary.

With three months to go until the SEC primary, a handful of presidential campaigns are already making inroads in Georgia and other states voting in the March 1 delegate bonanza, bringing the unsettled race more sharply into focus.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump — who holds a rally in Macon on Monday night — and Ben Carson have been doing what few expected when the two outsiders burst on the scene this summer: organizing real campaigns in the SEC states.

They are not the only ones. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, dominates the scene in his home state, which has the largest trove of delegates on March 1, while building a formidable list of grass-roots backers elsewhere in the region.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has seen his support grow in recent weeks. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose campaign has struggled for traction, still has regional ties and the money to hang in through March 1.

“Cruz has kind of been the little engine that could in many respects,” said Chip Lake, an unaligned Georgia Republican political consultant. “He has had a very consistent organization with some top-notch leaders.”

“Atlanta is not simply a money stop anymore. We’re now seeing organizational efforts in Georgia and the Southeast like you didn’t see in earlier cycles,” said John Watson, a political consultant in Atlanta. “Candidates are actually spending time and resources to organize in places like Georgia.”

Ask state Rep. Terry Rogers, R-Clarkesville, whether he’s noticed a difference this cycle, and he will quickly rattle off the names of 10 GOP presidential candidates.

“Those are the candidates I’ve personally met this year. And I didn’t meet them just because I was a legislator — I met most outside the Capitol,” he said. “I never would have had that chance before. The only candidate I saw last time? Newt Gingrich.”

District Attorney Scott Ballard (R), who oversees the Griffin Judicial Circuit comprising Fayette, Pike, Spalding, and Upson Counties, will run for Superior Court in 2016 against incumbent Judge Tommy R. Hankinson.

“I decided at some point to step back and assess where I’m needed the most,” said Ballard. “I feel like I’m doing what I should do, not what’s safest, but how I can best serve.”

Ballard, a native Fayette Countian, was first elected as district attorney in 2005. Hankinson lives in Upson County, the southern-most point in the district.

Because he can’t run for both offices, Ballard will be serving his last year as D.A. in 2016.

With Ballard’s upcoming departure, there are others who want to fill the district attorney’s position for Fayette, Spalding, Upson and Pike counties.

To date, those include Fayette County attorney Cindy Manning and Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Ben Coker.

Voting Tomorrow

Many areas in Georgia will have runoff or special elections tomorrow. To check on where you’ll vote, sign into the Secretary of State’s MVP website and note that some municipal elections have different voting places than even-year elections.

If you have any question whether a single vote will make a difference, check out Soperton, Georgia where a 243-243 tie vote sent the Mayor’s race into a runoff.

After the November 3rd Soperton mayoral election ended in a tie, the two candidates are now locked in a runoff.

One is a political newcomer. The other is a veteran council member who’s facing criminal charges.

The options are Josh Kelly, the newcomer to politics, or Royce Fowler who recently resigned his City Council seat to run for mayor. Although it’s his first venture in politics, Kelly said Wednesday that he believes he made the right choice.

The initial election ended in a 243 to 243 tie. Those results came after three of the five provisional ballots were tossed out and a recount that showed Kelly picking up two votes.

But the results also sparked a controversy over the criminal charges against Fowler. He faces battery and terroristic threats charges that stemmed from a fight with another man.

The election is Tuesday and the new mayor is scheduled to begin the four-year term January 1st.

In Ringgold’s November election, only three votes separated the top two candidates, who will be in a runoff tomorrow.

Current vice mayor Nick Millwood and newcomer Tony Hullender are vying for the seat, having been separated by only three votes during the November general city election.

Hullender garnered the most votes 147 (38.28%), while Millwood pulled in 144 votes (37.5%). Jerry Payne finished third in the race, receiving 92 votes (23.96%).

Almost 200 people cast their ballots early in the general election over a three-week stretch.

Carrollton voters return to the polls tomorrow to choose a new Mayor. Only about 8 percent of registered voters cast early ballots in Carrollton.

Incumbent Douglasville Mayor Harvey Persons meets challenger Rochelle Robinson tomorrow in a runoff election.

In Johns Creek, voters will decide two City Council seats in runoff elections tomorrow.

Two of the races involve Post 2. One race, which features candidates Todd Burkhalter and Chris Coughlin, fills an unexpired term that ends Dec. 31, 2015. The seat was vacated by Brad Raffensperger, who ran for state Senate.

The second race, which features Coughlin and fellow candidate Jay Lin, is a full four-year term that starts in January.

The third race, for Post 5, involves candidates Nazeera Dawood and Stephanie Endres, who are vying to fill the unexpired term of Kelly Stewart, who also resigned to run for state Senate. That term expires Dec. 31, 2017.

Election Day polling locations will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 1 so residents can cast their ballots for the 2015 municipal election runoff.

Low early voting turnout in Gainesville Ward Three may suggest low turnout tomorrow.

About 18 percent of registered voters in the city cast ballots in the November general election, the highest turnout in recent municipal elections. But officials expect that number to fall in the runoff.

“I’ve been working overtime to get out the vote,” Cheek, an outreach unit program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, said. “The cost to the city is an extreme amount (if people don’t vote).”

Senate District 20 in Middle Georgia also saw low turnout in early voting in advance of tomorrow’s Special Election.

Houston County Elections Technician Andy Holland says not everyone has taken advantage of the opportunity.

“There’s been very low turnout,” he says. Holland admits special elections usually don’t bring out as much of a crowd. However, he says with the time of year, there have been much fewer than normal.

“With early voting we’ve seen just under 1,400 people and there’s over 50,000 that are eligible just in Houston County.”

Six candidates–all Republican–are vying for the Senate Seat.

The candidates in the House District 122 Special Runoff Election answered questions for The Columbia County News-Times.

