Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2014

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state. From Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp:

Click here to check on your voter registration.


Click here to contact your local Board of Elections to learn where you can vote early beginning today!

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

In 1787, McIntosh was a Commissioner representing Georgia in a series of three boudary disputes with South Carolina, two which were resolved on April 28, 1787 with the Convention of Beaufort.

In 1874, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April 26th of each year as “Confederate Memorial Day,” choosing the day of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. There is no longer a statutorily-recognized Confederate Memorial Day, but it has become custom for Governor’s to issue a proclamation yearly designating April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day. Today, most state government offices will be closed in observance of the holiday.

Confederate History Month 2014

Media politics

The Washington Post published an article this weekend comparing the spending of several of the major national Tea Party organizations to SuperPACs and concluding that the Tea Party groups are spending more of their donations on “overhead” and less on direct candidate support than similar SuperPACs.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

On average, super PACs had spent 64 percent of their funds on directly helping candidates by roughly this stage in the 2012 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

I’ve seen several folks on Facebook link to the story as a cautionary tale, “see, you can’t trust XYZ organization with your donations because they’ll waste the money instead of supporting candidates.

I don’t know enough about the operations and expenditures of these groups, but I would suggest a couple of caveats when reading articles like that. First, of course, is that The Washington Post is a liberal organization and they’re not writing out of concern for Tea Party donors. I think even knowing they’re liberals, their main agenda is not trashing Tea Party groups, but reaping ad dollars. The media do this by ginning up controversy whether it actually exists or not. A balanced piece about how Tea Parties spend their donations would not drive the word of mouth or shares and pageviews a scorching manufactured controversy does.

Second is to say, “of course Tea Party groups spend their money differently than SuperPACs – they are different creatures with different priorities, so why would they not spend their money differently?” Back to the Washington Post story for some more:

Leaders of the tea party PACs defended how they have been using their resources, saying that securing the small-dollar contributions that sustain their organizations requires investment.

“I don’t have Adelson money,” said Dan Backer, a campaign ­finance lawyer in Alexandria, Va., who serves as treasurer of the Tea Party Leadership Fund, referring to the GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. “I have grass-roots money. Grass-roots money is a lot harder and more expensive to raise.”

Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks, said that much of the group’s super PAC funds go toward training activists to make phone calls and walk door-to-door — expenditures that are not categorized as campaign-related but that pay off politically.

Running ads “would be a complete waste of our money,” he said. “Training and arming an activist is a lot harder, but it’s a lot cheaper.”

What goes unsaid is that by comparison, SuperPACs are not really interested in engaging grassroots citizens to knock on doors and write letters to the editors of their local papers. They often have lower overhead versus direct campaign expenditures — like flyers trashing a candidate — because they are single-issue focused and their only reason to exist is to funnel money that would otherwise be in excess of the federal limits on campaign contributions into political campaigns through a third party.

If, however, like the Tea Party groups, your reason for existing is to equip grassroots citizens to engage in the process, you’ll naturally spend more money doing things like traveling to grassroots training sessions, and paying for things like printing training materials instead of direct mail against candidates. These things count as “overhead” and are not directly attributable to election campaigns, though I believe they make a difference.

I can’t say whether these groups spent their donations wisely. When I consider a donation to a political organization I first learn enough about the group to decide whether they’ll be spending my money wisely, and I encourage you to do the same, rather than to trust the opinion of a for-profit organization in Washington, DC like the Washington Post, which is fully invested in the way things are done in Washington, not in what the people in the rest of the country want or expect from politics.

One reason Tea Party groups may spend more on training grassroots citizens than direct candidate support is that often, Tea Party groups don’t all support the same candidates.The Associated Press talked with several Tea Party groups in Georgia.

In an increasingly volatile Republican primary, tea partiers remain just as divided as the rest of the GOP electorate. And a big reason is the evolution of the tea party itself, with activists now weighing which conservative candidate stands the best chance of being elected in the fall.

“Electability is now an important factor for us,” said Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, one of the largest tea party groups in the country. “We’re not just here to wave the flag.”

