Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2014

On May 20, 1791, George Washington spent his third day in Augusta, where he visited Richmond Academy.

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

Voting Today

Today we go to the polls to vote in the earliest Primary elections in modern state history. To check out your polling place, visit the Secretary of State’s MVP page, sign in, and you can find out where to vote and view a sample ballot.

Baseball Players and Political Professionals

Someone told me last night that political professionals are as bad as baseball players in their superstitions. Here are mine:

1. I am an election day voter and after my morning routine is done, which today includes being on WGAU 1340 AM at 9:45 with Tim Bryan, I will walk to my precinct, check in and cast my ballot. At this point, I’m still undecided on the United States Senate race and DeKalb County Sheriff.

2. Sometime this afternoon, I’ll probably try to catch a matinee, usually something Mrs. GaPundit wouldn’t see, so Science Fiction, Action, something like that.

3. This evening I will stay home, away from victory celebrations, frantically hitting “reload” for several hours.

4. Last night, I had the traditional “night before an election” meal, catered by Mrs. GaPundit and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

Here’s what I’ll be watching

Turnout, turnout, turnout. When the first precincts and counties start coming in, I’ll be comparing turnout to past performance, and I’ll keep an eye on several races. And not just numbers in certain precincts, but geographic areas like DeKalb County, where we’ll elect a Sheriff in a nonpartisan election on all ballots – normally the Sheriff is decided in a partisan Democratic primary with no real November challenge, but this year, like recent Sheriff Tom Brown’s 2001 election after the death of Derwin Brown, will be a nonpartisan special election.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Brian Kemp released figures on this year’s early voting, along with a comparison to 2010, the last year in which we had a gubernatorial race on the Primary ballot. He claims, “The numbers make it clear that Georgia voters are increasingly taking advantage of early voting opportunities,” but I disagree. Here’s the press release, along with some analysis after the jump

Secretary Reports Early Voting Numbers

Atlanta – Early in-person voting ended on Friday, May 16.  While mail-in absentee ballots can still be cast until the polls close tomorrow evening, the majority of early votes have been cast.

 

Number of ballots cast:  239,281
Number of ballots voted in person:  214,975
Number of mail-in ballots returned:  24,306
Number of mail-in ballots outstanding:  14,385
Number of ballots cast, Republican:  147,995
Number of ballots cast, Democratic:  88,316
Number of ballots cast, non-partisan:  2,970

Compared with four years ago, early voting numbers are higher than they were in 2010.

Number of ballots cast in 2010:  212,487
Number of ballots voted in person in 2010:  162,065
Number of mail-in ballots returned in 2010:  50,422

“The numbers make it clear that Georgia voters are increasingly taking advantage of early voting opportunities,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.  “The counties have done a wonderful job of fine-tuning the early voting process.”

In 2010, in person early voting was spread out over a seven-week period rather than the three-week period that exists now.  The numbers reflect that by compressing the process, more Georgia voters actually vote early.

“This early voting period was an extremely smooth process,” said Kemp.  “I appreciate the work of my staff, the county election officials and the many poll workers and volunteers who worked so hard.”

Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the offices wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting secure, accessible and fair elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders.

I think a better comparison is to the 2012 General Primary, which was during a Presidential year, but we’re talking about the July General Primary, not the March Presidential Preference. In the July 31, 2012 Primary election, 413,361 early votes were cast.

So, 2014 has seen 239,281 early and advance votes cast, but which prior year is a better comparison? Kemp says 2010, which has merit, but I think 2012, as voting behavior become habit over time, but there’s room for disagreement. I think that this year will see markedly lower turnout than the 2010 General Primary where some 680,000 GOP votes were cast in the Governor’s race, and far fewer votes than the 2012 General Primary in which nearly 845,000 votes were cast in the top-of-the-ticket PSC District 3 race on the Republican side.

Either way, we’ll know tonight what turnout looks like.

Governor – Will Nathan Deal hit 70% and will he take Dalton, Ga. There’s really no doubt in my mind Governor Deal will win tonight’s election, but 70% is a hard mark to top, even for a very popular incumbent. And while Dalton, Ga will carry no extra weight in the returns, it will be of mild interest to me whether David Pennington carries the town he was Mayor of until recently. It provides a “best possible case scenario” for the challenger who probably remains unknown to a large swath of the voting public.

