Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 13, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 13, 2015

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in what is now Albemarle County, Virginia. Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia, United States Secretary of State, delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and Third President of the United States. Jefferson is credited with writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence

On April 11, 1768, Benjamin Franklin was named Georgia’s agent “to represent, solicit, and transact the affairs of this province in Great Britain.” Arguably, this makes Benjamin Franklin the first American lobbyist.

Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, was exiled to Elba Island in the Mediterranean, on April 11, 1814

On April 11, 1853, John Archibald Campbell was appointed Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Franklin Pierce. After graduating from the University of Georgia at 14, he attended West Point, where his fellow cadets included Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. After the beginning of the Civil War, Campbell resigned from the Court and was appointed Assistant Secretary of War for the Confederacy by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

On April 12, 1861, Confederates in Charleston, SC opened fire on Federal-held Fort Sumter opening the Civil War.

During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincolnissued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

“The General” Locomotive was hijacked at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Georgia on April 12, 1862, leading to “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The locomotive is now housed in the Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

The American Third Army liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany on April 11, 1945. Among the survivors of Buchenwald was Elie Wiesel; in 1986, Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.

On April 12, 1961, Russian Commienaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to go to outer space and the first to orbit earth.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama on April 12, 1963; while there he would write his famed, “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The Braves played their first home game in Atlanta on April 12, 1966.

Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970.

The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need tojury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.

The Space Shuttle Columbia became the first reusable orbital vehicle when it launched on April 12, 1981.

The Vidalia Sweet Onion was named Georgia’s official state vegetable when Gov. Joe Frank Harris signed legislation designating it such on April 11, 1990.

Congratulations to the following winners of the Masters Tournament who donned the green jacket on April 11: Seve Ballesteros (2d – 1983), Jack Nicklaus (2d in 1965; 3d in 1966), Ray Floyd (1976), Nick Faldo (1996), Jose Maria Olazabal (2d – 1999), Phil Mickelson (1st -2004; 3d – 2010), and Claude Harmon (1948), the first Georgian to win the Masters.

The Augusta Chronicle wrote a great “day in the life” piece in 1967 about Jack Nicklaus’s attempt to take a third straight green jacket.

It is almost like a 1960s-era TV sitcom, with golf-playing Jack trying to get ready for the big tournament while wife Barbara and kids tag along. The family even drops him off at the Augusta National Clubhouse for his round.

To me, one of the funniest parts is of the then-27-year-old Golden Bear enjoying his breakfast of Masters champions, described as “an attack on half of a melon, ‘lots of bacon,’ … two eggs and some rye toast.”

Georgia Politics in 2016

The AJC’s Political Insider mentions that we already have at least three open State House seats in the 2015-16 election cycle.

• Tyrone Brooks (D) resigned from his House District 55 seat before pleading guilty to federal charges. His son, Tyrone Brooks, Jr. has a campaign committee registered. It will be a special election, likely to be held June 16, 2015, subject to Gov. Nathan Deal calling for the election.

Margaret Kaiser (D) will not run for reelection to House District 59 in order to run for Mayor of Atlanta in 2017. Atlanta lawyer David Dreyer tweeted that he will run for her seat, and has already garnered some major Democratic support from former State Rep. Stephanie Benfield and McKenna Long partner Jeremy Berry.

LaDawn Jones (D-62) announced during the legislative session that she will not run for reelection in 2016.

Shawn Allen will run for the House District 99 seat that is currently held by State Rep. Hugh Floyd (D). We haven’t heard anything about Rep. Floyd’s plans.

Legislative Review

Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Cobb), who chairs the Senate Education Committee says this year’s legislative session was a good one for education.

“I thought it was a good year in terms of what was passed and also in term of what wasn’t passed,” Tippins said.

He cited bills that expand the opportunities for dual enrollment and put a formal end to the Georgia High School Graduation Test, and the possible creation of a statewide school district for chronically failing schools as positive results of this year’s legislative session.

The biggest education-related bill to pass, Senate Bill 133, seeks to enact Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan for an “Opportunity School District,” which would give the state the authority to take over 20 schools deemed to be failing if they score below a 60 on the College and Career Performance Index three years in a row, according to the governor’s office.

