Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 8, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 8, 2017

On November 8, 1860, Savannah residents protested in favor of secession following the election of Abraham Lincoln.

President Abraham Lincoln (R) was reelected on November 8, 1864.

Franklin D. Roosevelt made his 15th trip to Warm Springs, Georgia on November 8, 1928 after winning the election for Governor of New York.

Richard B. Russell, Jr. was elected to the United States Senate on November 8, 1932 and would serve until his death in 1971. Before his election to the Senate, Russell served as State Representative, Speaker of the Georgia House, and the youngest Governor of Georgia; his father served as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. On the same day, part-time Georgia resident Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States.

On November 8, 1994, Republicans won control of the United States House of Representatives and Senate in what came to be called the “Republican Revolution.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today at 2 PM, I’ll be on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind” with Bill Nigut, Greg Bluestein, and Patricia Murphy to discuss, among other things, last night’s election results. Here’s a preview of my thinking. In Atlanta, you can tune in to 88.5 FM to listen, and across Georgia, you can hear us on your local GPB radio station.

Last night, the GOP lost three seats previously held by Georgia Republicans.  In Senate District 6, Democrats Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard will face off in the Special Runoff Election on December 5, 2017. The top three Republicans in SD 6 split 46.45 percent of the vote, and the top vote-getter, Leah Aldridge came in 4.05 points behind the second-place finisher. Democrat Deborah Gonzales took the win in House District 117, previously held by GOP State Rep. (now Judge) Regina Quick, and Democrat Jonathan Wallace took an outright majority in a race against three Republicans.

Senate District 6 has been the most evenly divided Senate district for a number of years. Hunter Hill won it in 2012 with about 53% against an incumbent Dem and in 2016, he narrowly defended it with less than 52% against Democrat Jaha Howard. Add in whatever “Trump Slump” exists, and it’s not a surprising result, though it is a disappointment. There is a real chance that the legislature might consider tweaking those lines in the next session, and in any case, I’d anticipate a serious GOP run at it in the General Election next year. In fact, with the kind of accelerated political schedule we’re seeing these days, if I were one of the Republicans who came in double-digits, I’d immediately be looking toward the May Primary.

House District 117 (Regina Quick) and HD 119 (Chuck Williams) are a little harder to gauge based solely on past elections since neither of the previous seat holders ever faced a Democrat in a General Election. Quick was first elected after she beat incumbent Doug McKillip in a Republican Primary after he switched to the GOP, while Chuck Williams has been unopposed in General Elections since beating a Democrat in the 2011 Special Election Primary. So we don’t have much historical data on how a state house race in those districts should perform. But it’s a testament to the importance of a party contesting every seat possible. Kudos to Georgia Democrats for their recruitment efforts.

Going forward, I’m not sure how much precedential value this has, as Special Elections are a breed to themselves, but contesting all possible elections should be the philosophy of the DPG next year.

Special elections like this present a challenge to state parties, especially the GAGOP in HD 119. Without a partisan primary, there is no official way to winnow the number of GOP contestants, and if they split the vote enough, Dems can take a seat, as SD6 shows.

From the Athens Banner-Herald:

The results mean all three of the House members representing Clarke County will be Democats for the first time in years. Two of them — Wallace and Gonzalez — will also be Oconee’s voices in the state House, since the two districts cut across county lines.

In House District 119, Wallace had 57 percent of the vote. Three Republican candidates trailed, with fewer votes combined than Wallace’s total.

In the race for the House 117 seat, Houston Gaines led by a 2-1 vote margin in heavily conservative Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties, but Gonzalez, a lawyer, was just as strong in Clarke. Clarke has about half the voters in the district, and turnout may have been stronger there than expected.

Wallace also had a strong showing in Oconee, with about 39 percent of the vote.

The choice for voters between the Democratic and Republican sides was clear, with candidates pretty much predictably diverging on issues such as guns on campus, Donald Trump, allowing local governments to decide about moving monuments and expanding Medicaid to cover more people. The three Republicans running in District 119 said in candidate forums they’d vote for Trump again, but Gaines in District 117 didn’t answer.

The Republican candidates also said they favored guns on college campuses, unlike the Democrats and unlike Quick and Williams, who had voted against the new state law that allows guns on the University of Georgia and other college campuses.

Republican Kasey Carpenter won the Special Election for House District 4.

Carpenter, owner of Oakwood Cafe and Cherokee Brewing and Pizza Co., finished first in a four-way race with 1,927 votes (53.87 percent) over Eddie Caldwell with 704 votes (19.68 percent), Peter Pociask with 516 votes (14.43 percent) and Beau Patton with 426 votes (11.91 percent). Carpenter, Caldwell and Patton are Republicans while Pociask is a Democrat.

The seat became open when Republican Bruce Broadrick stepped down in September for health reasons. Carpenter will serve the remainder of Broadrick’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018. District 4 includes the city of Dalton and some surrounding Whitfield County precincts.

“I think to go into a four-way race like this and to avoid a runoff shows the support we had across the district, and I really thank the voters for coming out and voting for me,” Carpenter said.

In Fulton County, Democrat Robb Pitts (38.27%) faces Democrat Keisha Waites (33.93%) in a runoff for County Commission Chair. Republican Gabriel Sterling performed admirably, and this was likely our best chance to take a countywide seat for the GOP in Fulton.

