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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2015

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

Under the Gold Dome Today

2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Subcommittee – Mezz 1
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation Committee – 450 cap

Today’s meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee, Chaired by Senator Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) will take up House Bill 170, the Transportation Finance Act. Kyle Wingfield of the AJC writes about what a Senate version of the transportation tax might look like,

“Most senators believe that we should have some skin in the game,” Williams told me after the Senate adjourned Wednesday, “that we shouldn’t just look for a tax increase without looking at our own budget.”

That means shifting more than just the “fourth penny” of the motor-fuel tax from the state’s general fund to the transportation budget, as HB 170 does.

“The motor fuel tax is a diminishing tax” thanks to fuel-efficiency gains, he said, “so we’re trying to find something that’s a growing number.”

One number that’s been growing in recent years is the state’s general revenue. “If we were to put a couple hundred million dollars a year” from general revenue growth into transportation, he said, “within a few years you could generate some significant money.”

He conceded that requires “the will of the Legislature” for years to come, whereas an excise tax on gasoline is constitutionally bound to go to DOT. “Unless you pass a constitutional amendment, you can’t guarantee that happens. But I think we need to culture ourselves to believe if we have excess revenue, it’s not just education and bonds we look at. We need to look at transportation.”

“We’re not taking any locals’ money,” Williams said. “I have not talked to a senator who thinks we should be taking the locals’ money. … You can’t tell a county that’s got 40 percent of their money coming in (from) motor fuel that they’ve got to spend it all on transportation. It just doesn’t work for them.”

Voters in the City of Atlanta will decide two questions related to issuing approximately $250 million in bonds.

On the ballot, you’ll see them as two separate issues: $187.9 million for public streets, traffic control, curbing, storm water drainage, signs, bridges, streetlights, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian improvements, and $64 million for improvements on public buildings.

Not surprisingly, it’s business-types who are driving the pro-bond referendum, according to the AJC.

Some of Atlanta’s biggest corporate players are backing Mayor Kasim Reed’s $250 million infrastructure bond effort, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars into an 11th hour get-out-the-vote campaign.

Citizens for Better Infrastructure, an independent committee formed last month, raised $432,750 dollars in March from several key business allies, according to campaign disclosure records.

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, a board of top CEOs and academic leaders often tapped to assist with Reed’s initiatives, are the single largest contributors to the campaign, giving $225,000 in March.

Many ACP members, such as Delta CEO Richard Anderson, served on a blue ribbon commission last year to help the city identify cost-savings measures to pay for the bonds.

As of last week, Citizens for Better Infrastructure spent about $323,000 on direct mailings, robocalls and media advertisements to encourage voters to approve the referendum. The committee also launched a social media campaign in late February, postings photos of the group’s efforts.

Jeb Bush in Atlanta

On Thursday, former Florida Governor and potential Presidential contender Jeb Bush will tour the Georgia State Capitol, according to the AJC Political Insider.

Bush is now scheduled to make two high-profile appearances before the state House and Senate. He’ll drop in on Gov. Nathan Deal, too. The noonish appearances could easily coincide with the lunchtime broadcasts of several Atlanta television stations.

Straw Poll follow-up

Gwinnett Dawson GARCC Muscogee Cherokee Total %age
Scott Walker 77 12 527 23 30 669 41.73%
Ben Carson 20 1 119 4 1 145 9.05%
Rand Paul 12 1 185 2 11 211 13.16%
Ted Cruz 7 75 4 8 94 5.86%
Jeb Bush 6 1 95 5 4 111 6.92%
Marco Rubio 5 2 46 2 3 58 3.62%
Bobby Jindal 5 20 1 26 1.62%
Mike Huckabee 3 1 71 5 80 4.99%
Rick Perry 2 1 29 5 37 2.31%
Allen West 2 4 6 0.37%
Chris Christie 2 12 1 2 17 1.06%
Carly Fiorina 1 8 1 10 0.75%
John Kasich 11 1 12 0.75%
Paul Ryan 8 1 9 0.56%
Rick Santorum 7 3 0 10 0.62%
Mitt Romney 1 write-in 30 2 32 2.00%
Undecided 2 73 1 76 4.74%

*GARCC also reported 6 votes for Mike Pence, 2 votes for Donald Trup, and single votes for John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Trey Gowdy, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Ronald Reagan, and Jeff Sessions. The Georgia Association of Republican County Chairmen includes some of the counties that are broken out separately.


Cindy Ann Doyles was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $25,000 when she served as Peach County Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will meet on Wednesday and is expected to approve changing the name of Middle Georgia State College to University.

The Muscogee County School Board has approved a two-step plan to address salary issues where some long-time employees are making less than new hires in the same position.

In Muscogee County, polls are open until 7 PM today for voters to cast ballots on the proposed E-SPLOST to fund education capital projects.