“I voted in favor of the bill because we have students who are sitting in schools that are failing them, and we owe it to those students to try another way to turn those schools around,” Evans said.

Tippins, a former chair of the Cobb school board, was a cosponsor of the bill and said he believes in the sanctity of local school boards.

“They have a constitutional authority, and the mandate … to oversee and manage local school systems is vested solely in the local boards of education,” Tippins said. “But when you look at chronically failing schools, those schools for many, many years have never been performing as they should. The parents of those children don’t understand why someone doesn’t do something.”

He said the bill lays out an evaluation process to assess the chronically failing schools.

“Before the Opportunity School District would ever move into a school, they would do an on-site diagnostic study and come to a determination on why the school is failing,” Tippins said. “Then have a mandatory meeting with the principal, the superintendent and the board of education as to what their findings are and what they believe the solutions to be.”

One good thing we can point to DeKalb County for is providing the impetus to make P-card abuse a felony and ease an impediment to prosection. P-cards are “purchasing cards” issues to some elected or appointed government officials that work like a debit card, allowing purchases with taxpayer dollars. From the AJC,

The legislation empowers county prosecutors to pursue charges against officials who buy personal items with their purchasing cards, known as P-cards, which are debit cards that draw funds from local government budgets. Previously, state law required charges to be brought in the jurisdiction where improper purchases took place, making it difficult to prosecute alleged misspending that occurred across county lines or out of state.

State lawmakers passed the measure, which had previously stalled because of concerns that it was overly broad, less than an hour before the midnight conclusion of this year’s legislative session April 2.

House Bill 192 also requires county commissions, city councils and school boards that use P-cards to vote on rules and transaction limits. The bill is pending before Gov. Nathan Deal.

“It’s a game-changer for us,” said DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, who supported the legislation. “There are several cases I haven’t been able to get involved in because of jurisdictional issues.”

Preview of a Review

Tonight at 6 PM, I’ll be speaking to the Athens GOP meeting and presenting “Three takeaways from the 2015 Georgia General Assembly Session.” At 9:20 this morning, I’ll be speaking to Tim Bryant on WGAU 1340 AM to preview my review. You can tune in online or join us in real life tonight. Here are the main bullet points. I’ll be fleshing these out in the coming days, and probably go beyond 3 takeaways.

1. Turds roll downhill – It is the insolvency of the federal highway transport that spurred the need for more state funding for maintenance and repair of transportation infrastructure. The legislature’s first attempt for a Transportation Finance Act in turn reduced tax flows to local governments. And it is partly Republican opposition in Congress to increasing federal gas taxes that cause the issues as fuel economy has improved over the years. Then Republican opposition to admitting to raising the state gas tax led to the raid on local coffers.

2. Republicans in the legislature can govern without unanimous support from their own party – the last couple years have seen the rise of a number of legislators who can be described as “small-l libertarian” or “far right.” For better or worse, sizable GOP majorities in both chambers means that leadership can pass routine legislation without the support of all members of the Republican Caucus. Holding 66 percent of seats means you can lost nearly a quarter of your caucus and still hold a majority.

3. Legislative Democrats have become relevant again, partly due to number two above – when it comes to the Constitutional Amendments passed this year, a supermajority was required. When part of the GOP caucus views an issue as definitional and is unwilling to negotiate, the Democratic caucus becomes a better-looking dance partner.

Other Political News

Kennesaw wants The Texas, one of the locomotives that participated in the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase, to join The General at The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

Kennesaw’s The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History owns The General, one of the two main engines involved in what’s been named The Great Locomotive Chase.

The General is owned by the state and is on permanent loan to the city.

Atlanta houses the second, The Texas, at the Cyclorama in Grant Park. This summer, the Cyclorama, which features the world’s largest oil painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta, painted in 1885 and 1886 by artists from Germany, will move to The Atlanta History Museum in Buckhead. The train is set to move there also.

However, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) are advocating for the train to move to Kennesaw’s Southern Museum.

