Independent voters key to success in Georgia elections |

Georgia’s rising minority populations improve Democrats’ chances to break the Republican grip on statewide offices this year, but independent-minded white voters remain the key target for the next 100 days until the November election.

The campaigns of Jason Carter for governor and Michelle Nunn for the Senate aim to push black voters to 30 percent of the electorate, while winning close to 30 percent of white voters — well more than Democrats have managed statewide of late. Republicans are putting more money into organizing while contending that Georgia still is fundamentally a red state.

Democrats’ attempts to capture swing voters are on display in Nunn’s cautious approach on the new health care law and Carter’s “yes” vote on a contentious gun rights expansion.

At the same time, they are spending big on sophisticated tactics to target and turn out base voters in the hopes of imitating President Barack Obama’s vaunted campaign machine — since Obama never bothered to spend money in Georgia in his re-election bid.

Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist who is helping lead the party’s coordinated strategy, said Democrats’ challenge is to “focus on the issues that generate excitement with the Democratic base while being strong on issues that will help obtain moderate to conservative votes from white women and men.”

The first leap for Democrats is to make midterm turnout — which tends to be older and whiter — look more like a presidential year: blacks formed 30 percent of the state’s electorate in 2008 and 2012, compared with 28 percent in 2010 when Deal and U.S. Sen Johnny Isakson romped to victory. The second goal is tougher, as the surge in white support for Republicans has enabled the GOP to establish one-party control.

From the 2008 to 2012 election the raw number of white voters actually declined, as blacks and other minorities now make up a larger share of the electorate. But Obama still lost to Republican Mitt Romney by 7.8 percentage points in Georgia, as white voters shifted further to the right.

Republicans have long acknowledged that the changing demographics put their grip on the state’s top offices in jeopardy, and they have sought new ways to reach out to minorities, particularly Hispanics. Many say the demographics are still in their favor, though. As of November, Hispanics made up only 1.7 percent of active voters and Asian-Americans constituted 1.3 percent.

via Independent voters key to success in Georgia elections |

Georgia Small Businesses Hope Tax- Free Weekend Will Give A Much Needed Boost

ATLANTA  —  This weekend is the state’s sales tax holiday. On Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, sales tax won’t be charged on clothing, school supplies and some computers. Small businesses are hoping it will provide the boost they need.

Kyle Jackson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, says 13 percent of small business owners surveyed this month say poor sales is their greatest concern.

“Because of the economic turmoil we’ve seen over the last five or six years, people are maybe a little more cautious, a little more conservative with their money and not spending on as much discretionary items as they have in the past,” said Jackson. “And you know when people aren’t out spending money that hurts our retailers first and foremost.”

via Georgia Small Businesses Hope Tax- Free Weekend Will Give A Much Needed Boost.

Macon’s Only Action In Civil War Was The Sole Confederate Victory In Sherman’s March

MACON, Ga.  —  Wednesday mark[ed] the 150th anniversary of the only battle that Macon saw in the Civil War.

While Union General Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, he dispatched more than 2,000 men led by General George Stoneman to cut off the city’s crucial rail link with Macon.

But Stoneman’s ambitions were bigger than that.

“Stoneman had brought up the idea of capturing Macon, and possibly even capturing Andersonville prison,” said former Macon city councilor and amateur historian Giles O’Neal, who has been researching the battles that followed.

About 500 Union soldiers and officers, including Stoneman himself, were captured the next day at the Battle of Sunshine Church in northern Jones County.

“It was the only real Confederate victory on the campaign of Sherman’s March to the Sea,” O’Neal said.

via Macon’s Only Action In Civil War Was The Sole Confederate Victory In Sherman’s March.

Judge limits action in Bibb-Monroe border scrap | Politics |

A Fulton County judge has moved to limit the remaining options for settling the disputed border between Bibb and Monroe counties, but Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Macon-Bibb County plan to appeal.

Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee has ruled that Kemp can’t accept more evidence, from a surveyor or from the counties, before making a decision.

“It’s another victory for us, but we’ve had many of those throughout this episode,” said Mike Bilderback, chairman of the Monroe County Commission. He said he will now wait to see if Kemp finally establishes a border, which is what Monroe has asked for years.

“He’s caused us to spend a lot of money on this court case,” he said.

Both Kemp’s office and Macon-Bibb County’s attorney say the issue is far from over.

“I very much disagree with the latest ruling issued regarding the Monroe-Bibb county line dispute,” Kemp said Wednesday via email through spokesman Jared Thomas. “It is very important that the Secretary of State be able to examine all evidence and speak with all relevant parties in order to reach the proper decision, and this ruling makes that more difficult. I am working with our legal counsel to determine the best option going forward to achieve a fair and just result for the citizens of Monroe and Bibb counties.”

via Judge limits action in Bibb-Monroe border scrap | Politics |

50 Most Beautiful : Virginia Dent | TheHill

It may have been fate that Virginia Dent wound up in Washington.

As a public relations and speech communications double major at the University of Georgia, she was on her last day of a trip to the nation’s capital when her school group branched off to shadow workers in different offices.

“I was one of two people who came to the Hill, and I just fell in love with it.”

When she popped into Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) office that day, staff there said it just happened to be the last day to apply for an internship.

The Georgia native also enjoys getting out of town; she’s an avid traveler who’s in the process of planning her next overseas adventure with a group of friends.