I have to wonder if some kind of a “Trump Slump” is in play here. Cobb and Fulton were counties where Hillary Clinton outperformed in 2016 and that may be part of the issue, or maybe some Republicans are complacent with out holding the House, Senate, and White House in Washington.

In Atlanta, Mary Norwood (21% per AJC) and Keisha Lance Bottoms (26% per AJC) head to a runoff election for Mayor. Alex Wan and Felicia Moore go to extra innings for City Council President.

Roswell voters will get a second chance at the apple, as City Council member Lori Henry goes to a runoff leading Lee Jenkins.

[Prior candidate Marie] Willsey returned to the election arena for another run at Post 4 and this time around, she received the majority vote against Andrew Leonardi and Meg McClanahan.

She will serve the full term as Post 4 City Council member.

Matthew C. Tyser received the majority vote against opponent Keith Goeke in the Post 5 race.

The Post 6 seat was close, but just missed the majority mark, with Matthew Judy receiving 49.38 percent.  He will face Karen Parrish in the run-off.

The Special Election for Post 3 seat, previously held by Donald J. Horton, did not result in a majority vote and will also see a run-off.  Of the six candidates in the running for the seat, Mike Nyden and Sean Groer will face each other in a run-off.

 Athens-Clarke County voters chose to impose a one-cent Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST).

More than 9,400 voters cast a ballot on the referendum with 6,887 signing up to go on the TSPLOST ride and 2,540 telling the referendum to hit the road, according to results provided by Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections.

“It’s a terrific result and something great for the community,” said Mark Ralston, president of the nonprofit Firefly Trail Inc., which advocated for the trail’s inclusion on the TSPLOST referendum. “I’m thrilled. It’s a great project along with many other great projects I’m happy the citizens of Athens chose to support.”

The transportation special purpose, local option sales tax will add 1 percent to the sales tax surcharge on goods sold in Clarke County. It will inflate the county’s overall sales tax rate to 8 percent.

Athens-Clarke County officials expect the penny tax to raise $109.5 million over five years to fund 19 projects.

Coweta County voters extended the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for another six year term.

Coweta voters originally said yes to SPLOST in 1986, and have approved it everytime it came back up for a vote.

The newly-approved SPLOST will begin after the current one ends on Dec. 31, 2018.

The final vote count Tuesday night was 3,381 votes, or 65 percent, in favor to 1,818, or 35 percent, against.

Turnout was light – 6.04 percent of Coweta’s registered voters cast ballots for the special election, which included the county-wide SPLOST vote as well as several city elections.

The 1-percent sales tax is expected to raise $140 million over six years.

Floyd County voters approved the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) by more than 66% and the County Government Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) by more than 60%. Rome passed a city schools E-SPLOST by more than 75% of votes cast.

Bryan, Long, Tattnall and Wayne Counties all approved SPLOST measures.

Bryan County’s SPLOST was the fifth time it passed on the ballot.

In Bryan County less than 5 percent of the 22,346 eligible voters cast ballots Tuesday, but they were enough to renew the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for the fifth time.

Revenue from the SPLOST is expected to raise about $33 million which will be divided among Bryan County and the cities of Pembroke and Richmond Hill based on population. Bryan County will receive approximately $18.8 million, Richmond Hill $11 million and Pembroke $3.2 million.

The 1 percent sales tax has been in place in Bryan County since 1987.

Polk County also passed an E-SPLOST.

[V]oters overwhelmingly decided more than 2-to-1 to allow a penny to be drawn off of purchases in Polk County through 2026.

The project list includes a second round of construction at Cedartown and Rockmart High School, repairs at all of the schools of heating and air conditioning, updates to athletic facilities and more.

The tallies ended with 2,032 people voting to decide on the sales tax’s extension, with 1,421 voters (69.93 percent) giving their approval and 611 voters (30.07 percent) saying no.

Twiggs County passed an E-SPLOST by 484 -151 and Putnam County passed a T-SPLOST by 498-332.

DeKalb County passed three ballot measures related to sales and property taxes.

DeKalb County voters overwhelmingly approved a sales tax increase and property tax reduction, according to final ballot counts.

The sales tax hike, from 7 percent to 8 percent, will bring in more than $100 million annually for road repaving, fire station repairs, police vehicles and other infrastructure through a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).

Voters also passed referendums to use existing sales taxes to reduce homeowners’ property taxes, and to make permanent a tax break that offsets the cost of rising home assessments.

Clermont voters rejected beer and wine sales in the city limits.

By a margin of almost two to one, Clermont residents resoundly said no to beer and wine sales in town.

Two questions on the non-binding poll asked voters whether the town should license the sale of beer and wine by the drink, and also license package sales of beer and wine. Almost 63 percent of the 127 residents who voted said no.

Mark Kirves launched a petition drive on Facebook urging support for alcohol sales in Clermont. Kirves, who owns Iron Accents on Cleveland Highway, said he’s gotten offers for his property from buyers interested in putting a restaurant on the location.

“Once they learn that they couldn’t sell alcohol there they walk away,” Kirves said. “Clermont and Gillsville are the only two towns in Hall County that won’t allow alcohols sales.”

Despite the setback with the straw poll, Kirves said he would continue his petition drive.

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