“It just makes all kinds of sense in the world to be housed somewhere in Cobb. This is where the historical event actually took place, and I know that it would be well cared for by that museum for sure,” Ehrhart said.

“Those Yankees are trying to steal our train again,” Ehrhart said.

Ehrhart said he’s glad to take up the fight.

“We’re going to win this war. The Yankees won the last,” Ehrhart said.

The Augusta Chronicle writes about the use of veterans accountability courts, part of Gov. Deal’s multi-year criminal justice reform.

With more men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental and physical scars, courts exclusively for veterans are becoming popular nationally, and Augusta is on the front line of that trend.

Often referred to as “therapy court,” the criminal justice program is now available in more than 100 districts in the U.S. to promote treatment and self-improvement for veterans facing charges for non-violent crimes associated with post-traumatic stress and brain injuries sustained in combat zones.

Augusta’s version was developed in November 2013 from a treatment program started five years earlier in Buffalo, N.Y., after Judge Robert Russell noticed an increase of veterans appearing on dockets for Drug and Mental Health courts.

Augusta’s Judicial Circuit, one of 10 districts selected to study the model, launched last summer and has since grown to eight veterans – six men and two women from the Army, Air Force and Marines – who face charges of shoplifting, making terroristic threats and marijuana possession with the intent to distribute.

Statistics show the program, which plans to add another five veterans by year’s end, including one from Thomson, is already having a positive effect on the community.

Tomorrow, the Georgia Board of Regents is expected to set tuition rates for the next school year.

For the past several years, tuition costs have increased, with the highest rates paid by students at Georgia’s top research institutions, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. A University of Georgia freshman starting in 2004 paid $4,291 for in-state tuition and fees, according to the College Board. By 2014, that had nearly doubled, to $8,094.

Tuition increases have outpaced inflation, and have come in a struggling economy and as the state has cut education budgets and HOPE scholarships.That puts more of the financial burden on students and their families. Students’ deeper debt delays them from starting their lives and helping the economy, as they pay down debt rather than buying goods and services.

To cut costs and increase efficiency, the University System has merged a dozen of its institutions. More online classes are being offered and plans are underway for online textbooks. The system has also offered the cheaper, in-state tuition cost for students in neighboring states at some colleges, mostly in South Georgia, where enrollment has dropped. The system has also changed its health care plan, making employees pay more of their health costs and moving retirees off the plan for coverage beyond Medicare.

State funding reductions have come at a cost. During the legislative session that just ended, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby pleaded with lawmakers to include money for employee raises in the system’s budget — an item at the top of his wish list for the past two years. Years of stagnant wages have made it difficult to retain and attract top faculty, Huckaby said. Lawmakers included money for small employee raises this year and next.

Congratulations to Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Lemma and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Briggs, winners of the annual Best Ranger competition at Fort Benning.

Events

The Georgia Republican Party Seventh Congressional District will hold its Joan Zellner Memorial Dinner on Friday, April 17, 2015, beginning at 6 PM. We’ve heard that former Congressman Jack Kingston will address the dinner.

That same night, just up the road at the Jefferson Civic Center, 65 Kissam Street, Jefferson, GA 30549, the Ninth District Georgia Republican Party will hold its 2015 Banquet, featuring Gov. Nathan Deal, Congressman Doug Collins, and Senator Johnny Isakson.

2016 Presidential Primary

The Boston Globe ran a story last week on the potential Southern Super Tuesday in the 2016 Presidential election.

But in an attempt to flex more muscle in the Republican nominating contest, and potentially boost a candidate with solidly conservative credentials, a half-dozen of the reddest of Southern red states are aiming to band together and hold a Southern Super Tuesday on the earliest possible date. Under the emerging 2016 primary calendar, places like Manchester, Ga., could carry new sway — in some ways acting as an antidote to the famously independent voters up north.

“When you look at where the heartland of the Republican Party is right now, it’s a lot of these Southern states,” said Joel McElhannon, a GOP consultant in Georgia.

Georgia has been leading an effort to mobilize all Southern states to vote March 1. In what has been dubbed the SEC Primary, after the Southeastern college conference famed for football-crazed schools, Georgia is hoping it will be joined by Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

“I think most of them really don’t know much about our state other than what they’ve read,” said [Governor Nathan] Deal.