“It was serendipitous. It was meant to be, it felt like,” said Dent.

via 50 Most Beautiful : Virginia Dent | TheHill.

Broun cosponsoring bill to legalize medical marijuana nationwide | Online Athens

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and cosponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., in addition to Broun, would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act “to exclude therapeutic hemp and cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana.” The proposal has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce and Judiciary committees.

Broun, a physician, has been a consistent supporter of medical marijuana, in large part on the basis of states’ rights arguments. Earlier this spring, Broun cosponsored a federal appropriations amendment blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana. The amendment passed the House in a 219-189 vote. According to a report on that amendment, “Broun said there were ‘very valid medical reasons’ to use marijuana extracts or products. ‘It’s less dangerous than some narcotics that doctors prescribe all over this country,’ Broun said. He said medical marijuana was a states’ rights issue and Congress needed to ‘reserve the states’ powers under the Constitution.’”

In recent months, the state of Georgia has struggled with the issue of medical marijuana.

In this year’s legislative session, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, that would have allowed the use of cannabis oil to treat certain seizure disorders, failed to pass in the wake of some last-minute legislative maneuvering. The state Senate did, though, create a committee to study legalizing medical marijuana in Georgia.

via Broun cosponsoring bill to legalize medical marijuana nationwide | Online Athens.

Augusta voters to see few local races on Nov. 4 ballot | The Augusta Chronicle

Federal and state races will dominate the Nov. 4 ballot after Augusta voters did most of their local decision-making in the May 20 partisan primary and nonpartisan election.

“Typically, when we are looking at November midterm elections, turnout will vary from the low 40s to the mid-50s,” Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said of percentage voter turnout. “A lot of times it’s driven by interest in the local races.”

With a mayor and three new commissioners elected and a sales tax referendum defeated in the May 20 election and July 22 runoff, Augusta voters’ races with local ties to decide Nov. 4 are two contested school board posts, two state Senate races and the 12th Congressional District election.

Three candidates – Frank Beckles, Monique Braswell and Charlie Hannah – are seeking the District 2 seat held by Eloise Curtis.

The other contested Richmond County Board of Education seat is in Super District 9, where incumbent Venus Cain faces a challenge from transportation worker James Swanagan.

Augusta businessman Rick Allen won his second attempt at the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress and will face Democratic incumbent John Barrow for the 12th Congressional District seat Nov. 4.

Two final contested races that involve Richmond County are the state Senate District 23 contest between Republican incumbent Jesse Stone and Democratic challenger Diane Evans and the state senate District 24 race between Republican incumbent Bill Jackson and challenger Brenda Jordan. Each district includes a small part of Richmond County.

via Augusta voters to see few local races on Nov. 4 ballot | The Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Commission votes 7-0 to raise property taxes | The Augusta Chronicle

Augusta commissioners broke a seven-year trend Wednesday and agreed 7-0 to raise property taxes by 1.75 mills to cover a deficit and provide employees a small bonus.

The compromise plan, brokered between commissioners and the mayor after a first vote on a 2-mill increase failed and the meeting was recessed, includes a $500, one-time bonus for all staff plus the opportunity for them to sell five vacation days back to the city.

Facing Georgia Department of Revenue deadlines for setting the millage rate, which must be done before tax bills are mailed to collect both Augusta and Richmond County Board of Education operating revenues, commissioners gathered in the chamber after the recess and worked out a deal.

The 1.75-mill increase, which amounts to a $61.25 annual increase in the county portion of the tax bill on a $100,000 house subject to a typical homestead exemption, will generate $7.9 million. The bulk of the funds will go toward covering a $5.9 million operating deficit for the current fiscal year, while $625,000 will pay full-time employees a one-time $500 bonus. Another $625,000 will be available for employees who want to sell up to five vacation days back to the city before the year ends.

via Augusta Commission votes 7-0 to raise property taxes | The Augusta Chronicle.

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Senate candidate to attend Gwinnett GOP open house | Gwinnett Daily Post

The Gwinnett Republican Party is gearing up for November with two events scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2.

#Saturday morning, Georgia Republican Party chairman John Padgett and Georgia GOP Multicultural Committee co-chair Lisa Kinnemore will be the guest speakers at the Gwinett GOP monthly breakfast. The breakfast will be held at 550 Trackside and begins at 8:30 a.m.

#Saturday at 2 p.m., the Gwinnett GOP will host an open house at their headquarters, located at 46 S. Clayton Street in Lawrenceville. U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue is expected to attend.

#The events, according to a Gwinnett GOP website post by chairwoman Rachel Little, are designed to motivate and inspire local Republicans to “get involved and participate in a meaningful way in the November campaign.”

via POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Senate candidate to attend Gwinnett GOP open house | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Mayor Says Atlanta Will Welcome Unaccompanied Minors | WABE 90.1 FM

The children, who come from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, are apprehended at the U.S./Mexico border. They’re placed with sponsors, usually family members, while they await a court date. Those who qualify for special juvenile status can stay, but all aren’t eligible. Reed said they should all be welcomed.

“It’s very important that we send a signal that we’re going to be a welcoming community, that we’re going to allow these folks to be trained, and to treat them well, certainly children, there should be no debate about this,” he said.

via Mayor Says Atlanta Will Welcome Unaccompanied Minors | WABE 90.1 FM.