Speaker David Ralston: “another year where you’re going to see budget cuts as opposed to adds.”

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said he’s facing a $300 million hole as he heads into the coming legislative session in January.

Ralston, who was guest speaker at the Marietta Area Council meeting of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce at the Mansour Center on Wednesday, gave a talk about public service. The Journal caught up with him afterward to ask whether there is money to support the request by Cobb Schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who wants the legislature to eliminate the austerity cuts to the school system, cuts state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) said have cost the system $425 million since 2003.

“I see a budget that as we are preparing to go into the session is over $300 million dollars short because of shortfall in Medicaid that’s due to the economic downtown, it’s due to population increases, and so when we go in with that big a hole I think that increasing funding is going to be very, very challenging in that environment,” Ralston said. “You know, there’s a lot of things that we would like to do, but we have to do the responsible thing and that’s balance the budget and do it without increasing taxes, so this is going to be another year where you’re going to see budget cuts as opposed to adds.”

Marietta attorney and lobbyist Chuck Clay, among those who attended the Chamber breakfast, said health care is “driving the train right into the ditch.”

“Every time we turn around there’s a larger gap in Medicaid, there’s a larger shortfall in the state health benefit plan,” Clay said. “Everywhere you turn, health care–related issues seem to be the tar we cannot extricate ourselves from or get our arms around in any coherent way, which is not unique to Georgia.”

Note to liberals everywhere: this is why we can’t afford to cover more people through magical free federal money.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 6, 2012

26200 is a young labrador mix who is said by volunteers to be very sweet and friendly and she is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville. Call the Shelter for more information 770-339-3200.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

As of Saturday, Fulton County was not finished counting votes in last Tuesday’s elections and Secretary of State Brian Kemp is not amused.

Brian Kemp said he is concerned about “numerous and substantial issues” surrounding Tuesday’s primary election in Fulton County and more concerned with a lack of communication with local voting officials.

WSB-TV reports that Fulton County was scheduled to certify the results of Tuesday’s primary by noon Saturday. That deadline came and went. Now county election officials plan to meet tonight.

“This process does not usually take this long and every time that we’ve worked a deadline out with them that deadline has been moved,” Kemp told the TV station in an interview.

Maybe the General Assembly should consider a mechanism for the Secretary of State’s office to remove or supervise elections officials whose departments aren’t performing well enough.

Kennesaw State University hosts the Center for Election Systems, which provides support for the state’s voting system.

“They provide an invaluable service to the state of Georgia,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said. “This investment of taxpayer dollars provides a safe, secure and uniform election system that Georgia can be proud of.”

In late 2003, the center began preparing the election databases, also known as ballot building.

An election database maps precincts, races and candidates and provides for the storage of votes and eventual reporting for that election. The ballot is derived from the election database. Months before Election Day, the center begins preparing databases that produce the electronic printed and audio ballots used during an election.

There are specific election board rules that outline such things as how large a candidate’s name can appear on the ballot, the font size and the placement of a candidate’s name.

“By having a centralized building component, you have one spot where you can control that to make sure what’s seen by a voter in Fulton County in display, in receptiveness, in feel, looks the same as it does in Camden County,” [center director Michael] Barnes said.

The center builds ballots for 157 of the 159 counties to date, with only Cobb and Richmond counties doing it themselves.

“When we’re doing this in some cases it’s in a time window that’s extremely small,” Barnes said. “The election ended (Tuesday). Voters are anticipating to be voting on a ballot a week from Monday. You have no idea who’s in the runoff. You can’t guess. You have recounts going on. I calculated this morning that out of 159 counties we have 124 counties that have some form of a runoff, so that means we have to prepare 124 databases. Not only do we have to prepare them, they have to be built, they have to be viewed, they have to be checked, and then when we’re finished saying it’s good, they’re only given at that point to the counties for them to proof, because it’s the responsibility of the county to make sure that it’s correct.”

Some candidates in Cobb County complained that election results took too long to be released:

The first results from Cobb were not posted online until 9:39 p.m., more than two and a half hours after most polling places had closed. The nearly complete results were not available until 10 minutes before midnight. And it was 4:27 a.m. Wednesday before all the results were reported.