Secondary Statewide seats – mainly of interest to see what the “undervote” is, or the number of votes dropped off between the contested top of the ticket and the lower, uncontested seats. Personally, I’ll pick a candidate in most of the uncontested races.

Contested Legislative seats

Senator Mike Dugan v. Bill Hembree in Senate District 30 – in December 2012, Dugan won a special runoff election after Hembree nearly won the special election without a runoff, taking 48% of the vote.

Don Balfour v. P.K. Martin and Mike Beaudreau in Senate DIstrict 9 -

In the battle state Senate District 9 race, two candidates are challenging incumbent Don Balfour, Gwinnett’s longest serving senator, for the Republican ticket to seek the Senate District 9 seat. District 9 encompasses much of the Lawrenceville and Snellville areas in central Gwinnett.

Challenging Balfour, who was acquitted last December in a case involving false per diem reports, are former Gwinnett County commissioner Mike Beaudreau and former Lawrenceville City Councilman P.K. Martin.

All three candidates espouse conservative political philosophies.

Balfour’s issues with the Senate ethics committee, and his indictment and acquittal on charges of taking state expense reimbursements to which he was not entitled are the major issues.

Senator Jack Murphy v. Michael Williams v. Lauren McDonald in Senate District 27 – Murphy won reelection two years ago by only 114 votes, but his 2012 opponent is not on the ballot. After some speculation that he would not run this year, Murphy qualified on the last day.

Open Senate seat in District 16 – After Majority Leader Ronnie Chance announced his retirement, seven candidates entered the primary in the open seat.

State House Seats to Watch

Martin Sullivan v. Jesse Petrea  in House District 166 – Ben Watson created the open seat when he became the only candidate for Senate District 1 when Buddy Carter ran for Congress.

Brooks Coleman v. Jef Fincher in House District 96 – Coleman, long-time Chair of the House Education Committee has become the focal point of anti-Common Core forces, as he is blamed for killing legislation that would have reduced or eliminated the role of Common Core. Nonetheless, Coleman retains a very high level of personal popularity in Duluth and in his district.

Charles Gregory v. Bert Reeves in House District 34 – Gregory is arrogant and useless in office, depriving his constituents of effective representatition. The difference bewteen Gregory and the late Bobby Franklin is that despite voting “no” on almost every bill he ever saw, Franklin was a gentleman and well-liked by his colleagues. You don’t have to be a jerk to vote against anything.

Sam Moore should be retired today – after introducing both the “Child Molesters Bill of Rights” and the “Cop Killers’ Bill of Rights” in his maiden session, I don’t care which candidate against him wins.

Congressional Elections

First District – I think Buddy Carter will come in first, followed by possibly Dr. Bob Johnson, John McCallum or State Rep. Jeff Chapman. But I think we’ll have a runoff. If you were in the First District yesterday, you might have seen Miss America 1995 waving a sign for her husband.

Heather Whitestone McCallum Sign Waving

Tenth District - Mike Collins and Jody Hice will likely go a second round.

Eleventh District – Bob Barr and Barry Loudermilk will enter a runoff. The most recently-release public polling is from Landmark Communications via the Marietta Daily Journal:

ORMER U.S. Rep. Bob Barr of Smyrna and former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cartersville appeared to be headed toward a July 22 runoff to succeed Phil Gingrey as 11th District Congressman as Primary Day dawned, at least according to a poll of 400 likely Republican voters released on Monday by Landmark Communications.

That poll had an error margin of 4.9 percent and showed Loudermilk in the lead at 28.2 percent, followed by Barr with 25.0 percent, Ed Lindsey with 16.2 percent, Tricia Pridemore with 11.8 percent, Allen Levene at 1.7 percent and retired Army Col. Larry Mrozinski at 1.4 percent.

I’ve done some work on voter analytics for the Bob Barr campaign, and I’m going to predict that Barr leads Loudermilk by 1.5 to 3.5 points at the end of the night.

Twelfth District – If I had to guess, I’d say that Rick W. Allen will be the eventual Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent John Barrow. If Eugene Yu forces a runoff, I don’t see how Yu advance to the November General Election.

 

SOS says early voting up, I disagree

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has released figures on this year’s early voting, along with a comparison to 2010, the last year in which we had a gubernatorial race on the Primary ballot. He claims, “The numbers make it clear that Georgia voters are increasingly taking advantage of early voting opportunities,” but I disagree. Here’s the press release, along with some analysis after the jump

Secretary Reports Early Voting Numbers

Atlanta – Early in-person voting ended on Friday, May 16.  While mail-in absentee ballots can still be cast until the polls close tomorrow evening, the majority of early votes have been cast.

