Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 29, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 29, 2014

On May 29, 1836, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota, which required the movement of all Cherokee out of Georgia and led to the “Trail of Tears.”

On May 29, 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered all Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris to wear a yellow Star of David on their coats.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, became the first to summit Mount Everest.

On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.

News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.

The lone surviving member of the Hillary-Norgay expedition tells his story of the assault on Everest.

In 1953, Kanchha Sherpa was just a young boy and had little idea that he would be part of history.

“I didn´t know much,” says Kanchha, now the lone survivor of the first successful expedition to the Mount Everest. “What I knew was I was on a very risky journey.”

Until then, no human being had ever set foot on the Everest. Edmund Hillary was on a risky mission to achieve that unprecedented feat. He was backed by a group of 16 Sherpas from Darjeeling, India. And Tenzing Norge was the leader of the Sherpas.

“Tenzing was a friend of my father,” says Kanchha, now 83. “So, he took me on his expedition. He treated me like his son. So did Hillary.”

The Biggest ‘Oops!’ Ever?

Last night I was on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On the Story,” with Jim Galloway, Virginia “no relation” Galloway, Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson, and hosts Bill Nigut and Bobbie Battista. The opening segment was from Claire Simms with this bombshell — Georgia Carry is prepared to argue that legislation passed and signed this year struck the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons on school campuses, perhaps as an unintended consequence.

Starting July 1, licensed gun owners may be able to bring their firearms onto school and college campuses in Georgia, even though the “campus carry” provision was stripped from a controversial bill that will allow guns in many churches, bars and government buildings.

That’s because a separate piece of legislation may have snuck under the radar and paved the way for campus carry after lawmakers removed it from the so-called “guns everywhere” bill (House Bill 60).

The lesser-known bill, House Bill 826 sponsored by Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) is aimed at doing away with “zero tolerance” policies on school campuses. Under current Georgia law, schools are required to expel and report to police any student who brings a weapon on campus whether it be a handgun, a fishing knife or any “hazardous object” in between.

But Setzler’s legislation was designed to give school administrators, superintendents and school boards the flexibility to determine a student’s punishment on a case-by-case basis.

The bill did much more than that though. Under current law, permit holders are only exempt when dropping off or picking up a student from school. Under the new law, which goes into effect July 1, lawmakers struck the language pertaining to drop-offs and pickups from the bill. As a result, licensed gun owners are exempt from any of the provisions of the bill when in a school safety zone or on a school bus. And some say that means permit holders can carry their firearms onto school property, including college campuses, at any time starting in July.

The relevant section of the bill reads:

(c) The provisions of this Code section [prohibiting guns in school safety zones] shall not apply to:

(6) A person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10, when such person carries or picks up a student at a school building, school function, or school property when he or she is within a school safety zone or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the a school or a person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10 when he or she has any weapon firearm legally kept within a vehicle when such vehicle is parked at such school property within a school safety zone or is in transit through a designated school safety zone;

While this story has been out there for several weeks, I had missed it, and so did much of the media and Georgia’s elected officials.

Here’s WSB’s story on the issue from May 1, 2014:

Advocates say a loophole in a state law will give them the right to carry guns on college campuses in July.

Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston went to Kennesaw State University on Thursday for reaction. Gun advocates say when the school’s new football program starts in 2015, people will have the right to bring their licensed gun to the game.

“I think it’s wonderful, I’ve been fighting for this for years,” said Luke Crawford, president of KSU’s students for concealed carry.

He and other gun advocates like Georgia Carry say  the loophole in House Bill 826 now allows licensed gun owners to carry weapons on any real property or building owned by or leased to any school or post-secondary institution.

If you’re keeping political score at home, it’s worth noting that Jason Carter did not cast a vote on this bill.

For an issue that has consumed so much of the legislature’s time and effort over the last couple of sessions, this points out a major flaw in the General Assembly’s process that something so consequential could slip by without anyone appearing to notice. didn’t take a position on the bill during the Session, as far as I can tell.

Politically, the problem is that there’s no good answer to this. Either it was snuck through the legislature, which I find highly improbably, or it was a blunder. Neither answer is okay.

Campaigns and Elections

Here’s a video of the entire press conference yesterday in which Karen Handel endorsed Jack Kingston in the Republican primary runoff election for United States Senate.

Here’s what Walter Jones of Morris News took away from the presser:

Handel, who came in third behind Kingston and frontrunner David Perdue, said she didn’t know Kingston well before the campaign, but had grown to admire him for his integrity and fighting spirit. Plus, she was impressed that the First District he has represented for 22 years in Congress turned out heavily to give him 74 percent of the May 20 vote ‑ a margin most observers say cost Handel a spot in the Republican runoff for Senate.

“That is one outstanding job-approval rating,” she said.