“You couldn’t get any results, and you had to go to the state level to do it,” said former county Commissioner Butch Thompson. “In somebody’s wisdom they decided that they didn’t want Cobb County to have the election results so normal people could see where we’re at. I don’t know why it now has to come under state control. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I found it real frustrating.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), added: “Something needs to be done. Cobb used to be one of the counties that always had the earliest results coming in. At some point, people will start to question the process when you have that long of a delay.”

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler was doing things by the book and ensuring that the numbers posted were accurate, and she deserves credit for that.

“Everything went according to plan,” Eveler told the MDJ the next day. “We felt very good about the whole process. Our processes worked great.”

Coweta County election officials were disappointed with 27% turnout:

Turnout, however, was low, with only 27.17 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

“I was thinking we would have between 30 and 40 percent turnout,” Scoggins said.

And even so, “I think we were a little bit higher than the state,” she said.

While Chatham County’s 26% was higher than predicted.

About 26 percent of Chatham’s 141,282 registered voters cast ballots in the primary election, according to unofficial results.

Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said there were no major problems.

“Everything went pretty well,” Bridges said.

The turnout was slightly higher than Bridge’s expectation of 20 percent. During the last primary before a presidential election in 2008, almost 23,000, or about 19 percent, of registered voters cast ballots.

The takeaway here: election turnout predictions by the people charged with administering elections are wild guesses.

Candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education begin qualifying today.

Qualifying for five commission posts and five school board seats begins at 9 a.m. today in the office of Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey. It was moved from May by a federal judge while a lawsuit over district lines was contested.

Qualifying will be held during business hours today and Tuesday but ends at noon Wednesday. The qualifying fee for a school board seat is $100. The qualifying fee for a commission seat is $360, and candidates must live in the district they want to represent.

At least 13 candidates have expressed an interest in the Dis­tricts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 commission posts, but only one person has announced plans to seek a seat on the school board.

School board incumbents are not term-limited and have a combined 43 years of experience. Two of the longest-serving, District 1’s Marion Barnes and at-large member Helen Minchew, first took office in 2000.

Richmond County Repub­li­can voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for school board members in a primary straw poll, but implementing them would take an act of the Georgia Legislature.

According to the Savannah Morning News, the challenge of runoff elections is turning out your voters.

Primary leader usually wins

If history’s any guide, Anderson and Hoskins have a leg up, said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

The leader in the primary wins runoffs about 70 percent of the time, said Bullock, who’s written extensively about them.

He and other experts say runoffs demand a different approach than primaries.

Bullock cited two key factors — lower turnout and a campaign that lasts less than three weeks.

“Your first objective,” Bullock said, “is to make sure the people who voted for you in the primary get back to the polls. There is usually a drop off.”

Savannah College of Art and Design political science professor Robert Eisinger agreed.

“Every campaign ought to know who their supporters are and let them know it’s not over,” Eisinger said.

But, especially in local campaigns, said Savannah political consultant David Simons, that’s not always easy.

It’s smarter, he said, to make “extremely targeted” appeals to people most likely to vote.

Voting history and demographic data such as age and race — all public record — can locate such people, Simons said.

Simons recommended that candidates use mostly phones and mailings.

“I wouldn’t spend a dime on TV or radio in a local race,” he said. “You’ll pay too much to reach people who won’t vote.”

Because there’s so little time, he and Bullock agreed, it makes little sense to try of drum up new support.

Center Forward has reserved $357,000 worth of television airtime in the 12th Congressional District to support the reelection of Democrat John Barrow.

A complaint has been filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission accusing Gwinnett County State Court candidate Pam Britt of stealing signs from other candidates.

Britt said she has run an honest campaign and strongly denied stealing any signs. She said she did remove two signs from a campaign supporter’s property at their request about five weeks ago, because other candidates did not have permission to place signs there.

Britt said one of the signs was broken, laying in the street and had been run over by cars. She said she threw the sign, which was for Richard T. Winegarden, in the trash. Britt said she returned the other sign, which looked reusable, to its owner, Greg Lundy.

