Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2014

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

Atlanta City Council met for the first time on February 2, 1848.

On February 2, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

On February 2, 1932, Al Capone was sent to federal prison in Atlanta.

On February 2, 1988, the Georgia Senate ratified the 22d Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that pay raises for Members of Congress shall not go into effect until the next term.

The Waffle House Primary

On Friday, I was fortunate to interview former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at a campaign book tour stop at  at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, Georgia. Among my questions were his timeline for announcing a decision on the Presidential race, who  benefits from a Southern regional Presidential primary on March 1, 2016, and his standard order at Waffle House.

Today, Huckabee will be signing books at The Shoppes at River Crossing, 5080 Riverside Dr, Macon, GA.

Last year, Huckabee was active in several Georgia elections, campaigning for David Perdue and endorsing Rick Allen in GA-12’s Congressional race.

General Assembly Schedule

10:00am – 11:00am Jacobs Sub of House Judy Civil – 403 CAP
11:00am – 12:00pm Academic Innovations Sub of House Ed – 506 CLOB
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules upon adjournment – 450 Capitol
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Public Safety – 125 Capitol
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Education – 307 Coverdell LOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Approp – Higher Ed Sub – 310 Coverdell LOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Approps Insurance Sub – 307 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Retirement – 318 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Juvenile Justice (or upon adj) – 506 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Government Oversight – 123 Capitol
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Ethics – 310 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Appropriations – Judicial Sub – 307 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Agriculture – 450 Capitol
3:00pm – 4:00pm Academic Achievement Sub of House Ed – 415 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Health & Human Svcs – 606 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Fleming Sub of House Judy Civil – 132 CAP
3:30pm – 4:30pm House Human Relations & Aging – 515 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Approps – Human Dev. Sub – 341 Capitol
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Transportation – Senate Mezzanine 1

The Georgia House of Representatives will take up House Bill 57 by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) and would allow third-party Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), a form of financing in which a property owner has a third-party finance and install solar panels and pays based on the power output of the panels.

Walter Jones has spotted a trend in the Georgia General Assembly: a coterie of newer GOP members who pushing bills to expand personal rights against an ever-increasing state.

A package of bills sponsored by a handful of junior Georgia lawmakers focuses on protecting individual freedoms by restricting what law enforcement agencies can do on their own, prompting a discussion about balancing public safety against personal privacy.

“I definitely think that our constitutional right to protection is beyond partisan ideology,” said Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs. “It’s pretty rare for someone to say we should throw our Bill of Rights out the window.”

Those bills include:

House Bill 56, which limits use of no-knock warrants;

HB 69, which aims to safeguard the driving data contained in a car’s “black box” by requiring the owner’s permission or a warrant to access it;

HB 74, which prohibits any state or local agency from assisting federal officials or the military in investigating terrorism suspects who could be detained indefinitely under a 3-year-old federal law;

HB 93, which requires police agencies to destroy records of license-plate readers after 30 days;

HB 112, which would outlaw without a warrant the use of radar or other devices that can detect human activity through walls, roofs and other building structures.

There may be two or three more bills introduced in coming days, according to Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan….

“Our job is to restrict government,” said Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine.

Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph writes about the transportation financing plan unveiled by the State House leadership.

“The overriding goal here is to modernize and reform what is becoming a very defective or unstable tax platform,” House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, said last week when House GOP leadership announced a plan to channel some $1 billion into major road, bridge and transportation infrastructure projects.

Bibb County school board member Jason Downey, like most county and education officials, is still trying to understand exactly what House Bill 170 would mean for his budget.

“I understand the need for some sort of capital outlay for infrastructure,” Downey said. “But I hate to see it come at the cost of education.”

The new plan would set a 29.2 cent tax on every gallon of gas and index it to fuel efficiency. As Georgia’s fleet of vehicles gets more and more miles to the gallon, the tax rate would go up.

