Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 18, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 18, 2015

On August 18, 1591,the English settlement at Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of what is now North Carolina was found deserted.

On August 18, 1795, President George Washington signed a treaty with Great Britain called the Jay Treaty, after Supreme Court Justice John Jay who negotiated it. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led opposition to the treaty.

On August 18, 1862, Confederate Major General of Cavalry J.E.B. Stuart was nearly captured, losing his distinctive hat and cloak and written copies of Lee’s orders near Verdiersville, Virginia.

The Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution urging the creation of a federal Health Department on August 18, 1908.

On August 18, 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated the official state flower of Georgia by a joint resolution of the State House and Senate.

The practice of tipping service employees was outlawed by legislation signed on August 18, 1918.

Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation regulating the practice of architecture and licensing practitioners on August 18, 1919.

The Georgia Board of Public Welfare was also created on August 18, 1919 when Gov. Dorsey signed legislation establishing that body and a companion bill that created the Community Service Commission.

On August 18, 1924 Gov. Clifford Walker signed legislation that would allow a referendum on a Constitutional Amendment to allow Atlanta, Savannah, or Macon to consolidate their respective municipal governments with their county governments. Macon-Bibb County merged in 2014 after voters passed a referendum in July 2012.

The Beatles played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on August 18, 1965.

On August 18, 1991, hardline Commies in the Soviet Union arrested Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev as part of a coup against Gorbachev’s reforms.

Two women have passed the United States Army’s Ranger School and will graduate at Fort Benning, Georgia on Friday.

The Army has yet to identify the two women, who are both graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Ralph Puckett, 90, a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame who says he has “that Ranger tab tattooed on my heart,” told the Ledger-Enquirer in 2014 he’d had numerous conversations with non-commissioned officers in Fort Benning’s 75th Ranger Regiment about the possibility of women joining their ranks.

“Everyone,” Puckett said, “individually answered, ‘Sir, it’s OK with me, if they maintain standards.’”

Col. David G. Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade based at Fort Benning, has been the officer charged with overseeing the first class to include women. He says he’s insisted throughout the process that the difficult standards not be lowered in any way to make it easier for women to pass the course.

“All the women did the exact same thing as their male counterparts,” Fivecoat said during the Florida swamp phase.

The two women slated for Friday’s Ranger graduation were among 400 soldiers, including 20 women, selected to start Ranger School on April 19. It was the first Ranger class in Army history to include female candidates.

“I see these women have a lot of courage — and these two specifically. It is impressive. You don’t want to be a subjective person. You want to be as objective as possible and be open-minded. My views have changed.”

“The bottom line is the two that are here, they made it here,” Lemma said. “They proved in Darby and proved in the mountains they have the physical tools to make it this far. Their peers have accepted them because they passed peers.

“They earned it. What else can we say?”

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has a great deal of coverage of the issue, and overall, they probably cover Ranger issues as much as any civilian paper in the country. They spoke to Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Lemma, who was on the team that won the “Best Ranger” competition at Fort Benning this year.

“It is not just other guys — it’s me,” Lemma said Thursday at Camp Rudder in the Florida swamps, as two women work their way through the final phase of Ranger School. “I questioned it, too. I questioned the process as well. How wouldn’t you? Years of Ranger School going back to the 1950s, and we are finally getting females through.

“If you are a male and you are tabbed, you are probably going to question it. A lot of guys, with politics, you have to say the right thing. The bottom line is almost every guy questions it.”

But after Lemma questioned it, he said he turned the question on himself.

“You got to ask yourself why you are saying, ‘I don’t think females should be in Ranger School,’” Lemma said. ” …Is it a pride thing? Do you feel that tab you have earned is less masculine now because females are now equal to you?

“If that is the case, then that is you. You’ve got to look at yourself. Obviously, you are not comfortable with who you are. You feel intimidated. I think you have to question why you feel that way.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flags are at half-staff over the Atlanta City Hall, in memory of civil rights pioneer Julian Bond.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush will appear at The Varsity this afternoon at 4 PM, following the steps of Presidents Obama, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and most importantly, Vice President Dan Quayle. Last year, Mitt Romney and Sam Olens held an event there.

Daniel Malloy of the AJC writes that 2014 2016 2018 may be the year that Georgia becomes competitive for Democrats due to demographic change, looking to the Tar Heel State for an example.

Though Hispanics still make up only a tiny portion of North Carolina’s electorate, they could prove crucial in a state where the past two presidential elections were decided by slender margins.

In the past decade North Carolina has transformed from a presidential red state into one of a handful of battlegrounds because of the same migration and demographic trends that give Georgia Democrats optimism about becoming competitive with Republicans once again.

