Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2014

On September 4, 1682, Edmund Halley first sighted the comet that bears his name.

Scheduled steamship service first began on September 4, 1807, when Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat began plying the trade on the Hudson River.

General William T. Sherman ordered all civilians out of Atlanta on September 4, 1864.

Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out National Guard troops to prevent the desegregation under court order of Little Rock’s Central High School on September 4, 1957.

Governor Deal: What does Number One mean?

Jason Carter’s “Plan” won’t work

On Tuesday, I told WRBL that two of Jason Carter’s biggest liabilities were his lack of achievement after four years in the state Senate and his lack of a positive plan to do anything, but instead simply snipe at Governor Deal. After years of screaming about the need for more education funding, and stammering something about saving money by eliminating waste that he’s never identified, he came up with a brilliant strategy – go collect unpaid taxes owed the state. Problem is, experts say it won’t work.

Carter, the Democratic challenger and a legislator from Decatur, hasn’t said how much he wants to boost education spending, but his campaign spokesman Bryan Thomas said Tuesday the goal is to close a gap of about $1 billion per year over the last eight years.

Carter says he expects to collect $2.5 billion in delinquent taxes, pointing to a January report by the Department of Audits & Accounts that includes an estimate from the Department of Revenue of $4.4 billion outstanding. Carter figures if he only collects half of what scofflaws owe, it will be a major boost to the $7 billion education budget.

“There’s no dispute there’s a huge amount of money that’s sitting there uncollected,” Thomas said, adding that improved collections is a matter of leadership. “You put the force of the governor’s office behind it.”

Carter’s plan to have deadbeats fund part of his education boost may face problems.
Deal already increased resources for the Revenue Department twice, resulting in 150 more auditors and other employees as well as technical equipment. That succeeded in squeezing some into ponying up, according to the Department of Audits; however, getting the rest of the outstanding taxes will be tougher, the department wrote.

Another snag in Carter’s plan is that even if he succeeded in collecting $2.5 billion, it would only pay for a one-year increase in the budget, said public-finance expert Thomas Lauth.

“Delinquent-tax collection is one-time funding (unless one assumes continuing delinquency), not recurring funding,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The more sensible ways to increase funding for public education are to (1) allocate a substantial portion of revenue growth (new money) to that purpose or (2) designate a tax increase for that purpose.”

That piece by Walter Jones for Morris News is an excellent piece of investigative journalism and worth reading in its entirety. It seems too infrequent that politicians campaign claims are assessed for whether they’ll work.

Michelle Nunn: just another liberal Washington retread

Shockingly, “New Democrat” Michelle Nunn has turned into just another liberal Washington retread. More than that, she’s a vehicle for national Democrats to try to slip one past the voters of Georgia and part of the setup for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I’ve been predicting for some time that Hillary Clinton would find a visit to Georgia much too tempting to pass up. Maybe she’ll still come down here, but maybe Michelle Nunn’s campaign advisors have figured out how to tap into the liberal Clinton network without actually bringing Hillary to the Peach State. Their solution? Bill Clinton.

Earlier this week, the AJC Political Insider noted that Bill Clinton has been dispatched to Georgia for a September 13th fundraiser for Michelle Nunn at Usher’s home.

That was followed by news that Michelle Obama will raise money and rally voters for Michelle Nunn on Monday.

According to travel guidance provided by the White House, Obama’s day begins with an event with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Booker T. Washington High School — where Martin Luther King Jr. attended before leaving early for Morehouse College. Obama will tour a college fair and then give a speech in the school gymnasium that promotes her “Reach Higher” initiative, pushing students to complete post-secondary education.

In the afternoon, Obama will attend a closed-press fundraiser for the Nunn campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Then she will speak at a public “Voter Registration Rally.”

Michelle Wirth of WABE has reactions to the Nunn fundraising news:

Republican Senate opponent David Perdue spokesperson Megan Whittemore said the fundraiser is no surprise.

“Clearly Michelle Nunn is trying to distance herself from President Obama and Washington democrats publicly, but she clearly has no problem raising money from them directly in order to deceive Georgians about her true allegiance to President Obama and Harry Reid’s failed agenda.”

Georgia State University political science lecturer and the former Executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, Steve Anthony, said Nunn is teaming up with the former President because of his popularity.

“I think you want the biggest bang for the buck, and President Clinton has proven to not only be an agreeable fundraiser for Democratic candidates but a formidable fundraiser also. He’s still the star of the party.”

Anthony said the Nunn campaign also likely hopes Clinton will energize Democratic voters.

[UGA Political Science professor Charles Bullock] said Clinton’s visit shows how competitive the race between Nunn and Perdue is as Democrats try to hold onto the Senate and Republicans try to gain control. “The former President coming here underscores that this Georgia Senate contest is one of the most important 6, 7 and 8 in the nation, and here in Georgia, it’s been awhile since we’ve had contests that have been this high-profile,” said Bullock.

Perdue-Nunn debate schedule

Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn will meet in at least three debates this fall.

“We’re planning to participate in 3 debates, which should be ample opportunity for voters to make their decision,” [Perdue spokesperson Megan] Whittemore said. “Right now, David is taking his message directly to the people of Georgia, and unlike his opponent, he has been very clear on where he stands on the issues.”

The three ahead for Nunn and Perdue include Oct. 7 hosted by WMAZ-TV in Macon, Oct. 26 hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and broadcast statewide on Georgia Public Broadcasting and Nov. 2 hosted by WSB-TV in Atlanta.

David Catanese, writing for U.S. News & World Report has an interesting feature on what debate prep looks like at the top levels.

