Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2015

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

If you go to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year, I highly recommend visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You’ll recognize the guitars played by some of your favorites, see Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche, and read the hand-written lyrics to some of the best-known songs. Incidentally, Janis Joplin’s Porsche was sold at auction last month for $1.76 million.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Apropos of the note above regarding the Georgia House of Representatives voting against seating Julian Bond, we also note the passage of former State Rep. and State Senator Mike Egan. AJC Political Insider Jim Galloway notes Egan played a small role in that issue,

Sen. Mike Egan has taken so many stand-on-principle votes — he calls them “votes in opposition to the majority” — over the course of two disconnected decades in the Legislature that as he leaves, they “all sort of merge together in a blob,” and the one he thinks to mention was his very first.

That was in 1967, when as a young Republican House member he voted to allow Julian Bond to be seated in that body, despite the Atlanta Democrat’s opposition to the Vietnam War.

….

A memorial mass will be celebrated on Thursday, the 14th of January at ten o’clock in the morning at The Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30305. The family will greet friends following the mass at the church. A private burial will follow later in the day at Arlington Memorial Park. Arrangements by H. M. Patterson & Son Arlington Chapel.

Mike Egan was a giant for Georgia Republicans, and his party, state, and community join his family and friends in mourning his passing.

Yesterday, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland announced he will not run for reelection to Congress.

“After a busy fall in Congress, I finally had the opportunity for quiet reflection over the Christmas break,” he said in the statement issued by his office. “I spent time in prayer and with my family, and with their blessing, have decided I will no longer seek reelection for Georgia’s Third Congressional District. It has been an honor to serve Georgia’s Third District for the last twelve years, and I believe it is time to pass the torch to our next conservative voice. Washington, D.C. is a much different environment in 2016 than when I was elected in 2004. I know all too well the challenges the new representative will face, and pledge to offer my support and guidance to the next candidate.”

“Joan and I want to thank the people of Georgia’s Third District,” he added in the statement. “We are forever blessed to have received your support and friendship during my time in office. I look forward to this next chapter in my life; returning to my community and spending more time with family and friends.”

Politico notes that the Congressional seat is “safely Republican.”

So that set off a lot of idle speculation, much of it on my part.

First, I have a listing of state legislators whose district overlap the Third Congressional District that Westmoreland vacated.

Georgia Senate
Josh McKoon
Marty Harbin
Mike Crane
John F. Kennedy
Mike Dugan
Rick Jeffares

Georgia State House
Kevin Cooke
Dustin Hightower
Randy Nix
Lynn Smith
David Stover
Matt Ramsey
John Yates
David Knight
Johnnie Caldwell
John Pezold

Are there any I missed? Anyone else or have any of the above legislators already taken themselves out of the running?

Other names I’ve heard speculated about:

Former Sen. Ronnie Chance
Former State Rep. Chuck Butler (elected in 2000 and 2002, did not run after being put in the same district as Rep. Mark Butler)
Former State Rep. and former Director of Georgia Public Safety Training Center Tim Bearden
Chip Flanegan, who ran against Westmoreland in 2012 and 2014
Kent Kingsley, who ran against Westmoreland in 2012
Travis Sakrison, Westmoreland’s son-in-law, who was recently appointed to the  Coweta County Superior Court, or someone else in the current Westmoreland political organization.

Of course, there’s always the hope spectre of a wealthy businessman who hasn’t run for office before. If you know such a person, I’ll pay a commission for a referral.

Then, I looked at the number of Republican Primary votes each county cast in the 2014 Republican Primary.

County Total
Carroll 7,205
Coweta 8,480
Fayette 10,138
Harris 2,588
Heard 953
Henry 2,864
Lamar 1,289
Meriwether 1,081
Muscogee 4,477
Pike 2,087
Spalding 4,741
Troup 4,642
Upson 2,855
Total: 53,400

Clearly, the center of gravity in the district is in the Northeastern quadrant, with Fayetter, Coweta, and Carroll counties contributing the most votes, in that order. That probably gives an advantage to State Rep. Matt Ramsey, who represents parts of the two most-vote dense counties in the district. Sen. Mike Crane also has a geographically-desirable base with Coweta and parts of Carroll, Heard and Troup Counties; he’s shown strength in his elections and might be able to rally some fellow ideological to support him

In terms of issues, one vote that might be important is last year’s vote on House Bill 170, the Transportation Finance Act, which raised the gas tax statewide. In the Senate, Crane, Harbin, and McKoon voted against the tax increase, which could come in handy if one of them runs and is the only incumbent legislator in the race who can say they never voted to raise taxes. Matt Ramsey in the House voted against HB 170, as did Reps Cooke, Stover, and Pezold, while Yates is recorded as not having voted. I don’t know enough to judge local sentiment on that bill, and lower gas prices since it passed blunt the pain consumers feel at the pump, but that kind of a contrast on the issue of taxes can be very effective, especially if it becomes a two-candidate race or runoff.