The race in Georgia is one of the most closely watched this year as Republicans make a push to seize control of the Senate. Republicans need to gain six seats to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats and can’t afford to lose Georgia’s seat. And party insiders have expressed concerns a weak Republican candidate could open the door for Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, a moderate who represented Georgia for years.

“They all run very conservative,” said Kay Godwin, co-founder of Georgia Conservatives in Action and co-chair of the South Georgia Tea Party. “But when you know the backgrounds and you know all the details of what is behind the scenes, then you can pick out who is the most conservative and who is not. And I know that Paul will do what he says he will do.”
Godwin said Handel would be her second choice, but stopped short of discussing the rest of the field. Handel has also trailed in fundraising, instead relying on endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to boost her campaign.

Polling Potpourri

In a meaningless poll by Gallup, 41% of Georgians surveyed said Georgia is the best, or one of the best, state in the nation. Nine percent said it is the absolute best state in which to live, while 3% said it’s the worst.

Kyle Wingfield of the AJC took a closer look at that poll out of Georgia College that some are using to say that Democrats have a better chance of winning some statewide elections this year. Kyle’s analysis, in part:

it certainly doesn’t suggest Republicans are on their way to a November rout.

Here’s why: The survey polled “adults,” who generally are more pro-Democrat than “registered voters,” who in turn are generally more pro-Democrat than “likely voters.” Note that, in an AJC poll from October 2012, registered voters favored the GOP over Democrats 43 percent to 31 percent; among likely voters, the margin was 49 percent to 28 percent (you’ll find those results on page 40). The race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was of course closer than that in the end, because not everyone who shows up at the voting booth fits an opinion pollster’s notion of a likely voter. But polls of likely voters are generally considered more accurate, particularly in non-presidential election years when turnout is lower — and certainly, polls of “adults” are not predictive of elections. (In fairness to Georgia College, I don’t think that was the point of this particular survey, which was more geared toward informing public policy than predicting election results.)

As we mentioned last week, polls like this provide a Rorschach test for readers, letting you know what a particular media outlet writing about the poll wants or thinks is most important. In Adam Rageusa’s case, the headline reads, “Georgia Might Be Ready For Democratic Leadership.”

Georgia might be ready for a change in political leadership, according to a new survey from Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.

The survey—administered by Costas Spirou, chair of GCSU’s Department of Government and Sociology—asked 500 people via cell phone and landline which party they want leading the state in the next four years.
“40 percent indicated a Democrat, 36.9 percent indicated a Republican,” Spirou said. That difference is within the survey’s 4.4 percent margin of error.
But, Spirou said, the fact that its even close is an indication that Georgia residents may be getting tired of their current Republican leadership.
“When you look at the [public's attitude toward] future leadership, a lot of times future leadership is connected to who’s been in charge of leading the state in previous years,” he said.

Political Potpourri

On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 98 by Judson Hill, which restricts abortion coverage paid for through the State Employees Health Benefits Plan and through the federal ACA/Obamacare exchange.

The new law prohibits abortion coverage for any reason other than a medical emergency. The lone exception would be if the mother’s life is at risk, not in cases of rape or incest.

Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon said the law doesn’t stop those with effected plans from having an abortion, but rather prevents taxpayer money from funding the procedure.

“We’re simply saying that we shouldn’t forcibly take money from the taxpayer and use it to fund something that many find to be morally reprehensible,” McKoon said.

The bill passed both chambers mostly along party lines, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of election year stunts.

Democratic state Sen. Valencia Seay was a vocal critic of the bill during the legislative session.

“If women are paying their premium,” Seay said. “They should be afforded healthcare 100 percent for all of our body.”

Seay repeated claims the bill is part of a “war on women.”

“If it doesn’t affect you and your coverage, than it is an attack on the women who it does affect.”

Georgia Right to Life proclaimed the legislation important to Pro-Life conservatives.

The group, which has pledged to continue its work lobbying for pro-life issues, praised Gov. Nathan Deal last week for signing into law a provision that prohibits using taxpayer funds to pay for abortion insurance coverage in Georgia.

“As a pro-life woman and mother, I am deeply grateful that Gov. Deal signed this law,” said Genevieve Wilson, GRTL’s co-executive director. “Once again, he has demonstrated that he is solidly pro-life.”