Over the next six weeks, candidates across the country will begin meeting their opponents face-to-face under the hot klieg lights of a television studio or positioned on a stage before a live audience. While just a fraction of the voting population customarily tunes in to the confrontations, a glaring mistake or unbefitting appearance that attracts widespread attention in news accounts or social media can be devastating.

“I don’t believe debates can change the dynamic of a race dramatically without somebody really screwing up,” says Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant in North Carolina who has coached candidates on debating tactics. “A debate has more potential to hurt you than to help you. A single misstep can redefine what people think of you.”

Timing is the most common problem candidates run into. Shaving down an answer to a complex question to fit the usual 90-second allotment is an art. Aides also carefully screen for nervous tics or gestures that could be distracting to voters.

“Debate prep is a big part of making sure your candidate can’t be thrown off. If something can get inside their head, you want that to happen in practice. They need to be ready for anything,” says Democratic consultant Adrianne Marsh, who successfully managed Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 re-election in Missouri.

In the heat of a rapid-fire debate, candidates will be tossed all types of questions. The best debaters often find an astute way to acknowledge them before pivoting back to two or three central points they want to make.

“You don’t have to answer the question. You have to articulate what you want to get across,” says Mills.

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Nancy Jester for DeKalb Commission

Nancy Jester will run for DeKalb County Commission District One, the seat vacated by Elaine Boyer before it was revealed that Boyer will face federal prison on official corruption charges.

From an email sent yesterday by Jester:

I’m running for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

Please join me to kick-off my campaign and discuss the reforms needed in DeKalb County government.

Coffee Talk with Nancy
Thursday, September 4th
10am at Cafe Intermezzo
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30346

Sen. Fran Millar
Sen. Josh McKoon
Rep. Tom Taylor
Councilman Terry Nall
Councilman Denny Shortal
Councilman Doug Thompson

In addition to Senator Fran Millar and Tom Taylor hosting her campaign kickoff, State Rep. Mike Jacobs announced on Facebook, “If Nancy Jester runs for DeKalb County Commission District 1, I will support her. Right person, right time. #‎draftnancy‬”.”

If I’m correct, that’s a unanimous DeKalb County Republican legislative delegation behind a candidate who took nearly 40% of the DeKalb County vote in a nine-way race for State School Superintendent this summer.

According the the Dunwoody Crier, local attorney Bob Dallas said he won’t run for County Commission and former DeKalb GOP Chair and unsuccessful 2006 State Senate candidate Frank Auman has been mentioned as a potential candidate.

[Disclaimer: I worked for Nancy Jester's campaign for State School Superintendent this summer.]

No Ice Bucket Challenge for Georgia Judges

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colson won’t be pouring ice water over herself on camera after the Judicial Qualifications Commission said it’s not permissible.

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colston on Tuesday opted against participating in the viral campaign to raise money for ALS research. Colston stepped away from the ice bucket after the JQC contacted her that morning, warning she could violate the code of judicial conduct if she raised money for the charity.

According to Colston, the JQC contacted her after seeing a story about her challenge in the Rome News-Tribune. “I’m just very disappointed,” said the judge, whose father died of ALS. “It’s frustrating that we can’t do the things that everyone else can do.”

Colston in a release pointed to two parts of the judicial code that worried the JQC. The first portion states judges are prohibited from participating in charitable activities that would reflect negatively on their impartiality or hamper their duties. The second part states judges can’t solicit funds for a charitable organization or use their office for that purpose.

“I don’t understand why you cannot do something like this for charity when you could do something like this to raise money for your own political campaign,” Colston said. “But rules are rules.”

In a formal opinion, the JQC also put the kibosh on judges participating in litigation by other parties through amicus briefs.

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission has barred judges and organizations of judges from injecting themselves into litigation by submitting or signing on to friend-of-the-court briefs.

The JQC’s Opinion 241, dated Tuesday, by implication brands as improper a brief submitted by the Council of State Court Judges in a high-profile case before the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Citing three of the state’s Canons of Judicial Ethics, the JQC held that filing friend-of-the-court briefs “by judges, councils or any other organization of judges in cases pending in any trial or appellate court would be improper and prohibited.”

Violations of state canons can result in disciplinary actions that range from private reprimands to a recommendation to the state high court that a judge be removed from the bench.

Olens defended by former State Bar leaders

After the Attorney General’s Office and State Ethics Commission Executive Secretary Holly Laberge were fined $10,000 each for failing to produce documents in a whistleblower lawsuit, several heavyweight former State Bar leaders are defending the decisions by the AG’s Office that led to the fine.

“Regarding the Fulton county sanctions decision, we disagree with the court’s decision. To have produced the memorandum in this case without a request covering its production would have, in our opinion, constituted malpractice. It is clear that this was a good faith discovery dispute that is very common in civil litigation. It should also be noted, that both in the plaintiff’s motion and in the judge’s order, AG Sam Olens is not mentioned. This was a decision by a career attorney in the department of law who was constitutionally and ethically bound to zealously represent his client. The department’s attorneys have no choice in picking their clients when it comes to state employees. Today’s ruling shows just how difficult at times that task can be.”

Jay Cook, State Bar President, 2007; Cook Noell Tolley & Bates, Founder and Managing Partner

Ben Easterlin, State Bar President, 1997; King & Spalding, Partner

Jimmy Franklin, State Bar President, 2002; Taulbee Rushing Snipes Marsh & Hodgin, LLC, Member

Robert Ingram, State Bar President, 2006; Moore Ingram Johnson & Steele, Partner

Charles “Buck” Ruffin, State Bar President, 2014; Baker Donelson, Shareholder

Dwight J. Davis, former Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia, 1995-2002; retired Partner, King & Spalding

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