Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2014

George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death, on

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstructing justice by a vote of 228-206.

Georgia Politics

Dean Bucci, who was appointed earlier this week by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Paulding Superior Court is believed to be the first Hispanic judge appointed to a Georgia Superior Court.

Aaron Gould Sheinin of the AJC writes that a poll of Georgia voters shows 80 percent support for medical marijuana. Among the findings:

•  80 percent of Georgians support legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, even if the drug includes higher levels of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

•  27 percent support full legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

•  17 percent oppose any legalization of marijuana.

•  85 percent support legalization of marijuana if the medication “would not get a person high.”

The poll was by McLaughlin & Associates, about whose widely-lauded work for Gov. Deal I wrote two weeks ago in

Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal announced 190 new jobs to be brought to Georgia by Hyundai Glovis, a logistics company serving the automotive industry.

Deal Hyundi

Remember a few days ago, when the Korean General Consul passed on rumors that Hyundai might be looking to locate a new plant in the Southeast?

Seong-jin Kim, Korea’s consul general based in Atlanta, knows how to capture his audience here.

During the 2014 Annual Dinner of the Korea Southeast U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kim let it be known that he had heard the Hyundai Motor Co. was considering building a second plant in the U.S.

“I’ve heard Hyundai is considering another big facility around here,” he told the Dec. 11 gathering at the law offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Atlantic Station.

“I don’t know where,” he admitted, but said that he suspects one of the six states that his consulate represents would be a leading candidate. Those states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee. He assured everyone that he would let them know of any developments.

Also this week, word leaked out that Mercedes-Benz is considering moving its U.S. headquarters out of New Jersey and is actively considering several cities in North Carolina and Georgia.

Executives are considering Atlanta and several cities in North Carolina, according to two people briefed on the matter. A variety of tax-incentive packages are being reviewed, although details have yet to be released. Mercedes-Benz USA, a division of Daimler AG , has been based in Montvale since 1972.

“MBUSA has not made any announcements with regard to this issue,” a company spokesman said. “There’s a lot of rumor and speculation out there—none of it’s coming from us. As a matter of policy, the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.”

A move south would put Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters much closer to its growing Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant, which has been expanding and is expected to reach an annual output of 300,000 vehicles by 2016.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle followed-up on that Wall St. Journal report, noting some of Atlanta’s advantages.

Mercedes, said to have considered Texas, Florida and Virginia for the relocation, took an early look at Savannah, Ga. and Jacksonville, Fla. Late Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal confirmed Atlanta was in the running, noting the Mercedes is also considering several cities in North Carolina.

Mercedes Benz USA (MBUSA) is scouting for at least 150,000 square feet in Atlanta. The company is considering sites in Central Perimeter and the northern suburbs, including Alpharetta, Cobb and Gwinnett.

Mercedes has been offered $40 million to $50 million in incentives to move to Atlanta, noted, citing an unnamed source.

“Atlanta is closer to the center of gravity of today’s auto industry,” [site consultanta John] Boyd said.

Metro Atlanta is also an attractive site for corporate headquarters, with a globally connected airport, a deep pool of knowledge workers and a low cost of doing business. Southern states, including Georgia, have also been aggressive with tax incentives as a way to draw corporate expansions and relocations.

Georgia has scored several trophy economic development wins in recent years (Caterpillar, PulteGroup, Baxter) which instills confidence in companies looking at making similar moves, site consultant Boyd said.

“There’s a common denominator among successful economic development programs in courting trophy projects — its leadership at the governor level and mayor level,” Boyd said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if (Atlanta Mayor) Kasim Reed stepped up here and became personally involved in this project.”

Atlanta is a top East Coast sales market for Mercedes. The automaker also uses the Port of Brunswick near Savannah to ship its vehicles from.

Speaking of Savannah, November saw a nearly 12% increase in container traffic through the port over the previous year.

Governor Nathan Deal’s inaugural is taking shape, with the announcement of an Inaugural Gala at Gwinnett Center featuring Georgia music artists.

Deal talent

“Georgia is blessed with a deep pool of talented musicians, and some of the most famous artists in the world call Georgia home,” Deal said. “These talented singers and songwriters span several genres, and I look forward to enjoying their performances.”

