Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 12, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 12, 2017

On April 12, 1861, Confederates in Charleston, SC opened fire on Federal-held Fort Sumter opening the Civil War.

During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincolnissued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

“The General” Locomotive was hijacked at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Georgia on April 12, 1862, leading to “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The locomotive is now housed in the Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.

On April 12, 1961, Russian Commienaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to go to outer space and the first to orbit earth.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama on April 12, 1963; while there he would write his famed, “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The Braves played their first home game in Atlanta on April 12, 1966.

The Space Shuttle Columbia became the first reusable orbital vehicle when it launched on April 12, 1981.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Some voters headed to the polls to vote early, but learned once they got to the elections office that they aren’t in the district.

Lynn and Sheila Keeney made the five-minute drive to Cobb County’s main elections office in Marietta only to sheepishly turn around without voting.

The nationally watched race to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price has drawn 18 candidates in what many have described as an early barometer on the presidency of Donald Trump. The Keeneys, both in their early 70s, can’t watch television without seeing the political advertisements blanketing the airwaves in a final push before Election Day on Tuesday.

But while the district covers parts of three of the metro area’s core counties — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — neither of the Keeneys realized that their Cobb County home wasn’t within the boundaries. And they weren’t alone. Scores of voters showed up at the Cobb elections office during the early-voting period without realizing it, either.

“We see the ads,” said Lynn Keeney, who said he had gotten more politically active after retirement. “So we’ve decided to put as much or much more conscious effort to look into the local people and in particular the congressional elections. We feel like we can make more of a difference in Congress than we can in president.”

Kansas Republican John Estes won a narrow special election victory last night over a Democrat in a district that Trump carried by a 27-point margin in November.

“If Jon Ossoff’s fundraising numbers weren’t enough of a wakeup call for Republicans, the election results in Kansas should be,” said Georgia GOP strategist Chip Lake.

Key dynamics in the race are certainly different: While national GOP groups rushed in to the state over the last week to play defense, they have been pouring millions into attack ads against Ossoff for months. And Estes’ struggles were also seen as a rebuke to unpopular Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

“Those states don’t have a highly unpopular governor that is going to have the proverbial millstone around the candidate’s neck,” Michael O’Donnell, a Kansas GOP commissioner, told the Wichita Eagle on whether the vote signals trouble for Republicans in Georgia.

But Lake said the Kansas race shows more broadly how Republicans running textbook campaigns in seemingly safe districts have good reason to be antsy.

“It was a close race,” he said, “and it shouldn’t have been.”

Governor Nathan Deal is unlikely to cause drag on GOP candidates in the Sixth District, if the news from a massive nationwide poll is an indicator.

Deal was ranked the tenth-most popular Governor in the nation with 63% of respondents saying they approve of his job performance and 25% disapproving.

My personal analysis: I’m not as worried about Ossoff winning outright as I was when he first announced an $8.3 million dollar fundraising haul.

Yesterday, I was told by a DC-based reporter that the Ossoff campaign told them they had knocked on 100,000 doors, which sounds impressive, but really isn’t.

I live in both the Sixth Congressional District and the 80th State House District; our State House District has seen the two most-competitive elections at that level in 2015 and 2016. I know what a winning campaign in this area looks like and Ossoff is not doing it. And HD 80 and 81, two of the most-competitive in the state, are exactly the areas Ossoff needs to drive big numbers to the polls in order to pull off a win on Tuesday.

In 2015, the J. Max Davis campaign knocked on 16,000 doors in HD 80 during the runoff – that’s three weeks. A Congressional District is roughly equal to 13 state house districts, so an equivalent number for a Congressional District is 208,000. Ossoff’s campaign hit about half of that over the course of several months. Ossoff’s ground game is not an “A” game.

NextDoor.com is where the cranky old folks in my neighborhood hang out online and complain about youngsters on their yard. During the last two state house campaigns, the site lit up with complaint about “suspicious” people walking the streets, knocking on doors. “Suspicious” is code for people wearing campaign shirts, carrying campaign materials. No complaints during the election leads me to believe Ossoff hasn’t really been hitting the streets in this vital area.

A neighbor of mine is the prototypical swing voter that Democratic campaigns search for. She’s female and has voted in both Democratic and Republican primary campaigns, including regular early voting, though she hasn’t yet voted this year.

She told me during the state house campaigns that she was visited at her door by the Democratic campaign at east three times, and she showed me all the early voting mail they sent her. Zero contact from the Ossoff campaign. No calls, no mail, no door visits. Until this morning, when someone woke the neighborhood (and my dogs) at o’dark thirty putting Ossoff flyers on front doors. If the campaign is counting that as direct voter contact, they’re fooling themselves.