“That’s what we decided to set as our base,” said O’Neal, because it’s the average of what Georgians have been paying over the past four years.

The bill likely will be edited as it moves through the state House and Senate. It’s not entirely clear if the entire GOP caucus supports it, especially those like freshman state Rep. Heath Clark, R-Warner Robins, who ran on a platform of lower taxes.

“At the same time, I understand the need to address transportation,” Clark said. “I need to meet with my local county commissioners … and mayors and the board of education” to see how House Bill 170 would affect the district.

While the General Assembly will consider requiring body cameras for Georgia law enforcement, Savannah-Chatham joins the growing number of departments that are deploying the devices.

Capt. Devonn Adams, who commands Central, said…. the department is in a pilot phase with the cameras, and they are using the slow rollout to see whether any tweaks need to be made and to flesh out a permanent policy on their use.

“Everybody’s excited,” Adams said. “It’s no secret what we’ve been dealing with the past year or so… These guys are excited to be transparent and show the public we care. On the other side, if we have officers who are violating policy, we’ll see that and deal with that accordingly.”

Riding patrol in Central on Thursday afternoon, officer Patrick Boleman said he didn’t mind wearing the camera, which he wore just above his ear so it records what he sees.

“Now the public will actually see what police officers go though every day,” said Boleman, who’s been an officer here for 14 years. “And it’s a good tool because if we miss information, we can go back and replay the tape.”

State Senator Josh McKoon has taken up his pen to fight back against bizarre claims by radicals.

One thing has been proven true repeatedly over the past 12 months of debate about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act proposal for Georgia: Opponents are willing to say literally anything in an attempt to confuse the debate. While I thought the most outrageous criticism was the allegation that the bill, if made law, would give the “right to discriminate” to business owners and others. Even that repeatedly debunked critique must now take a back seat to the inane allegations made in these pages by the District Attorney of the Macon Judicial Circuit David Cooke.

Frankly, if the allegations contained in the op-ed he authored were in a legal brief, I would ask the court to sanction him for dishonesty. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself. Let me get some facts on the table.

The one and only case Cooke refers to that involves a RFRA defense is a Utah case involving violation of child labor laws. In that case, no defendant escaped criminal liability for their alleged crimes. Rather the government was instructed to use an alternative and available means of acquiring some information related to the case since a witness raised a religious objection to offering evidence. It is clear from a reading of the judge’s decision that had this been the sole source of information, the government subpoena would have been enforced.

Cooke takes the wild and totally unsupported leap from this tangential discovery matter in a Utah case to making the outrageous claim that if we adopted RFRA in Georgia criminals would suddenly be able to exempt themselves from prosecution merely by raising a religious objection to the law under which they were being prosecuted. There is zero legal precedent to support this claim, but many cases that clearly demonstrate the government always has a compelling state interest in protecting public safety.

It’s a good piece, and whether you support or oppose the RFRA in Georgia, it’s worth reading in its entirety.

Campaigns and Elections

If you live in House District 50 (Johns Creek in North Fulton) or HD 120 (Greene, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro and Wilkes Counties), the Special Runoff election will be held tomorrow from 7 AM to 7 PM. Sign into the Georgia Secretary of State’s MVP system for more information on voting locations and whether you’re in the district or not.

SEC Primary

First of all, I would say that Waffle House Primary is a better name for March First than SEC Primary. Virginia is a likely March 1 Primary state, and while it hosts no SEC teams, it is still part of the Waffle House Nation.

Waffle House Nation
















Second, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post notes that Waffle House states tend to vote Republican.

Mitt Romney won 16 of the 25 states that have at least one Waffle House. In those 16 — call them Waffle House America — he averaged almost 58 percent of the vote, roughly 11 points higher than he won nationwide. Of the nine Waffle House America states that President Obama carried, he won six — Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Mexico — with 53 percent of the vote or less. (In Maryland, Illinois and Delaware, Obama won with 62 percent, 59 percent and 58 percent, respectively.) Of those six Obama, states, five went for George W. Bush in 2004.  Take all 25 states in which there is at least one Waffle House and Romney averaged 53 percent of the vote, a six-point improvement of his showing nationwide.