The former Georgia secretary of state laughed off critical comments she made about Kingston during the primary about being ineffective. Instead, she said it was more important that he had the political experience to start working the moment he is elected and that he is best able to deny Nunn the Senate seat.

Kingston told reporters he doesn’t have a defined role for Handel in his campaign, but that he wanted to tap her connections in north Georgia and gain tactical advice.

“The best thing in the world for Harry Reid, Michelle Nunn and Nancy Pelosi would be a divided conservative family,” Kingston said. “Karen and I aren’t going to let that happen.”

Greg Bluestein of the AJC covers Handel’s discussion of women and the Georgia Republican Party:

Not a single female Republican running for higher office advanced to a runoff last week. Karen Handel, one of those candidates stymied at the polls, hopes she can help another contender appeal to women.

At her formal endorsement of Rep. Jack Kingston’s Senate bid on Wednesday, she noted the GOP drought but said she could help the Savannah Republican counter Democrat Michelle Nunn’s message. Handel picked Kingston over businessman David Perdue in the July 22 runoff.

“Women will look at who Jack surrounds himself with,” she said, adding: “I’m confident that Jack and I will be able to work together and ensure that as U.S. senator he will have women in key roles and be a supporter of women in key races.”

The lack of top-ticket Republican candidates is a concern for the GOP. None of the female Republicans running for superintendent made the runoff. Ditto for Tricia Pridemore, Vivian Childs and Donna Sheldon, contenders for U.S. House seats. Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State, finished in third place in her Senate bid.

Jim Galloway, also with the AJC provides this analysis, one of the best I’ve read on the 2014 Senate race:

Post-election endorsements are always awkward affairs in which the losing candidate must find a way to retract all the nasty things uttered about one’s new BFF.

Possibly, somewhere in ancient history or a few weeks ago, Handel did condemn Kingston and two other members of Congress in the race as ineffective lumps of inside-the-Beltway clay.

But on Wednesday, the former secretary of state said her doubts about Kingston’s lengthy D.C. resume were pushed aside by 74 percent of Republican voters in the Savannah congressman’s First District – who voted for their man, and knocked Handel out of the race.

“An extraordinarily positive job performance rating,” Handel declared.

So what’s all this about?

In fact, you are witnessing one of the more admirable maneuvers of the 2014 campaign. Elsewhere in the nation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and tea party forces in open war.

The Kingston campaign is attempting to knit the two enemies together. Handel and her followers represent a good chunk of the tea party movement in Georgia. The U.S. Chamber has already endorsed Kingston over Perdue, who on the surface might seem the more natural fit.

GOP runoffs have traditionally been low-turnout affairs populated by hardcore, dues-paying activists. Kingston noted that he and Handel are both members of that club.

“She and I came up through the precinct level as Republicans. We have stuffed envelopes. We have made phone calls. We have put up yard signs,” Kingston said. “We have voted in Republican primaries and have been in the Republican trenches for many years.”

I highly recommend reading Galloway’s piece in its entirety.

And from Associated Press writer Bill Barrow, a more nationally-oriented view of the Handel-Kingston endorsement.

For all the wrangling between the tea party and establishment conservatives in this midterm election year, key players from both sides are closing ranks behind one candidate in Georgia’s Republican Senate primary runoff.

Kingston’s endorsement list puts the chamber – which has promised to spend lavishly to quash the tea party influence in the 2014 midterms – alongside several notable conservatives who’ve switched their allegiances from Handel. They include national Tea Party Express leader Julianne Thompson and editor Erick Erickson, both Georgia residents. Kingston already had an endorsement from Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

In the Senate, that could force Kingston into a tight spot on certain issues. The chamber supported a Democratic-led overhaul of immigration law and a bipartisan deal to reopen government last fall and raise the nation’s borrowing limit. In the House, Kingston sided with tea party interests in opposing both efforts.

At my other job with, I covered yet another piece of the puzzle.

A couple weeks ago, on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s On the Story, I mentioned after the GOP Senate debate that the brilliance of Perdue’s anti-Washington and anti-Insider strategy was that it allowed him to frame criticism from any of the other major candidates as more of the same Washington politics, both deflecting the critique and reasserting his campaign theme.

But the other side of that sword cuts too – perhaps most sharply when Perdue crowed on election night of having retired “three career politicians,” – by giving Kingston, Handel, and the others more common ground once the field was winnowed.

In the coming days, I would be surprised if Rep. Phil Gingrey doesn’t also endorse Kingston. This will be valuable as Gingrey’s home district hosts a contentious runoff between former Congressman Bob Barr and charter member of the state legislature’s Tinfoil Hat Caucus Barry Loudermilk.

I failed to note yesterday that I have previously done work for the Barr campaign in the 11th District in voter analytics, an inadvertant omission for which I apologize, though I have noted that fact on previous occasions, including several of the morning emails.

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