The last time the South voted en masse was in 1988, when 11 states, Georgia prominent among them, voted on the same day. Democrats hoped the dramatic clustering of primaries would help a moderate sweep the region and head the party’s ticket. Instead, Jesse Jackson and Al Gore split the South, helping pave the way for Michael Dukakis, the liberal governor of Massachusetts, to win the nomination.

The state is already hosting a parade of candidates, stopping in Atlanta and requesting meetings with Governor Nathan Deal, legislative leaders, and activists. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush delivered a speech before the state Legislature, lingering afterward to shake hands and take photos. Former Texas governor Rick Perry huddled with supporters at The Georgian Club, which has a sweeping view of the Atlanta skyline. In January, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hosted a dinner at the governor’s mansion for a delegation of nearly a dozen Georgians who flew up for the occasion.

Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia are currently all poised to vote March 1, and legislation is pending in Alabama and Arkansas to do the same. The six states together elect 428 of the 2,469 delegates to the GOP convention.

South Caroline continues to play an outsized role in the Presidential nomination process, as one of the first early states to decide. A potential favorite son campaign by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) may shape Presidential politics in the Palmetto State this year.

Graham’s deep ties to the state party still hold enormous sway. As Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker visit the “first in the South” primary state this week, they will encounter many faces like [Dr. Edward] Floyd’s: friendly, but not up for grabs. “Senator Graham has frozen people who otherwise might be inclined to support Bush,” said one top South Carolina GOP operative. “They’re not making direct asks for money … they’re here saying, ‘Hey, we want to be your second choice after Senator Graham.’”

“They’re friend-raising and not fundraising,” the operative added.

Graham, a foreign policy hawk, is unlikely to clear the Palmetto State’s field like Senator Tom Harkin’s Iowa campaign for President did in 1992. But fresh off a 2014 re-election that he won by a 15.5 percentage-point margin, Graham has become one of 2016’s biggest wild cards — a dark-horse candidate whose decisions will determine not just his own fate, but also potentially the outcome of the GOP race.

Though few nationally or in his home state believe Graham will truly stick it out, he’s poised to play kingmaker or spoiler, and maybe assassin.

Graham’s candidacy could have the biggest impact on Senator Rand Paul’s presidential run — a vehicle for the South Carolinian to attempt to torpedo the more isolationist lawmaker’s ambitions. He’s also sparred with Senator Ted Cruz, another hopeful with whom he rarely sees eye to eye and whose tactics he’s condemned. Critics call him a stalking horse for the establishment, picking a fight with the party’s extreme to provide a favored candidate — like Bush — with political cover.

Our neighbors in South Carolina continue to show us what it looks like when you’re a major player in Presidential politics.

Within the past three months, five people who have considered running for the Republican presidential nomination have stopped through Horry County.

Businessman Donald Trump has visited Horry County [South Carolina] twice in the past three months; declared presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz stopped through the S.C. Tea Party Convention in January, along with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and neurologist Ben Carson. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in town last month.

Members of the Horry County Republican Party say candidates recognize the importance of reaching voters on the Grand Strand.

Russell Fry, state executive committeeman, said Horry County has one of the highest concentrations of Republican voters in the state.

“Coming here gets them exposed to the people in the county,” Fry said.

Rick Tyler, spokesman for Cruz’s presidential campaign, said that South Carolina being among the first states with primaries or caucuses is a draw for potential candidates. Cruz declared his intent to run for president last month and was in Horry County in January for the Myrtle Beach Tea Party Convention.

“[South Carolina] is one of the three first states that essentially serve as a vetting process for both the Republican and Democratic parties,” Tyler said. “[The S.C. primary] is the southern Republican base.”

Mississippi declined to join the SEC Presidential Primary after differing versions of legislation to move the 2016 Presidential Primary passed with large margins in both chambers of their state legislature.

Bills for Mississippi to join the March 1 “SEC Primary” — aimed at increasing the region’s presidential politics clout — passed the House unanimously and the Senate 40-10. Hosemann said it appeared to have widespread, bipartisan support. But then [Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate] Reeves put a last-minute kibosh on the final bill, bottling it up without a vote or negotiations as the legislative session ended.