Then there are a couple of self-inflicted wounds by Ossoff – earning a Washington Post Pinocchio for puffing his resume at best, lying to the voters at worst. And then fabricating a quote for a fundraising email and getting called out publicly.

As for the polling, here’s the issue: SurveyUSA, which polls for 11Alive, writes in their report:

Polling Congressional Districts is challenging even under ideal circumstances. Polling for a special election, where nothing else is on the ballot, and where turnout could be a fraction of what it was in the 2016 general election, is even more challenging. Some news reports indicate that Republicans have started to spend money in GA-06 only in the past couple of days. If Republicans make a significant media buy in the remaining 2 weeks, Ossoff’s support may be overstated here, and his chances of winning the seat outright on 04/18/17 would be reduced. To the extent that Democrats see Ossoff and 04/18/17 as their best shot at flipping the seat, and spend dollars accordingly, the fight will be to the finish.

I also think the demographics of the district will work against Ossoff. From the 11Alive polling breakdown:

•  Younger voters went solidly for Ossoff: 71% compared to 14% for Handel. After that, no candidate was able to gain double digits in the 18-34 age group.

•  Older voters, 65+, showed only a slight preference for Ossoff at 29% compared to Handel’s 24%.

But voter turnout among millennials declined from 2012 to 2016, and I expect it to be significantly lower in Tuesday’s election than in a general election. In contrast, older voters are the bread-and-butter of special elections and are likely to vote at significantly higher rates than other voters.

I’m somewhat apprehensive still, especially after the Kansas election results, but Ossoff, despite his funding advantage, has not put on a winning campaign.

Before you head to the polls, you can check to make sure you’re eligible to vote and familiarize yourself with the ballot by visiting the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle filed paperwork with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to run for Governor in 2018.

The Republican has plotted for years to run for the state’s highest office, and a formal announcement is expected within a month.

Cagle is the presumptive Republican front-runner in what could be a crowded field to succeed a term-limited Nathan Deal. Secretary of State Brian Kemp is already in the race, and a cast of current and former lawmakers – along with an “outsider” or two – are considering entering the contest.

His campaign is to be chaired by Charles Tarbutton, a Sandersville rail executive whose family has ties to Deal, Zell Miller and other successful gubernatorial candidates stretching back the last half-century. It’s a sign that Cagle’s bid has early support from one of the most well-connected political networks in the state.

When the AJC says “an announcement is expected within a month,” I think they mean May 1st. Pencil that in on your calendar.

Georgia Health News writes that the combination of the “Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law”  and more widespread availability of Naloxone appear to be helping with opioid overdoses.

Under the amnesty law, if you call 911 to get medical treatment for yourself or for somebody who currently needs medical attention, you can’t be held criminally liable for anything on the property, anything on the premises,” said Officer David Ian, an Athens-Clarke County police officer.

The amnesty law also makes it easier for first responders to carry naloxone – a drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose – and to administer it to a person who has overdosed. Under its provisions, emergency personnel won’t be liable if the person doesn’t respond or has an adverse reaction.

Police officers and other emergency medical workers say they want to save people in this life-threatening situation, not put them in jail.

“If you think you’ve overdosed on something or a loved one has overdosed on something and they’re having problems, then they should call an ambulance,” said Horst, the ER doctor. “The longer you wait, the more detriment or harm is going to be caused to the patient.”

Officer Ian agreed. “From a law enforcement perspective, our main priority is the value of life,’’ he said. “Our ultimate priority is making sure people are taken care of, people are safe.”

Senator Johnny Isakson joined 56 of his colleagues in signing a letter to the FCC Chairman urging better rural broadband.

“Rural Georgians have been waiting too long for the FCC to address this issue,” Isakson said in a statement. “Standalone Internet services should be available to all Americans at this point, and dependable rural access to broadband services are a necessity in this day and age, not a luxury.”

Cobb County Commissioners voted to issue $27.4 million in bonds to buy land for parks.

The county originally anticipated issuing $24.7 million in bonds, but when the county received the bids from financial companies looking to issue the bonds, the county’s triple AAA bond rating and low interest rates led to a premium of more than $2.7 million, according to Bill Volckmann, the county’s interim finance director.

The county will pay about $160,000 in bond issuance costs out of the bond proceeds, ultimately leaving about $27.4 million for its efforts to purchase land to be used for parks and green space.

Cobb residents likely will see an increase in property taxes to allow the county to repay the bonds.