“I’ve often made the argument that North Carolina is one click behind Virginia and maybe two clicks ahead of Georgia,” said Morgan Jackson, a Democratic political consultant in Raleigh.

“The making of North Carolina as a swing state is a combination of demographic change, metropolitanization, the new economy,” said Ferrel Guillory, the director of the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Georgia Democrats say they are a similar nudge away from swing-state territory. Millions of dollars flowed in for a high-profile minority voter registration and turnout effort in 2014 that fell short, but a presidential campaign brings another level of attention and funding.

In fact, Georgia’s population is more urban (75 percent to 66 percent, according to census data) and has a lower percentage of white voters (61 percent, to 71 percent in 2012) than North Carolina. But the percentage of whites voting Democratic has lately been in the 30s in North Carolina, while it has been in the 20s in Georgia.

The more racially polarized voting pattern is typical of a conservative Deep South state and is a reason Raleigh conservative commentator John Hood says the better comparison for Georgia is GOP-dominated South Carolina, rather than swing states North Carolina and Virginia.

Kristina Torres, also of the AJC, writes about the Georgia Low THC Oil Registry.

As of Tuesday, more than 130 patients including Sydney had qualified for Georgia’s new medical marijuana registry after its first 50 days of business. Yet the pace — celebrated by families and advocates — comes as some doctors have begun calling for training and information about the oil and how it works.

Those concerns in the medical community are not the only hurdles facing families here — the new law legalizing a limited form of cannabis oil to treat illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy does not address the oil’s manufacture or how to buy or obtain it.

Georgia has also begun to explore how to develop guidelines related to cultivation and production.

The newly formed state Commission on Medical Cannabis next meets Aug. 26 to talk with manufacturers and growers. Among the topics they are likely to address is the process they use to cultivate plants for the oil. That includes safety, security measures and testing that, among the top manufacturers, is often done by independent UL-listed laboratories.

“I think there’s just a need for additional information in the medical community of what exactly these products are,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, the primary author of the new law, who has been among those willing to bridge the gap as needed. “We’ve made sure families that have wanted the product and properly registered with the state have gotten the product.”

If a November 3d refereundum passes in Augusta, ten million dollars of tax money raised under a SPLOST could go to private organizations under a proposal before the Augusta Commission.

Devoting 4.75 percent of a new sales tax package to nongovernment groups shouldn’t keep Augusta from creating a winning package, a commissioner pushing to include them said Monday.

“We’re talking about less than five percent of the total allocation” of special purpose, local option sales tax funds, Augusta Com­mission member Bill Fennoy said. “Voters will sacrifice a nickel for the (nongovernment organizations) to spend 95 cents.”

While Georgia law prohibits local governments from using SPLOST or other public funds to finance capital outlay projects for nongovernment groups, Augusta and many other governments have and continue to do so.

Augusta accomplishes this by including “clawback” provisions that allow the city to retain a contractual ownership interest in the project and requiring the groups to provide a 25 percent match to the funds, Williams said.

Columbia County rolled out its Vision 2035 growth plan to residents, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Gainesville City Schools will lower the property tax millage rate, but still reap increased tax revenues, falling short of a full rollback.

The city’s property tax millage rate has been 7.48 mills, but city rollback calculations put the tax rate closer to 6.89. A tentative millage rate at 6.89 mills for fiscal year 2015-2016 was approved by the city school board at the board’s regular meeting Monday.

Potential candidates for Gainesville City Council election, which are November 3d, can pick up qualifying packets from the City Clerk’s office.

In Grovetown, Mayor George James will seek a third term in November’s election.

James is being challenged by Gary Jones, former chief of the Grovetown Department of Public Safety, who announced his intention to run July 31.

Qualifying for the seat will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31 through Sept. 4.

Cobb County is being sued over a rezoning, and Commissioner Bob Weatherford is being threatened with a potential recall campaign, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

A citizen panel in Carroll County will study whether public transportation is workable in the mainly-rural West Georgia county.

Beth Barnett will take office on the Coweta County Board of Education after being chosen by incumbent members to fill a vacancy.

A Lie, Repeated Often Enough Becomes the Truth

The liberal echo chamber is in full effect, helping generate article like that one the same way they generated articles last year. To read the historical revisionists, you’d believe that the House District 80 campaign was a huge victory for gay rights and a major setback for Religious Freedom. Check out the headlines.

Georgia Democrat Wins State House Seat On Platform Against Gay Discrimination – Huffington Post

Notably, the Democrat campaigned against a so-called “religious freedom restoration” bill, arguing that it used religious freedom as a justification for permitting discrimination against gays.