Compare the 25 states in the Waffle States America to the 25 states not in it. Of those 25 non Waffle House states , Romney won just eight in 2012: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.  He took an average of 47 percent of the vote in those 25 states.  Take out Utah — where Romney took 73 percent — and he averaged 46 percent. Take out Utah and Wyoming — where Romney won 69 percent — and his average drops to 45 percent.

The split is clear. If you have a Waffle House in your state, you are more likely to support a Republican for president.  If you don’t, you won’t.

I would suggest that perhaps Secretary of State Brian Kemp should consider moving to make Waffle House locations absentee and early voting locations. 24/7 voting with a side of hashbrowns (scattered, well for me, please).

The State of Mississippi is considering whether to join Brian Kemp’s “SEC Primary,” a Southern Super Tuesday in the Presidential Primaries on March 1, 2016. From the Hattiesburg American,

The Southeast is a stronghold for Republicans in presidential politics. Secretaries of state, including Republican Delbert Hosemann of Mississippi, have endorsed a regional primary as a way for the states to grab the attention of presidential candidates.

House Bill 933 ( ) would move Mississippi’s primary to the first Tuesday of March. Under current law, the state’s presidential primary is set for the second Tuesday of that month.

The bill has passed the House Apportionment and Elections Committee and awaits debate in the full House.

NPR interviewed Brian Kemp about the genesis of the SEC Primary idea.

BRIAN KEMP: I think I was just riding down the road one day thinking about presidential politics, and I just kind of came up with this idea about us having a regional primary in the South.

I thought it’d be a good idea just to call it, quote, “the SEC primary” to raise awareness to what we were trying to do down here. And that’s really where the whole idea came from.

It would have been a much better story if he’d been driving in a pickup truck with his dog and his mama, and came up with the idea while stopped at railroad tracks waiting for the train to pass.

Walter Jones writes that Florida and Texas are unlikely to join in the regional Super Tuesday.

Two giant states that could overshadow Georgia in a regional primary, Texas and Florida, are more likely to opt for different dates. That’s because Republican Party rules enacted this month require states holding primaries before March 15 to apportion national-convention delegates rather than winner-take-all. Since each state is expected to have a favorite son in the race, a later primary would give a bigger boost than a share of delegates spread across as many as six or seven candidates.

J. Pepper Bryars writes at that conservatives stand to gain with an SEC Primary.

First, an early joint primary in the Deep South would complicate the national party’s plan of quickly nominating an establishment candidate by front-loading and shortening the primary process.

Second, conservatives aren’t well represented in all of the first four contests, which are designed to test a candidate’s performance in four regions: the Midwest with Iowa, the Northeast with New Hampshire, the South with South Carolina and then the West with Nevada. With the exception of the Palmetto State, which is solidly Republican, the rest are fairly moderate. Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada all voted for President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. We’re supposed to think of them as a collective bellwether for who the Republican Party should nominate?

The states that would comprise the SEC Primary, on the other hand, all voted for the Republican nominee in 2008 and 2012. According to Gallup, they’re among the most conservative in the nation.

The establishment’s strategy is to nominate a moderate Republican by first dividing the conservative vote among several candidates in the early states that award delegates in proportion to the percentage of the popular vote they won. Then they plan to conquer the cash-strapped conservatives by taking the lead in the winner-take-all contests that come later. We’ve seen it happen before; Iowa picks one guy, then New Hampshire picks another, then South Carolina chooses someone else and so on, until the moderate wins Florida and swamps everyone else.

So who would benefit most from an SEC Primary? My early bet is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times Upshot delves into the influence of moderate voters in the GOP Presidential selection process.