For months now, supporters and opponents of the special tax have been debating, arguing and stating their cases for instituting and rejecting the Education SPLOST. The school district wants to pass the special 1% tax to raise about $193 million over five years for various projects.

Some of the funding would go to a new Spencer High School and classrooms and classes specially designed for autistic children.

Opponents of the tax want more accountability in the school district. They say they would like a comprehensive audit of the district’s finances before passing the tax increase.

Election officials confirm that nearly 5,000 people have already cast their ballots in the early voting period. Another 550 people have mailed in absentee ballots.

Meriwether County residents will go to the ballots today for a County Commission Special Election in which my friend William McKeen is a candidate.

Voters in Avondale Estates will go to the polls today to elect a new Mayor after the last one resigned.

Five candidates are running for the position which only lasts until December 31. The city says the mayor’s seat will be up for reelection on Nov. 3 of this year, with that elected candidate beginning a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2016.

Paul Brown, Jonathan Elmore, Jim Hutchens, John Pomberg, and Todd Pullen all took part in a mayoral forum on February 19. They answered questions from community members about transparency, parking, and annexation.

Avondale Estates said voting on Tuesday will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in two locations:

  • Avondale Estates City Hall, 21 North Avondale Plaza
  • For the newly annexed area of Stratford Green Townhomes (ONLY), voting will take place at Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church, 3260 Covington Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30032

Richmond County will elect a new Augusta Commissioner in District 7 today, though turnout is expected to be light. Meanwhile, the Augusta Chronicle analyzed how frequently the candidates themselves have gone to the polls.

The Augusta Chronicle looked into the voting records of interim Commissioner Louis “Hap” Harris, retired mortgage banker Sonny Pittman and charity Development Director Sean Frantom going back to 2000.

The records, which don’t specify how someone votes but whether they participate, revealed Harris voted 88 percent of the time, missing the fewest – five elections – of 40 opportunities.

Harris, 65, participated in the 2012 Democratic primary showdown between sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles and Sheriff Richard Roundtree, but selected a Republican primary ballot 13 times and a nonpartisan ballot once.

Pittman voted 80 percent of the time, missing eight of 40 elections, including Georgia’s 2004 flag vote, a 2009 sales tax referendum and the 2010 general election for mayor and his own Super District 10.

Pittman, 68, voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but chose a Republican primary ballot on 10 other occasions.

But of 29 known election opportunities he had – including general primaries, sales tax referenda, presidential primaries and general elections, Frantom missed 14, for a voting track record of 48 percent.

He voted three times in Columbia County during the early 2000s, but missed two sales tax referenda, two presidential primaries, the state flag vote and two general elections there.

Next door, Columbia County voters will decide on an E-SPLOST.

If approved, the education special purpose local option sales tax referendum will renew collection of the tax starting in 2017, with the expectation that it will fund about $140 million in improvements and additions to Columbia County’s rapidly growing school system.

The growth isn’t expected to slow any time soon. School officials expect at least 700 additional students to enroll next fall and even more in coming years as about 3,700 cyber defense employees are added to Fort Gordon’s workforce, bringing their families to the community.

Hall County residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against SPLOST VII on March 17, 2015.

In Dawson County, voters will cast ballots in elections on an E-LOST (Local Option Sales Tax for Education) and to fill a vacancy on Dawsonville City Council.

A special election will be held in the City of Ephesus, Georgia.

Talbot County will hold a referendum on package sales of beer, wine, and liquor.

Whitfield County will hold an election on a SPLOST for public safety funding today.

College Park will hold elections on a Freeport Tax Exemption, and for one City Council race.

The City of Carrollton is holding a Special Election on a Carrollton City Schools Bond Referendum.


Georgia beer bill wins Senate passage, but supporters want more |

Debate on allowing customers to take home more beer from Georgia’s craft brewers came to a head Friday: The state Senate agreed with the idea. But no one’s celebrating just yet.

Direct sales would still be banned, and the original proposal has been substantially watered down in the legislative process.

Still, the passage of Senate Bill 63 in one chamber is the most success supporters have seen in their years-long effort to expand just how much beer someone could get directly from their local brewery. It also helped the measure beat a key deadline and remain alive in the final weeks of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 2.

via Georgia beer bill wins Senate passage, but supporters want more |


Georgia’s House OKs break to let Tesla Motors keep selling cars |

Tesla Motors, unburdened by past opposition from the powerful car dealers lobby, easily won House approval Friday night for a bill letting it continue to avoid independent dealers and sell an unlimited number of its new electric vehicles directly to Georgia consumers.

The measure, which passed 170-3, now goes before the State Senate.