“The timing on this being the week of the election is suspicious,” Britt said. “I think it’s an attack on my character, and obviously I’m upset by it.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempted to contact the other four primary candidates for State Court Thursday — Brantley, Winegarden, Lundy and Norman Cuadra — but only Winegarden returned calls seeking comment.

When informed of the investigation, Winegarden declined to discuss the situation. “The JQC investigation is confidential, so I don’t think I should be talking about it,” he said.

Sign-stealing is a common complaint during election season, but it’s difficult to prove without witnesses or photographs, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said.

“It’s just not something you expect in a judicial race — it’s more often city councils, county commission, state House,” Conway said.

Winegarden’s campaign manager called Duluth police Tuesday to report someone stole his campaign signs, spray-painted them with a black skull and crossbones and re-posted them at the intersection of Old Peachtree Road and Sugarloaf Parkway, according to an incident report.

At Saturday’s Gwinnett County Republican Party breakfast, State Court candidate Emily Brantley accused Britt of something arguably worse in a Gwinnett County runoff. Brantley said that Britt voted in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary for either Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton. Maybe she voted for Bill Richardson?

In the Cobb County Commission Chair Runoff between incumbent Tim Lee and former Chair Bill Byrne, the challenger has picked up support from Larry Savage, who ran fourth in the primary election, while third-place finisher Mike Boyce will not endorse anyone.

Former county chairman candidate Larry Savage said he would campaign for Bill Byrne in the Aug. 21 runoff that will decide the next chairman if asked, while former candidate Mike Boyce said he would not be making an endorsement.

Voters sent Byrne and incumbent Tim Lee into the runoff in the Tuesday Republican primary race for county chairman. Lee led the pack with 29,024 votes, followed by Byrne, who received 19,388 votes, Boyce, who received 17,025 votes, and Savage, who received 7,662 votes.  About 60 percent of all voters cast a ballot against Chairman Lee.

Savage said he would work to help Byrne get elected if Byrne wanted.

“Bill sees the same thing that I saw starting more than two years ago — that we have lost our direction, we have gone adrift to the left, we’ve become decidedly more liberal in our approach to local government, and we just can’t continue that unless we want to turn out like everybody else that’s ever tried it,” Savage said Thursday. “That’s a natural thing that governments do over time is tilt to the left. They provide more and more services to more and more people and ever smaller groups, and it never works in the long run, and the only way it seems that people get over that is they go all the way to the end and to failure, and then they get to reset and start over, and I think we ought to be smart enough to be able not to do that.”

Were it to come down to picking a next-door neighbor, Savage said he might choose Lee because, on a personal level, Lee is likable.

“But Tim, I don’t know if Tim even has a personal view about government or if he has any philosophy about government,” Savage said. “He gets his direction from other people, and those other people, they may be upstanding citizens and successful business people and all that sort of thing, but they are not tuned in or obligated or committed in any way to the best interests of the county at large. They’ve got other interests that are a lot more parochial, and that’s the direction that the county follows.”

However, Savage said this is not about electing a next-door neighbor.

“We’re not electing a homecoming queen,” Savage said. “We’re not electing someone to be nice. We’re electing someone to deal with issues.

That Cobb Commission Chair runoff is likely to come down to voter turnout, according to even more politicos.

Marietta attorney Chuck Clay said it’s hard to say who could win the runoff because there should be a slight advantage to the incumbent, but with both Lee and Byrne being “known entities” in Cobb, it will all depend on who can get the most people back to the ballots in three weeks.

“The traditional rule is that if you’re an incumbent and you’re down, then you’re in trouble, but this is a little different scenario with the (TSPLOST) on and off, and both of these people have records that are known,” he said. “You don’t have an incumbent challenging a fresh face. It kind of throws that traditional view off.”

For Lee, Clay said he’s has the advantage in fundraising and seems to be well-liked, but Byrne is a hardworking candidate and within “striking distance.”

He also said that traditionally, around 15 to 20 percent of registered voters turn out for the primaries, and somewhere around half of that will make a showing for runoffs.

“At this time, it’s purely a turnout issue — who can get folks to come back to the poll?” he said.