A Democrat just picked up a Republican seat in Georgia—by running against anti-gay discrimination – DailyKos

Bennett rode to victory by explicitly running on his opposition to a proposed “religious freedom restoration act,” citing his mother and sister, both of whom are gay.

Georgia Democrat, Foe of Anti-Gay “Religious Liberty” Bill, Pulls Off Election Victory

Bennett’s triumph is especially exciting for Georgia’s gay community, because the candidate had made opposition to the state’s anti-gay “religious liberty” bill the centerpiece of his campaign.

Even the AJC Political Insider fell for the after-the-campaign mischaracterizations, though they pointed to a radio interview Bennett did.

Taking a look at the sources cited for Bennett making gay rights and opposition to RFRA the center of his campaign, we see the first links to Taylor Bennett’s own website, where there are no instances of the words “gay,” “religious,” or “religion.” The closest he comes to discussing the issue that was allegedly at the center of his campaign is when his website says:

In the 1960’s, Georgia was the epicenter of the civil rights movement, today; we are still constantly fighting against proposed legislation that would legalize discrimination and injustice. I believe that each and every citizen of this state deserves to be treated with decency, respect, and equal rights under the law. I will always be an advocate for these issues and strongly oppose any legislation that could threaten liberty, equality, and justice for all.

Arguably that statement is about gay rights, but it’s a far cry from “explicitly running on his opposition” to RFRA. While Bennett did discuss the issue in an interview with Georgia Voice, which bills itself as “The Premier Media Source for LGBT Georgia,” an extensive search of The Brookhaven Post, which covered the race as much as an media out there, found one instance of gay rights and RFRA being mentioned, and that was in an op-ed written by a Bennett supporter.

So, it appears that Taylor Bennett made gay rights and opposition to RFRA part of his campaign, but it was a part that was strictly limited to gay media. His opposition to RFRA did not appear on his pushcards, his mailpieces, or any of the mailpieces sent by the Georgia Democratic Party or Better Georgia in support of his candidacy.

But when you have the big three liberal national political publications writing the exact same story, casting the campaign as one that was fought primarily over gay rights and opposition to RFRA, what you’re actually seeing is a concerted effort to rewrite history, nationalize partisan elections in Georgia, and most importantly, draw more liberal and Democratic resources into Georgia, as the political infrastructure is built for 2016 and beyond.

As an aside, it’s ironic that the saying “A lie, repeated often enough becomes truth,” has been variously misattributed to Hitler, Goebbels, and others.

SEC Primary

Donald Trump has declined to participate in a Town Hall for Republican presidential candidates next door in the Palmetto State.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has declined an invitation to attend one of the town hall meetings that South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is arranging with GOP presidential candidates.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports Trump is the only candidate to do so.

State Rep. Jim Merrill, who is working with the Trump campaign in the state, says Scott’s invitation conflicted with other primary events that Trump is attending. He said Trump might be available in January if Scott’s offer still stands.

Politico has an article about Ted Cruz’s “Southern Strategy explicitly targeting the SEC Primary states.

“Anyone who wants to win the nomination had better try to compete in the SEC primary, because any candidate who comes through Super Tuesday and gets blown out is likely to suffer a fatal blow,” Cruz told POLITICO aboard his campaign bus. “Right now there are very few other candidates investing the time, there are very few other candidates putting in place the leadership teams, the grass-roots organizations” in the South.

The Washington Post also noted the southern accent of Cruz’s campaign.

“Mississippi is going to play a critical role in the so-called SEC primary,” Cruz said from the bed of the 1964 Ford F-250, as the crowd in the stifling Southern heat tried to cool themselves with fans emblazoned with his campaign logo.

Cruz wasn’t just dishing out a dose of Southern hospitality. With a packed Republican presidential field and condensed primary season voting schedule, the Southern states are in a position to play a more prominent campaign-year role than ever before when it comes to helping choose a Republican presidential nominee.

“It shouldn’t be decided by a few votes in Iowa or New Hampshire. Nothing against them — I know they take the race very seriously,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who persuaded other Southern states to hold their primaries on March 1 — a regional early voting blitz that’s been nicknamed the “SEC Primary” after the college athletic conference.

Eight Southern states will vote that day, with more weighing in over the following two weeks. And so Cruz has spent the past week on a 20-stop, seven-day road trip that stretched nearly 2,000 miles, a winding route that took him from South Carolina to Oklahoma.

The calendar, said former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, will “increase the influence because more candidates will come participate. There will be candidates who feel like they can’t win the state, but they can win some delegates.”

He’s not the only one who thinks the path to the nomination runs south of the Mason-Dixon line. His competition includes Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose campaign says he has been spending more time in the South than any other candidate. For months, Walker has been visiting Southern statehouses, looking to line up endorsements and support. His stops this summer have ranged from the small-scale, like a July breakfast at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant in Nashville, to the higher-profile, like headline billing at the Alabama Republican Party’s summer luncheon in August.