According to previous county estimates, repaying the bonds would require an increase by 0.13 mills in the county’s property tax rate, which would add about $10.40 a year on the tax bill for $200,000 home.

Commissioners approved the execution of the increased parks bond after hearing from several residents who urged the county to fully fund the parks bond approved by voters nearly nine years ago. Though two-thirds of Cobb voters approved a $40 million bond back in November 2008, the bonds were never issued by then-county Chairman Sam Olens due to a tanking economy and a tax increase he said would come as a result of the bonds’ issuance.

Kerry Minervini was sworn in as the Ward 6 member of the Marietta Board of Education.

Minervini won the March 21 special election and has lived in Marietta for 11 years. The seat was left vacant after Tom Cheater resigned his seat in September. The seat is up for reelection in November.

The Augusta City Commission voted to borrow $12 million to finance a parking deck for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

Mayor Hardie Davis called the vote “generational and transformational” as Augusta puts its money toward the state of Georgia’s plan to invest $50 million in the cyber innovation center on the city’s riverfront.

Gwinnett County Board of Education members adopted a $2.092 billion budget for FY 2018.

Much of the increase is tied to an additional 1,972 students expected in August to raise the overall enrollment to more than 180,000, and raises for teachers and all other employees.

“All of us have wish lists, but this is a very good budget considering the funds that we have available,” said Wilbanks, the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ CEO/superintendent at a meeting held inside the media center at Collins Hill High School.

As part of GCPS’ new performance-based compensation system for teachers, the average teacher will receive a 3.72 percent salary increase, which includes a 2 percent cost-of-living bump. The average teacher in GCPS, which equates to having a masters degree and at performance step 13, makes $60,716 and accounts for $85,923 including benefits.

Hall County School Board members were presented with a proposed budget for FY 2018.

Preliminary estimates for Hall County Schools’ 2018 fiscal year budget calls for $12.8 million in additional expenditures, most of which would pay for 2 percent pay raises for all of the approximately 3,400 employees and the corresponding benefit increases.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented the early numbers at a school board work session Monday night. The figures would raise total expenditures for 2018 to $239,345,073, up from $226,510,741.02 in budgeted expenditures in the current budget.

“This is strictly a draft at this point,” Schofield told board members. “We haven’t even gone line by line to make sure we’ve got the right expenditures, but this gives you an idea of where we are. The local digest is the amount of property that is on the tax records … Every year we wait to see what the assessments are and how much it goes up or down because that greatly affects our ability to fund our local public schools.”

Schofield said the state legislature recently required a 2 percent pay raise for all teachers, but he wants to see all of the district’s 3,400 employees get the same increase.

Bibb County school employees could see bounses instead of raises in FY 2018.

Full-time employees for the Bibb County school district could get up to a 2 percent bonus next year. The Board of Education discussed a one-time bonus during a work session Tuesday night.

A 3 percent bonus had initially been suggested during the first 2017-18 budget work session in March. Ron Collier, chief financial officer, said the adjusted, 2 percent rate is in line with a recommendation from Gov. Nathan Deal. The district implemented a 3 percent raise last year, funded through a 2 mill increase in property taxes.

“It is aligned to our strategic goals and plans,” Collier said. “The idea is that hopefully this … will motivate our employees. They can earn up to the 2 percent bonus based on achieving those levels.”

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams spoke to the Augusta Chronicle about his first 100 days in office.

The Floyd County Commission plans to name members to the 2017 SPLOST Committee at their April 25th meeting.

Backyard chickens are running into opposition in Columbus.

A proposed ordinance that would make backyard chickens legal on quarter-acre lots throughout Columbus received a negative assessment from the city’s special enforcement manager on Tuesday.

Chickens are good for eggs, soil fertilization and pest control, but they can also be a health and safety hazard, Short said. The health concerns she mentioned included bacterial diseases such as Salmonella and Campylobacter; a respiratory disease called Histoplasmosis and Avian Influenza. Chickens also attract rodents and predators such as foxes, snakes and coyotes, she said.

If chickens were allowed on quarter-acre lots, the city would need to hire two additional full-time field animal control officers, at a cost of $63,648. The amendment would also require the purchase of two additional field trucks, costing $50,000 each.

In the end, she recommended that Columbus Council make no changes to the ordinance, which currently allows chickens to be kept on any lot two or more acres in size.

Right whales, the official marine mammal of Georgia, have produced far fewer calves this year than usual.

It was a dismal calving season for the north Atlantic right whale, with only three births recorded off Georgia and Florida, their only known calving area. The 20-year average is 17 calves.

“That’s the second-worst calving season since right whale research began in the 1980s,” said Clay George, right whale research leader with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

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