The death of the SEC Primary legislation is a microcosm of current Mississippi legislative politics.

Gov. Phil Bryant, Speaker Philip Gunn and other House leaders, and members of the tea party-leaning Senate Conservative Coalition have complained over four sessions that fellow Republican Reeves, with tight-fisted control of the Senate, hasn’t given their bills a fair shake. Reeves has been the final arbiter of much major legislation, not giving his committee chairmen much free rein to negotiate with the House or anyone else

In the case of the SEC Primary legislation, some political observers figure it didn’t help that it was being pushed by [Secretary of State Delbert] Hosemann, who toyed with a run against Reeves for lieutenant governor this year.

Hosemann said he doesn’t know if election-year or other politics played a role in Reeves killing the bill.

“But I can tell you this, I can’t understand why the bill didn’t pass,” Hosemann said. “It doesn’t make any political sense for Mississippi, and it doesn’t make any economic sense.”

Reeves disagrees and says his opposition was not personal or political. Reeves said he consulted with presidential election and campaign experts and determined it was a bad idea. For starters, he said, Florida and Louisiana are not joining, and other states have not yet decided.

Reeves said Mississippi joining would have opposite the desired effect: Mississippi would be ignored in favor of the larger states.

In Alabama, Democratic state Senator Quinton Ross has introduced legislation to move the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary to March 1 to join Georgia in an SEC Primary.

Ross called his piece of legislation “an economic stimulus bill” because it would help the state attract more visits from presidential candidates by allowing Alabama to join a circuit with other southern states.

In turn, this would create more hotel stays and more money being spent in Alabama cities, he said.

The circuit is being referred to as the “SEC primary” due to the Southeastern Conference for sports.

Ross said both the Alabama Republican Party and the Alabama Democratic Party are in support of the change, although AL.com has not yet confirmed that support.

United States Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will announce his presidential campaign tonight in Miami.

Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, will make the announcement in front of the city’s Freedom Tower, an iconic, Ellis Island-like downtown landmark where the federal government once processed Cuban immigrants fleeing the Castro regime. The site holds great personal importance for Rubio, his family and the city’s influential  Cuban-American community.

The announcement is expected to launch Rubio near the top of a crowded field of GOP presidential candidates even as recent polls have suggested that he will have to compete for support among other frontrunners, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Several Georgians were in Florida last night dining with Sen. Rubio in advance of his Presidential announcement. Look to Jason Anavitarte and others to form the core of Rubio’s team in the Peach State.

GOP on HRC

The Republican National Committee sent out a statement on Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she will run for President in 2016:

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus released this statement today in response to Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement:

“Americans need a president they can trust and voters do not trust Hillary Clinton. Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal, and failed policies that can’t be erased from voters’ minds. The Clintons believe they can play by a different set of rules and think they’re above transparency, accountability, and ethics. Our next president must represent a higher standard, and that is not Hillary Clinton.

“Clinton’s announcement comes in the shadows of looming investigations over deletion of State Department records and suspicious foreign donations. For weeks Clinton has stonewalled the American public on unanswered questions around these many scandals. As an official candidate, Clinton must come clean with the American people.

“Republicans have a strong and diverse set of candidates who will engage in a productive debate on how to move our country forward. Clinton’s coronation represents more of the same, and voters have made it clear they want a new direction.”

John Padgett, Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party also responded to Clinton’s announcement:

Following the announcement by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she will seek the office of president in 2016, Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett issued the following statement:

“Now that Hillary Clinton is officially running for president, I join with the rest of America in demanding answers to some of the most pressing questions regarding her tenure in public office,” said Chairman Padgett. “From the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi that left our Ambassador and three Americans dead to the private e-mail server used for official, state business that was wiped clean, Hillary Clinton has some explaining to do.

“As we wait for Hillary Clinton to come clean on the laundry list of scandals that clearly disqualify her as a legitimate candidate for president, Georgia Republicans will continue to grow the Party, mobilize volunteers, and prepare for victory in 2016.”

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