First-time Cobb Commission candidate Lisa Cupid forced incumbent Woody Thompson into a runoff as well.

Lisa Cupid … said she’s been endorsed by former candidates Monica DeLancy and Ruth Negron

Cupid said she is confident about the race, given that more than 70 percent of voters opposed Thompson.

“We were pretty successful knocking door to door and calling people directly,” she said. “That may have to continue.”

Thompson said he talked with Connie Taylor, whom he appointed to the SPLOST Oversight Committee and Board of Tax Assessors, about an endorsement.

While nothing is official, he feels confident about the endorsement from Taylor, who finished fourth in the race, just behind Dr. Michael Rhett.

“I think she’s on board to help,” Thompson said.

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr holds a 76-vote lead over challenger Pam Brown in the Democratic primary.

Elections supervisor, Nancy Boren, says more than 260 military ballots were mailed out 45 days ago, some going as far as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Based upon previous elections, only 6 to 8 percent are normally returned to the office before the deadline. Soldiers have until Friday to submit their mail-in ballots.

“I am not expecting those ballots to make a big difference in the outcome,” explained Boren.

[Pam] Brown… stated she will request a recount if Darr is declared the nominee.

Henry County Commissioner Warren Holder has requested a recount in his narrow loss to challenger Bo Moss, which will be conducted today by the county elections office.

For now, unofficial and incomplete returns have businessman William J. “Bo” Moss defeating long-time incumbent District I Commissioner Warren Emory Holder. Moss received 50.2 percent of the vote, or 1,898 votes, while Holder secured 49.8 percent, or 1,883 votes.

“Unofficially, there is a 15-vote difference between ‘Bo’ Moss and Warren Holder for the District I Commissioner seat,” said election clerk Brook Schreiner. “Our office is still waiting on military absentees; they have until Friday at 3 p.m. to get their absentee votes to us. After 3 p.m., we will certify the election.”

Schreiner said although the Henry election office has completed the count for provisional ballots, the number of votes for Moss and Holder remains the same as election night.

“As of [Wednesday], we had not received any military votes in the mail,” said Shellnutt. “There will be an official and complete report on Friday, when will do a final count after the mail runs.”

Muscogee County coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot for paying with a bad check, is trying to collect nearly 6000 signatures by Thursday to qualify for the ballot.

Thrower says he has at least 4,000 signatures so far. Officials say by August 3 at noon, he must pay a $1800 qualifying fee and turn in a declaration of intent to run as an independent candidate.

Pro-tip: collect at least 50% more signatures than you need, so that you still have enough after a bunch of them are challenged and thrown out.

Clayton County voters will get a second bite at the apple in runoff elections for County Commission Chair, Sheriff, Commission District 3, and Senate district 44. In each of those races, the incumbent was forced into a runoff.

In the District 44 senate race, challenger Gail Buckner and incumbent Gail Davenport ran neck-and-neck throughout the evening. The results show Buckner finishing with 45.8 percent of the vote to Davenport’s 45.2.

In the race for sheriff of Clayton County, incumbent Kem Kimbrough led throughout the evening but challenger and former sheriff Victor Hill remained on his coattails. Kimbrough garnered 42.4 percent of the vote to Hill’s 37.5 percent.

The only remaining candidate in that race to finish with more than one percent of the vote was Clayton County Police Lt. Tina Daniel, who finished third with 12.9 percent.

The commission chairman’s race saw challenger Jeff Turner and incumbent Eldrin Bell neck-and-neck throughout the evening on Tuesday and, when the final votes were tallied, the two were separated by four tenths of a percentage point with Bell garnering 41.95 percent of the vote to Turner’s 41.91 percent.

The third candidate, Roberta Abdul-Salaam, finished with 16.1 percent.

In the Clayton County Commission District Three race, incumbent Wole Ralph and challenger Shana Rooks ran a close race throughout the evening with Ralph finishing on top with 44.07 percent of the vote to Rooks 42.7.

New District Attorney for the Northern Judicial Circuit (comprising  Hart, Elbert, Franklin, Madison, and Oglethorpe counties) Parks White is preparing to take over from incumbent Bob Lavender, whom he defeated in the Republican primary. Awkward.

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