Number of ballots cast:  239,281
Continue reading

New Landmark/RosettaStone Poll Shows Barry Loudermilk Takes Slight Lead in Congressional District 11 :: Landmark Communications, Inc

(Atlanta)—A new poll jointly released Monday by Landmark Communications and Rosetta Stone Communications identifies Senator Barry Loudermilk now leading the Republican Primary for Georgia Congressional District 11.

Loudermilk leads among Georgia Republican primary voters with 25% of the vote. Bob Barr is two points behind Loudermilk at 23%. Tricia Pridemore has 11% of support, while Representative Edward Lindsey has 8%. Continue reading

Thoughts on the 11th District Debate | InsiderAdvantageGeorgia

The Atlanta Press Club hosted a televised debate on Sunday for the Republican candidates running for Congress in the state’s 11th District, (the seat being vacated by Senate hopeful Phil Gingrey). We’re always skeptical of whether anyone watches these things or if they do any good in moving the polls, but it at least gives an interesting look into the state of the race just before the election.

An aside before we get into the debate itself, polling shows Loudermilk and Barr in good position to make a runoff. Lindsey seems to be the only other one with a shot, a fact which didn’t seem lost on the candidate from Sandy Springs as he came out with the most fire in his belly.

Barr to me was the big winner. He’s the wily veteran in this race, and it showed. First fending off a question about his past party switching shenanigans with relative ease, then tossing up a question to Mrozinski about veteran care that made both look sympathetic to the issues facing vets, Barr stayed out of any potential fights or ‘youtube moments’. He harped on his past experience in Congress and didn’t get dragged into the muddy waters that surround some of his history.

Loudermilk, the other frontrunner, caught the brunt of the attacks, particularly from Lindsey. After receiving questions from three candidates in a row he remarked that it was ‘pretty clear who the frontrunner is’. His first exchange with Ed Lindsey was probably the highlight of the debate, centering around his giving up his state Senate seat to run, thereby forcing his district to hold a costly special election.

via Thoughts on the 11th District Debate | InsiderAdvantageGeorgia.

Turnout hard to predict for Tuesday’s primary election | Gwinnett Daily Post

In a year where Georgians will fill out their primary ballot before schools close for the summer, the predictions are hard to make.

This is the earliest primary election ever, after a federal judge mandated the election date, and also one of the longest ballots, with more than a half-dozen candidates in contests for U.S. Senate and Congress. If you add the Republicans and Democrats together, the state school superintendent race has eclipsed a baker’s dozen, and the governor is facing an unusual party challenge.

“It’s a real interesting dynamic,” Gwinnett Elections Superintendent Lynn Ledford said of the energetic but early contests.

Like many, Ledford no longer has a home phone at her house, so she isn’t sure if the typical barrage of robo-calls will impact voters, while ads have continued to fill the television screen and other media.

But will people realize Tuesday is the day to cast ballots? She isn’t sure.

“It’s going to be an interesting Election Day,” she said. “I really can’t say (how many will turn out), but it’ll be interesting.”

During the early voting period last week, the turnout was light, Ledford said, but it was steady.

As of the end of the day Thursday, about 5,788 ballots had been cast in Gwinnett. That is down compared to four years ago, the last mid-term, gubernatorial election year, when about 9,300 votes were cast during absentee and advanced periods. But Ledford said she isn’t sure if that is an indication that the polling will be light on Tuesday.

via Turnout hard to predict for Tuesday’s primary election | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Tuesday’s election results might depend on voter turnout | Online Athens

Anyone wishing a bigger say in government should vote Tuesday since signs of an unusually low turnout suggest every vote cast might carry more meaningful consequences.

“We are closing in on what appears likely to be a very weak, or low-voter-turnout primary on May 20,” said pollster Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage. “We are now thinking that the actual vote on Tuesday could be at least 100,000 votes fewer than it was in the GOP primary of 2010, which was our last midterm and gubernatorial cycle.”

Early expectations are for an about a 16-percent voter turnout, which is less than half of the likely turnout in November.