Another potential dynamic is that the Congressional District is home to a number of “Liberty-minded” or “Christmas Tree Caucus” Republicans in both chambers. If they were to consolidate behind a single candidate, that could be a formidable bloc of legislators pushing one of their own.

Finally, we come to Senator Josh McKoon, who is not particularly blessed in geographic strength, but has been probably the highest-profile member of either chamber for several sessions, championing ethics reform and now the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Those issues resonate strongly with base Republican voters, particularly as you move outside Atlanta. His peripatetic ways means he may well have spoken to more GOP and conservative activists in any given month in a district outside his own than the hometown legislators.

McKoon’s fight for Religious Liberty has won him no friends in the moneyed halls of Atlanta’s Fortune 500 companies, but he has cultivated the grassroots better than most.

It’s also probably worth noting as an aside that television time in the Columbus and Macon markets is pretty inexpensive, while Atlanta is routinely listed as one of the most expensive in the nation. So reaching an existing base in the southern part of the Congressional District may weigh in favor of a candidate from Columbus.

Back to Regular Programming

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes that some form of sales tax abatement will be on the table for tickets to a potential Atlanta Super Bowl.

Speaker David Ralston is on the record in support of in-state cultivation of cannabis to provide CBD oil to approved patients and expand the list of conditions for which the marijuana derivate may lawfully be prescribed.

“This bill is the next step,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Peake’s bill, modeled after a medical marijuana law in Minnesota he called the strictest in the country, would limit the number of in-state manufacturers of cannabis oil to a minimum of two and a maximum of six. Manufacturers would cultivate, produce and dispense the final product, and create a “seed-to-sell” tracking system intended to provide increased security and track all plants grown, processed, transferred, stored, or disposed.

Distribution facilities would be located based on geographical need throughout the state to improve patient access. All manufacturers would be required to contract with an independent lab to test the cannabis oil and employ licensed pharmacists to distribute the product.

The bill also significantly expands the number of diseases that qualify patients to receive cannabis oil. Last year’s legislation initially was aimed at epilepsy and other seizure disorders. It was expanded as the bill went through the legislature to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell anemia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The new bill would increase the list to also include post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome and intractable pain. which the measure defines as pain that cannot be removed or treated.

This public announcement, combined with Ralston’s statements against the concept of merit pay for teachers may set the stage for a showdown between a well-regarded Governor in the twilight of his time in office with a powerful Speaker of the House who shows no signs of going anywhere.

A summer study committee appointed by Deal researched and reported on a wide range of education changes, but teacher pay probably drew the most attention and emotion. Some educators have slammed the idea of a closer tie between pay and student performance because they say measurements could be unfair or could even tempt teachers to teach to the test rather than educate students broadly.

Ralston said he learned lot by listening to those educators.

“I heard concerns about how do you measure merit pay, what kind of metric are you going to use,” Ralston said. “I can assure those teachers … that what I heard will stay with me throughout this session.”

Ralston said he’s not sure there will be a merit pay bill. The governor’s summer study committee ended up with a mild recommendation to leave the question to city and county school districts.

Elected officials in the newly-combined Macon-Bibb County government are heading back to the principal’s office Gold Dome.

Mayor Robert Reichert and several county commissioners reiterated their stances on whether the county’s charter should be changed to allow department heads more recourse if they are fired by the mayor. Macon-Bibb officials met Thursday with the area’s state senators and representatives as part of the Macon-Bibb County Legislative Listening Day.

Thursday’s discussion came just two days after the County Commission voted 7-2 to override Mayor Robert Reichert’s veto of a resolution asking state legislators to amend the county charter to provide more security for terminated department heads.

House Transportation Committee Chair Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) says it’s premature to tinker with the gas tax hike transportation finance bill passed last session.

“We’re not going to have reliable data for what House Bill 170 does until we have at least a year of data in hand,” House Transportation Committee Chairman Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, told a Gainesville audience Thursday.

The bill, which went into effect July 1, eliminated the state fuel sales tax at the gas pump and enacted a 26-cent excise tax. It also created a $200 fee on electric vehicles and a $5 per night fee on hotel and motel stays.