“We think we can do well in Tennessee. We think it’s a key part of our strategy,” Walker told reporters in the state, as the governor from cheese country extolled the virtues of the local cuisine. (“It doesn’t hurt that I met my wife at a barbecue place, I proposed at that barbecue place and I went to the barbecue place on my wedding, so I love the smell of good barbecue. But we’ll come here for more than just barbecue.”)

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has a base of support in his home state and has been spending time in Georgia.

Ohio Governor John Kasich picked up an early endorsement from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

The Southern conservative’s endorsement, to be announced at a Monday morning news conference in Birmingham, is a sign that the Kasich campaign hopes to cultivate broader national appeal even though his initial strategy focuses on a strong showing in the first primary state, New Hampshire.

Alabama holds its 2016 presidential primary on March 1, the same day that several Southern states are voting in what has been dubbed the “SEC Primary,” after the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Southeastern Conference.

AL.com fleshed out the endorsement’s importance to the midwestern governor.

How might a man who looks like a moderate from a purple state, compared to some Republicans running for president, win a party presidential primary in a Deep South red state like Alabama?

Kasich ate barbecue Sunday night at a restaurant with a legendary name, Dreamland Bar-B-Que, where he posed for a lot of cell phone pictures and shook a lot of hands.

Kasich said Bentley’s endorsement sends a signal across the south.

“I’m headed from here to South Carolina and the first thing I’m going to tell them is guest what? I was just endorsed for president of the United States by the governor of Alabama. It makes a big difference.”

Kasich said Monday will not be his last trip to Alabama.

“I will be back here and as we continue to rise and do well you will understand how important this was, an integral part of our ability to do well in the southern states.”

Alabama joins Georgia in receiving a lot of attention from Presidential candidates in advance of the SEC Primary.

[Alabama Secretary of State John] Merrill said in a statement that the attention Alabama is receiving from presidential candidates can be attributed to the state moving up its primary to March 1, also known as the “SEC Primary” because other southern states are holding their presidential primary on that date.

“When this many Presidential candidates are choosing to visit Alabama, it is proof the SEC Primary is working,” he said. “I am proud to see our state receiving the attention it deserves, and I will continue my efforts to secure visits from presidential candidates. It is so important that Alabamians have the opportunity to interact with all candidates in order to learn who best reflects their views.”

Louisiana goes to the polls four days after the SEC Primary, and still anticipates a good deal of attention.

At least one candidate pursuing a Southern strategy skipped stops in Louisiana recently, focusing only on the “SEC Primary” states, but Louisiana’s political parties say they aren’t worried about being left out of the pack and that Louisiana could be in a better position this way.

The Legislature last year voted unanimously to move the date of the state’s presidential primary up a couple of weeks, to March 5, so that voters here would be better positioned to have a say in the national nominating process.

Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said Georgia’s secretary of state, a driving force behind the creation of the SEC Primary, reached out to Louisiana, hoping to encourage the state to join the others on what’s alternately being called Super Tuesday or the “sweet tea primary.”

“When the offer came from Georgia, there was no real interest in changing it again, so it did not move forward,” Casper said.

“Not being swallowed in the crowd on Super Tuesday means Louisiana has the potential to get some more focus from each of the candidates in that four-day stretch,” said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Beau Tidwell. “That’s a good thing for Louisiana voters and for the process as a whole.”

Tim Echols on EPA’s Carbon Rules

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols (R-Bogart) takes on the Obama Administrations’ new EPA Carbon Rules, which he says will cost Georgia ratepayers.

President Barack Obama’s recent release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan final rule has drawn praise from many corners, and those like me who would take issue with the rule and its presuppositions are said to be somehow as standing in the way of progress, even reckless.

But it is not just guilt — there’s also a hammer. That hammer is the EPA — the infamous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that churns out rules like the Varsity makes hotdogs. These rules are frequently challenged, but usually implemented by utilities, and paid for by ratepayers. Later, a court may overturn them after the money has been spent.

In the Clean Power Plan, the rule forces us to accelerate progress we would have made anyway. Think of it as upgrading your smartphone before the end of your contract period, resulting in a much higher fee. When it comes to Obama’s EPA plan, prepare to multiply that times several billion dollars because it is your state’s electric grid that the president is mandating be upgraded early.

As we make new investments in solar, wind and other clean energy improvements, you, the ratepayers fund all of it, with interest. As one of our elected energy commissioners on the PSC, I take my job seriously: to keep energy rates low and reliability high for you and business interests.

We’ll comply with this EPA mandate, but don’t expect me to go quietly.

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