On the other hand, heated mayoral races in Athens, Augusta and Columbus are driving turnout. As a result, Muscogee and Richmond were two of the five top counties in terms of early voting turnout. Already 8,500 people have voted in Columbus and 7,100 in Augusta, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, which didn’t release the Clarke County figures.

Candidates are doing what they can in the remaining hours to spur turnout. Most spent the weekend bouncing from one rally to another, and the statewide contenders who have the money will zoom around Georgia by plane on Monday. All the while, they are airing TV ads, sending mailers and having volunteers and machines call supporters.

“(GOP Senate candidate) Karen Handel clearly has the most targeted get-out-the-vote effort,” Towery said. “Her use of social media and automated phone calls to her base could give her an extra point or two in the final vote count. (Rival Jack) Kingston has turned around his TV ad campaign, running stronger ads and taking on (businessman David) Perdue. And Perdue is now attacking Kingston as well.”

via Tuesday’s election results might depend on voter turnout | Online Athens.

Turnout could be low for Tuesday election – Douglas County Sentinel: Local News

If the number of early voters is any indication, a small percentage of citizens will be deciding races in the May 20 primary election on Tuesday.

As of around noon Friday, the final day of advanced voting, 4 percent, or about 2,800 voters, had cast ballots out of Douglas County’s roughly 70,200 active voters.

About two-thirds of the ballots cast in early voting were in the Republican Primary in Douglas County.

Douglas County Elections Supervisor Laurie Fulton said she was initially projecting between 20 and 25 percent of voters in the county to vote in the primary.

“I guess the best I could say is we hope we can reach that turnout,” Fulton said.

To still reach that projection, there’s going to have to be a heavy influx of voters showing up at precincts around the county on election day.

Advanced voting typically makes up around 30 percent of the total turnout in primary elections, Fulton said.

She speculated that voters may not be turning out to vote because the primary this year is two months earlier than usual and because she said there are “so many unknown names running for office.”

Still, there’s no doubting the importance of the offices up for grabs. While the hotly contested U.S. Senate race is drawing most of the statewide attention, there are several big local races on the ballot.

The District 4 seat on the Douglas Counnty Board of Commissioners will be decided Tuesday. Republican incumbent Ann Jones Guider is facing businessman J.R. McCoy in a race that will decide who holds that seat for the next four years since no Democrats qualified.

And 13-year incumbent State Court Judge Neal Dettmering is facing opposition from local attorney Sonya Compton in a nonpartisan race that will also be decided Tuesday.

via Turnout could be low for Tuesday election – Douglas County Sentinel: Local News.

Turnout could be low for Tuesday election – Douglas County Sentinel: Local News

If the number of early voters is any indication, a small percentage of citizens will be deciding races in the May 20 primary election on Tuesday.

As of around noon Friday, the final day of advanced voting, 4 percent, or about 2,800 voters, had cast ballots out of Douglas County’s roughly 70,200 active voters.

About two-thirds of the ballots cast in early voting were in the Republican Primary in Douglas County.

Douglas County Elections Supervisor Laurie Fulton said she was initially projecting between 20 and 25 percent of voters in the county to vote in the primary.

“I guess the best I could say is we hope we can reach that turnout,” Fulton said.

To still reach that projection, there’s going to have to be a heavy influx of voters showing up at precincts around the county on election day.

Advanced voting typically makes up around 30 percent of the total turnout in primary elections, Fulton said.

She speculated that voters may not be turning out to vote because the primary this year is two months earlier than usual and because she said there are “so many unknown names running for office.”

via Turnout could be low for Tuesday election – Douglas County Sentinel: Local News.

Will voters turn out for Tuesday’s primary? | GainesvilleTimes.com

Voter turnout is a concern each and every election cycle, particularly in primary races when interest lags.

Hall County is certainly not immune, but low turnout here might be even more pronounced in primary races this year for a few reasons.

First, several local races are uncontested. It also is a nonpresidential election year. And, finally, the primary date was moved up on the calendar this year to coincide with federal election schedules. Taken together, these factors spell trouble for turnout come Tuesday.

There are about 95,000 registered voters in Hall County, but just 2,354 cast ballots during three weeks of early primary voting. Another 409 have returned absentee ballots.

“We’ve had a very low turnout,” Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said.

The low turnout thus far promises one of two things come Tuesday: The polls will either be dead or swamped, Sosebee said.

via Will voters turn out for Tuesday’s primary?.