The tax is expected to generate $757 million more in fiscal 2015-16 in transportation funding and $820 million in fiscal 2016-17, officials have said.

The $5 fee particularly spurred several questions at a statewide transportation forum at the Gainesville Civic Center.

“There’s still some room for discussion and debate on the issue,” Coomer said. “We don’t claim to get everything right all the time … and we’re certainly willing to go back and review things that need to be fixed.

“But I’ll say this too: We’re not going to change portions of this bill based on a sky-is-falling mentality. We’re going to make changes that are reasonable, that are data-driven, fact-based and logical. And we (must) have the data in place to do that.”

Speaking of transportation funding, Martha Zoller travelled to Rome to discuss federal funding with local elected officials.

More than $7.7 billion is earmarked for transportation infrastructure projects in Georgia as a result of congressional passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015.

Martha Zoller, state policy director for U.S. Sen. David Perdue, told Rome business leaders Wednesday that the senator voted against the bill because it does not contemplate a specific way to pay for the last two years of the legislation.

“He really felt strongly that if you believe in a highway bill that you ought to have the spending and the funding match up,” Zoller said. “This is going to be a situation where when we get down to year four and five we’re going to have to reassess where the money comes from.”

The legislation calls for spending $261 billion on highways and $55 billion for transit projects.

“It is also going to deal with bridges specifically which is an important thing,” Zoller told members of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce transportation committee.

Savannah City Manager Stephanie Cutter will retire but stay on through the hiring of a successor and as a consultant for a year after.

Augusta Commissioners met with their local legislative delegation to discuss pay raises for some local elected officials.

At a Wednesday joint meeting of the Augusta Commission and the city’s legislative delegation, the group narrowed a sweeping request made by the commission – a legislative recommendation on all elected officials’ salaries – to include only those who request one.

The request came about after Augusta Superior Court and Probate judges requested increases of $20,000 or more in their local salary supplements.

Rather than decide on the request, the commission returned last month with a resolution asking the delegation to review all elected officials’ salaries.

Mayor Hardie Davis, a former state senator who could request the delegation review his pay, said one of several state agencies could do the salary research, while the superior court judges’ local pay is capped under a new state law.

Not so, according to city General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who said Augusta-Richmond County “still has a little left of the cap” to raise the judges’ local supplements.

State Rep. Earnest Smith (D-Augusta) will face a Primary challenge in May from Sheila Nelson, a community activist.

Yet another judicial retirement, as August Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet announced he will not run for reelection.

File Under: Unintended Consequences

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in proposing the “SEC Primary” suggested that a cluster of early Southern Presidential Primaries could bring Presidential candidates to states like Georgia and give Peach State voters more influence in the national election. Many also assumed it would have result in a strengthening the hand of conservatives in the GOP nomination process.

But this week, the Washington Post wrote about what could only be considered an unintended consequences, with the headline, “The South is ready to save Hillary Clinton.”

The Democratic primary in South Carolina is Saturday, Feb. 27, and Clinton has a much more comfortable lead than in the first two early states. Then Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia all vote the following Tuesday, March 1.

Several Republican secretaries of state in the region worked together to move up the contests so that the South would have more clout. While their primary focus in creating “the SEC Primary,” named for the college football conference, was prodding the GOP to choose a more conservative nominee, the unintended result has been to give the Democratic frontrunner a firewall in case things kick off poorly.

“I believe Hillary is a lock to sweep the Deep South,” said Richard Fording, the chair of the political science department at the University of Alabama.

Recall 2008, when the Clinton juggernaut turned out to be not so unstoppable, but here’s the bottom line: So long as the former first lady of Arkansas maintains overwhelming support among African Americans, who make up the majority of the Democratic electorate in several of these states, her outlook in the region – and for the nomination – remains very rosy.

Remember that in 2008, it was those same Deep South states and their largely African-American Democratic primaries that sealed Hillary’s fate against Barack Obama.

800px-Democratic_presidential_primary2008

In a bit of irony, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who was one of the first Clinton Super Delegates to abandon her for Obama in 2008, is considered one of her major strengths this time.

Lewis says he’s backing Clinton “wholeheartedly” this time. So are a bevy of other prominent African Americans from Georgia, including former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Reps. Hank Johnson and David Scott, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Stacey Abrams, the powerful minority leader of the state House. The campaign rolled out these endorsements in the fall, and the support has shown no signs of fraying.

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