The Georgia musical acts include

Alan Jackson – The Newnan-native and Grammy Award-winning artist, Alan Jackson, will headline the Inaugural Gala. Jackson has sold nearly 60 million albums worldwide, topped the country singles charts 35 times, and scored more than 50 Top-10 hits. He has written or co-written 24 of his 35 #1 hit singles. Jackson is an 18-time ACM Award winner, a 16-time CMA Award recipient, a two-time Grammy-winning artist and a proud member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jackson’s songwriting has earned him the prestigious ASCAP Founders Award and an induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as a 2011 Songwriter/Artist inductee. Jackson received the first-ever ASCAP Heritage Award in 2014 having earned the title of most performed country music songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years. Jackson is a true testament to the state of Georgia.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has drawn the ire of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for being elected as a Republican by the voters of Georgia writing a letter to the Department of Transportation on letterhead bearing the State Seal and paid for by his campaign.

DeKalb County Board of Ethics cleared Commissioner Larry Johnson because he is a Democrat of charges that using a county-issued purchasing card to donate $12,000 to the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center over a three-year period violated the county’s ethics policies.

Johnson said it was appropriate for him to financially support the Porter Sanford Center after it underwent budget cuts.

“That was a good investment to our children and our seniors,” Johnson said.

An attorney for Rhea Johnson, the DeKalb resident who filed the ethics complaint, said he didn’t believe the commissioner should have funded the Porter Sanford Center outside the county’s regular budgeting process.

“He’s violated the budget procedures of the county,” said attorney Stephen DeBaun. “The transfer of funds from an individual commissioner to a county agency bypasses that and therefore would not be legal.”

The vote to dismiss the complaint was 5-0, with [member Bobbie Kennedy] Sanford abstaining because the Porter Sanford Center is named for her late husband.

Google has delayed announcing the rollout of faster fiber connections to homes in metro Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Labor announced that the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.2% in November according to the feds.

Unfortunately, some of those unemployed will be people who previously worked in healthcare, as Georgia hospitals continue to shed staff.

A recent series of job cuts shows that tough financial times remain for the state’s hospitals – and may get worse next year, experts say.

The biggest cuts have come in two hospital systems in Columbus.

Columbus Regional Health eliminated 219 positions in a cost-reduction move in November. The cuts came after a $17 million operating loss in fiscal 2013 and a similar loss in fiscal 2014, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. The job cuts included 99 terminations.

Later in the month, St. Francis Hospital, also in Columbus, eliminated 65 filled positions and 15 vacant positions while grappling with a $30 million accounting inaccuracy it discovered in October.

And last Friday, 23 employees of Newton Medical Center in Covington were affected by staff cuts, the Rockdale Citizen reported.

Some members of the Bibb County Board of Education are considering asking the legislature to change the number of members to an odd-number from eight.

Some of our favorite stories at this time of year are about police officers taking kids Christmas shopping. Here’s one from Columbus and one from Brookhaven.

A program by Communities in Schools to help Clayton County lower the rate of dropouts could cost $100,000 but some leaders say it would be well-spent if it gets results.

Janet Shellnut will retire as Henry County Elections and Registration Director after 16 years.

Shellnutt served as chief registrar before becoming director of the revamped elections and registration department in Henry County. She served 16 years with the county, after working 17 years as an aide at the state Capitol.

She said she was hired in the State House of Representatives, serving such figures as Hosea Williams and Rep. Tyrone Brooks. She said she served then-state Sen. David Scott and she worked under former Gov. Miller.

A lifetime of political service flows through Shellnutt’s veins.

She said her mother was one of the first female lobbyists in the state. However, becoming the top elections officer in Henry County was by happenstance. She got the job after taking a leave of absence in Atlanta.

“It’s a hard choice when you have a child,” she said. “I was the first full-time person. I actually wasn’t crazy about it. I was used to the hustle and bustle at the Capitol.”

Shellnutt said 2002 was her first big election.

“This was when things started to become digitized and the county started growing,” she said. “I think what kept me going was that the county was growing and things were more technological.”

She recalled very little was done by computer when she started, and the county at the time had 44,000 registered voters. It has since grown to nearly 140,000 voters.

Cobb County Commissioner Helen Goreham has attended her last Commission meeting in an official capacity, retiring after twelve years on the board.