“Georgia is solidly pro-life, and bringing a halt to publicly funding this horrific practice is long overdue,” Wilson said.

Governor Deal also signed House Bill 276, designating August 7 of each year as “Purple Heart Day.”

“It is because of the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of our veterans that we are able to call Georgia home,” said Deal. “The service and commitment of these men and women are unparalleled and worthy of praise. This legislation provides us with a platform to express our sincerest gratitude to Georgians who put our safety above their own. For their selflessness, we are forever grateful.”

The bill also declares Georgia a Purple Heart State, a designation that further serves to honor our state’s wounded veterans for their service and sacrifice.

Cherokee County School Board Member Kelly Marlow was found guilty by a jury of felony counts of lying to police officers. Also convicted were her political consultant Robert Trim and Cherokee County GOP Treasurer Barbara Knowles. From the Cherokee Tribune:

Marlow was found guilty of two counts of making a false statement, Trim was found guilty of two counts of making a false statement, and Knowles was found guilty of three counts of making a false statement and one count of making a false report. Knowles made the original 911 call outside the Painted Pig Tavern.

Each felony charge of making a false statement holds a sentence of up to five years and the misdemeanor charge of filing a false report holds up to a 12-month sentence, Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Ellen McElyea said.

Sentencing was scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Cherokee County Courthouse.

According to Georgia Code, Marlow’s days on the school board are numbered.

“Upon initial conviction of any public official for any felony in a trial court of this state or the United States, regardless of whether the public official has been suspended previously … such public official shall be immediately and without further action suspended from office,” the Georgia Code O.C.G.A. 45-5-6.1 states.

We deeply regret that politics has gotten so confrontational in some areas (looking at you, Cherokee County), that police are regularly called to political events.

The Oglethorpe County Republican Party held a straw poll at its very well attended Pancake Supper this weekend: a couple highlights follow.

U.S. Senate
Karen Handel 41%
Jack Kingston 19%
Paul Broun 18%
David Perdue 9%
Undecided 8%
Phil Gingrey 4%
Art Gardner 1%
Derrick Grayson 0.5%


Public Service Commission
“Bubba” McDonald 37%
Doug Kidd 24%
Undecided 22%
Craig Lutz 18%

I always say that straw poll results rank right up there with Ouija Boards for predictive ability, but if Bubba McDonald has that kind of a problem at the grassroots level, he may be in trouble and headed for a runoff. In 2012, McDonald’s fellow Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise lost Gwinnett County by 117 votes to a candidate who was shown to have misrepresented her education on multiple occasions, claiming degrees she didn’t have.

More than anything else, I think that 2012 Gwinnett County result represented free-floating voter antipathy toward incumbents, particularly on the Public Service Commission, rather than a well-considered decision on whom to vote for. If that degree of animosity toward incumbent Public Service Commissioners still exists in Gwinnett, a major repository of Republican Primary votes, it could cause trouble for the only statewide elected official in a contested primary who doesn’t have millions of dollars in the bank and great popularity among the voters.

More than 800 Georgia bridges are “structurally deficient,” according to an industry trade group whose members would like to be paid to fix them.

A Real Campaign Air War

I generally dislike using war metaphors for campaigns, but this is a great commercial for John Stone, running for Congress in the Twelfth District.

We like it, if for no other reason, than it’s got the liberals freaked out.

Rebelliousness! It’s in his blood, understand, as a descendant of Georgia revolutionaries and as a guy with a cannon and probably many more guns and also as a graduate of the public policy program at Pat Robertson’s Regents University. Just take a gander at his rebellious campaign ad above.

“My forefathers used a cannon like this one to fight the British in Savannah and win us a Constitution,” he says, because that’s how constitutions are made: You kill guys with cannons, and before dying they agree you won, and then the Cannon War Master of Ceremonies comes over and hands you your trophy of a gilded cup with an eagle on top, and the cup has a new Constitution jammed inside, along with a Desert Eagle .50-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a pack of survival seeds.

But I digress. History lesson complete, Stone continues:

“As the only licensed firearms dealer in America running for Congress, I’m willing to do the same if we have to. But it’s a whole lot easier just to vote in new House Republican leaders who will simply stand up to Obama and defend our Constitution.”

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