If the legislation wins passage there and sign-off from the governor, California-based Tesla would be the first and only car maker in recent Georgia history to be allowed to sell freely without going through independent dealers. But the company would be capped at five Georgia locations.

via Georgia’s House OKs break to let Tesla Motors keep selling cars |


Cherokee GOP County Convention Straw Poll Results

I’ll type these up in a proper table when I am able, but I’m currently in the chair, mouth numb, waiting for root canal to begin.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2015

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Georgia Republican Party County Convention Straw Polls

Here are the results we have so far – if your county held a straw poll and it’s not included, please email us the results.

Gwinnett Dawson GARCC Muscogee
Scott Walker 77 12 39% 23
Ben Carson 20 1 10% 4
Rand Paul 12 1 16% 2
Ted Cruz 7 7% 4
Jeb Bush 6 1 6% 5
Marco Rubio 5 2 3% 2
Bobby Jindal 5
Mike Huckabee 3 1 6%
Rick Perry 2 1 3%
Allen West 2
Chris Christie 2 1
Carly Fiorina 1 1
John Kasich
Rick Santorum 3
Mitt Romney 1 write-in
Undecided 2 10%*

* Georgia Association of Republican County Chairmen reported 10% as Other/Undecided.

For a little perspective on the predictive value of straw polls, the Georgia GOP Straw Poll in August 2011 showed the leading candidates for 2012 being:

1 Herman Cain 26% 232
2 Ron Paul 25.7% 229
3 Rick Perry 20% 179
4 Newt Gingrich 18% 162
5 Mitt Romney 6% 51
6 Michele Bachmann 3% 29
7 Rick Santorum .4% 4

Congratulations to my Republican Leadership for Georgia Class of 2013 classmates Rose Wing, who was elected Chair of the Cobb County Republican Party and Trey Kelley, who was elected Chair of the Fulton County Republican Party. Rich Carithers was elected Chair of the Gwinnett County Republican Party. Brian Anderson was elected Chair of DeKalb County Republican Party.

We’re holding our own online straw poll and will do so periodically as we go through the 2016 election cycle. Vote here.

GaPunditStrawPoll Button



Other political news

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer is scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty to federal charges of official corruption. Unless it’s delayed again.Continue Reading..


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 16, 2015


Benji is a senior Pekingese male who is available for adoption from the Tri-County Animal Rescue Center in Mauk, GA.


Ralph is a small adult male Pekingese and Spaniel mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.


Lenny is an adult male Pekingese mix who is available for adoption from the Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.


Katrina is an adult female Pekingese and Poodle mix who is available for adoption from Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.


Peanut is an adult male Pekingese mix who is available for adoption from CASA in Marietta, GA.


GaPundit Presidential Straw Poll

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Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 13, 2015

Dublin Frito

Frito is a young male Shepherd/Hound mix, about 25 pound and 9 months old. He is available for adoption from Dublin-Laurens Animal Shelter in Dublin, GA.


Nemo is a young male Hound mix who is available for adoption from Dublin-Laurens Animal Shelter in Dublin, GA.

Dublin Lab Mix 30

This sweet Lab mix was recently brought in and doesn’t have much information yet, but is available for adoption from Dublin-Laurens Animal Shelter in Dublin, GA.


Tucker, a sweet young cream-colored Lab mix male is available for adoption from Dublin-Laurens Animal Shelter in Dublin, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2015

On March 3, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

Under the Gold Dome Today

The House Rules Committee meets at 8 AM in Room 341 of the State Capitol; the Senate Rules Committee will meet upon adjournment. Either chamber’s Rules Committee is subject to meeting today depending on the throughput of their respective chambers.Continue Reading..


Jim Kingston: Lessons from the 2014 Senate campaign

by Jim Kingston

Last year, I drove my Dad around the Peach State helping him campaign for the United States Senate. While in the end our efforts came up short, I do not consider the effort wasted. I made many friends from all different walks of life and I learned a whole lot about the fight for smaller government— something both my parents have spent years doing.

After many successful years in the House of Representatives, my Dad felt that our country needed better leadership in the Senate. When you consider the Senate has not met their constitutional requirement of passing a credible budget in over five years, I think you might agree with him.

The results of that campaign have given my dad and everyone who had helped him run a lot of great opportunities in both the public and private sectors— opportunities that likely would not have been available otherwise. So, with that being said, here are a few key takeaways from my brief political experience.

Kingston Qualifying

(Left to right: Jim Kingston, Jack and Libby Kingston, Mrs. Ann Kingston, seated)

Freedom of speech is alive and well in the Peach State.

We can all relax. After 238 years, the first amendment continues to be well protected. If you want to hear some great, unfiltered political feedback, the Walton County GOP monthly meeting led by chairman Roy Roberts is a great place to start. County GOP BBQs, rotary club meetings, tea party rallies, and chamber of commerce luncheons across Georgia have some of the most strongly opinionated citizens in the country.Continue Reading..