Q: Should the Georgia reduce or eliminate the state income tax, and if so, how do you propose that should be done?

Jodi Lott: Yes. Georgia should work towards the total elimination of the state income tax to be replaced by a FairTax. A FairTax will allow for Georgians to keep more money in their paychecks by eliminating the 6 percent Georgia income tax and replacing the state’s revenue with a consumption-based tax system. The consumption-based tax allows the consumer to choose their level of tax burden through their purchases.

Mack Taylor: In the state House, I will vote to eliminate or reduce the state income tax if the reform measure does not create a deficit or cause burdensome taxation elsewhere. We must keep Georgia competitive but need to be on guard against government shell games that cut here and tax there.

In that race, the Augusta Chronicle endorsed Jodi Lott as well as Greg Grzybowski in County Commission District 3.

Savannah is seeing low early voting turnout in municipal races, which include incumbent Democratic Mayor Edna Jackson and challenger Eddie DeLoach.

In the last general election for Mayor, Savannah polling places saw less than one third of the electorate come out to vote. With more than six thousand fewer registered voters this election cycle, exactly 37.6% of total registered voters were counted by the board of elections as casting ballots in 2015.

Now that early voting has opened up for the December runoff, it is a similar picture on the runoff election ballot box as voters had four years ag, but election officials are hoping for a different voter outcome.

“People’s minds may be on holiday shopping and thing like that, we’re hoping that they’re going to take a few minutes to refocus and come back out and vote because it’s really important,” says Chatham county board of elections chairman Tom Mahoney III.

News 3 looked over past election turnouts with the elections chairman to find more of the Savannah electorate voted in the 2014 national and state elections than this years local elections by double digits. The board of elections recorded more than 51% of registered voters voted in 2014, that’s nearly 14% higher than in 2015.

Early voting numbers are promising for Republican JaNice Van Ness in the Special Runoff Election for Senate District 43, where the reported numbers are:

SD 43 Early Voting Runoff ALL VOTES NOVEMBER
DeKalb 132 4.78% 1493 18.49%
Newton 522 18.89% 2577 31.91%
Rockdale 2110 76.34% 4005 49.60%
TOTAL 2764 8075

I’ve since been told that DeKalb County dramatically under-reported early voters in the November Special Election, so that county’s numbers may be off. But Rockdale early voting turnout is already more than 50% of ballots cast earlier this month. In that election, Van Ness took nearly 55% of votes cast in her home county of Rockdale.

Government and Campaign Technology

The Bernie Sanders campaign rolled out something I’d never heard of – an AppleTV campaign app.

The White House contender’s digital consultants created an app that’s available through the set-top box and it’s received around 1,000 downloads since it became available in mid November, according to Revolution Messaging, which heads up Sanders’ digital team

The Sanders camp boasts it’s the first presidential campaign with an Apple TV app. But aside from being a pioneer, it’s questionable what tangible benefits the senator’s effort can glean from its envelope-pushing venture. Revolution Messaging’s Walker Hamilton admits the move was driven less by practicality than the consultants’ curiosity and the campaign’s desire to incorporate as much technology as possible.

Still, he said, there will be benefits. While most of the downloads will likely come from hardcore supporters, there’s the possibility for the Sanders camp to make in-channel solicitations for donations. Moreover, Sanders also gets the personal information of those who download the app.

In the long run, it could be used to message test, but for now the Sanders campaign is happy to just have another way to get its message out.

“I think that accessibility via a number of channels is really the name of the game now,” said Hamilton, Revolution’s chief technology officer. “This is just another way of consuming the message.”

And some scary Big Brother news – now your “Smart TV” may be spying on you.

Vizio’s Smart TVs track your viewing habits and share it with advertisers, who can then find you on your phone and other devices.

The tracking — which Vizio calls “Smart Interactivity” — is turned on by default for the more than 10 million Smart TVs that the company has sold. Customers who want to escape it have to opt-out.

Vizio’s actions appear to go beyond what others are doing in the emerging interactive television industry. Vizio rivals Samsung and LG Electronics only track users’ viewing habits if customers choose to turn the feature on. And unlike Vizio, they don’t appear to provide the information in a form that allows advertisers to reach users on other devices.

Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address – the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.

IP addresses can increasingly be linked to individuals. Data broker Experian, for instance, offers a “data enrichment” service that provide “hundreds of attributes” such as age, profession and “wealth indicators” tied to a particular IP address.

Cable TV companies and video rental companies are prohibited by law from selling information about the viewing habits of their customers. However, Vizio says that those laws – the Video Privacy Protection Act and cable subscriber protections – don’t apply to its business.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis will take to Twitter today from 11 AM to Noon for a Twitter Town Hall. Follow his account and the hashtag #HeyHardie.

The award for worst political headline of the year goes to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for this misleadingly titled, “Poll shows overwheming support for MARTA in north Fulton.”

AJC Twitter Poll North Fulton

That’s not a poll by any reasonable definition. It’s certainly an interesting use of Twitter, but I think it’s goofy to call anything a poll without qualifying it’s only a Twitter poll. Especially in a headline on a hot political issue. This other story by the AJC references a real poll, but the headlines are so closely worded that you could easily mistake the Twitter poll as carrying the same probative value as the poll conducted by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

The next time the AJC says there are problems in polling Georgia, remember that some people there don’t actually know what a poll is.

The Earth Moved in Dalton

The Dalton area experienced a small earthquake Sunday night.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) originally reported a 1.7 magnitude quake around 7:43 p.m. near Dalton, Ga. but upgraded to 2.4 shortly thereafter.

The quake was reported to be about 11 miles deep and falls on the low end of the earthquake spectrum but nonetheless did register.

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