How does a Republican Party seemingly dominated by the South, energized by the Tea Party and elected by conservative voters also consistently support relatively moderate presidential nominees? The answer is the blue-state Republicans.

According to an analysis of Pew Research and exit-poll data, blue-state Republicans tend to be more urban, more moderate, less religious and more affluent. A majority of red-state Republicans are evangelical Christians, believe society should discourage homosexuality, think politicians should do what it takes to undermine the Affordable Care Act and want politicians to stand up for their positions, even if that means little gets done in Washington. A majority of blue-state Republicans differ on every count.

The red-state Republicans aren’t standing around. The Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp, is organizing a so-called SEC primary — referring to the college sports conference — of Southern states on March 1, the first date when states other than Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire are permitted to hold contests. The potential effect is obvious: It could bestow crucial momentum to the candidate favored by the South, perhaps another conservative like Mr. Santorum or Mr. Huckabee, and the boost needed to win the Midwestern primaries where conservative candidates have struggled, like Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Even in that scenario, the conservative Republican would need to win in the blue states — and would hope to have an easier time doing so after red-state victories.

Finally, the AJC weighs in on potential effects of an SEC Waffle House Primary on the Presidential nomination.

A lot of candidates have taken the South for granted, and it’s long been fragmented in primaries. It hasn’t been as valuable a bloc like it was in the 1980s,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist who has written extensively on presidential primary strategies. “This is going to put the South back in the center, and Georgia would be right in the middle of it.”

“We’re on the national map, and that’s really what we wanted,” said Kemp, who next week will update his colleagues and brainstorm on how to move ahead with the plan while attending a national conference in Washington. “We wanted the candidates to know this was going to happen: The SEC primary is going to be a happening event. And our voters here will be able to participate in that process.”

Elections officials in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas have all either confirmed or are working to seal their intent to hold March 1 primaries. So have Oklahoma and Virginia, even though they don’t host SEC schools. Florida has as well, though it may break from the pack and shift its primary even earlier.

“I want the next president of the United States to come to Mississippi,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said of the decision. “By having an earlier voice in the decision-making process through an SEC primary, I believe he or she will.”

We should also consider the effect of an SEC Primary on the Democratic Primary process. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was widely considered the front-running juggernaut until she was stunned by a third-place Iowa finish and collapsed in the South.













Meanwhile, Georgia Democrats re-elected Dubose Porter as their state party chair.

Porter, a former House minority leader, was elected party chairman in a 2013 special election after then-chair Mike Berlon stepped down citing personal issues. Democrats at the time also questioned the party’s weak fundraising. But Porter was harshly criticized after legacy candidates Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter lost races for U.S. Senate and governor in 2014, including by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who said failure should not be rewarded.

Porter defended his record during his nomination speech on Saturday, telling about 300 party members that Georgia’s ballot was a “national topic of conversation” in 2014 though Nunn and Carter fell about 8 points short in November. He said the party will focus on making Georgia a key state during the 2016 presidential election.

“Look how far we’ve come in a year and a half,” Porter said. “We’re financially stable … We went from being a national laughingstock to a model of how to turn a party around.”

Democrats across the conservative South are seeking a path forward after Republicans’ success in the 2014 midterm elections. In Georgia, that conversation has centered on how to grow the party and whether Porter is the best person to lead that effort.

Georgia Republicans will meet in Athens in May to re-elect Chairman John Padgett, though Alex Johnson will once again set to tilting at windmills and announced he will run for Chairman against Padgett. I will vote to re-elect John Padgett as Chairman and keep in place the GAGOP leadership team that helped us run the board and retain every contested legislative incumbent, every statewide office, win the United States Senate and pickup a Congressional seat against Democrat John Barrow who confounded Republican attempts to beat him for years. To make a case against continuing that record of outstanding success is too high a bar to pass over.

I hope you’ll join me this Saturday and participate in your local county meetings if they’re being held.


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