A Peaceful Non-Violent March and Rally, organized by the Concerned Clergy of Greater Whitfield County, will be held in Dalton on Saturday beginning at 9:30 AM.

Gwinnett County, long a bastion of right-wing opposition to stuff they don’t like in the schools, is now seeing protests against Advanced Placement course materials in the public schools.

Three Gwinnett residents visited the Board of Education meeting Thursday with concerns about several textbook and classroom materials that are being used, along with leadership at the College Board.

They mainly focused on the College Board’s offering of Advanced Placement U.S. History, which resident Kathy Hildebrand called a “biased and inaccurate view of many important facets of American history.” Hildebrand referenced several examples in history that she said were ignored or minimized, including the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II and the civil rights movement.

“The new APUSH curriculum portrays all the bad and ugly, never the good about U.S. history,” she said. “The result is an America that is riddled with racism, violence, hypocrisy, greed, imperialism and injustice.”

Resident Ken Craft raised questions about the new College Board President David Coleman, known as an architect of Common Core, who Craft said planned to use the 2012 Barack Obama campaign data analysts to promote College Board goals.

“Is he an unofficial education czar?,” Craft said. “The College Board, is it a harmless nonprofit, or a shadowy, activist U.S. Department of Education doing things that the real U.S. Department of Education really can’t do? I think this is his Jonathan Gruber moment, but you watch the video.”

National Politics

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball tells us that nearly 700 days from the 2016 Presidential Election is not too soon to begin predicting the results. In their soft open, they count the Pros and Cons for each side and divide the potential and announced candidates into tiers. First the good news:

One thing is for sure: The 2016 Republican presidential nomination will be well worth having. Despite demographic trends that clearly favor Democrats, there is a natural cycle of two-term presidencies that gives the GOP legitimate hope. For instance, Stony Brook University Professor Helmut Norpoth’s White House election model projected that the next Republican nominee will win 51.4% of the two-party vote , and our senior columnist Alan Abramowitz has found that 51% of the two-party popular vote is certainly sufficient for an Electoral College majority — countering the belief among some overly optimistic Democratic activists that they have an automatic, decisive edge in the Electoral College.

The challenge for Republicans is to look down their list of contenders and pick someone who can actually win and govern well. This promising opportunity would be a terrible thing to waste on an unprepared or blindly ideological candidate.

Despite Sabato ranking Mitt Romney in the Fourth Tier of 2016 GOP Presidential prospects, the two-time candidates is leading most polls at this time, reflecting primarily name identification.

 A Fox News survey released this week found Romney the GOP leader, with 19 percent, ahead of Jeb Bush, who was pretty far back at 10 percent. Everybody else was bunched together behind Bush.

A McClatchy-Marist poll a few days earlier showed a similar result, with Romney leading at 19 percent and Bush at 14 percent. A Quinnipiac poll before that found Romney at 19 percent and Bush at 11 percent.

Many polls don’t include Romney in their surveys. But the many that do suggest that, at least for now, Romney is a front-runner, if not the front-runner in the 2016 Republican race.

People in Romney’s circle realize that some of his standing in the polls reflects nothing more than name recognition; everybody knows the guy who ran for president in 2012. But they believe there’s more to it than that. In discussions this week, they pointed to what they think is a widespread belief among voters, certainly among Republicans, that Romney was right about some key issues in the 2012 campaign.

Here’s a really interesting piece, not so much because it tells us something we probably could have figured out on our own, but because of who the paper is surveying. The Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog reports,

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed for the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll said Rubio would be unable to raise enough money to mount a competitive campaign if Jeb Bush was also running. Only a quarter of them predict Rubio will actually run now that Bush is poised to do so.

“Jeb still has the heart and soul of grassroots Republicans in Florida. There’s no room for two or three Florida candidates. Marco knows that,” one Republican said.

The Insider Poll of political consultants, lobbyists, fundraisers, political scientists and a few recovering political reporters is an unscientific and, almost by definition, biased exercise. Why? Because any list of top Republican political talent in Florida is guaranteed to be packed with former Bush staffers and money-raisers.

“Jeb has proven he’s ready for prime time time and time again. Marco I believe will learn from one of the criticisms of Pres. Obama not having executive experience and will run for Governor,” another Republican said.


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