Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 24, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 24, 2015

General Charles Lee of the Continental Army told Congress that Georgia’s value to the young nation required more forces to defend against the British on August 24, 1776.

The Kimball Opera House, serving as the Georgia State Capitol, was sold to the state on August 23, 1870.

The sale of Coca-Cola Company from the Candlers was announced in the Atlanta Constitution on August 22, 1919.

On August 24, 1931, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution appointing a committee to work with the Governor in planning a bicentennial celebration to be held in 1933.

On August 24, 1945, the United States Postal Service held a first day of issue ceremony in Warm Springs, Georgia for the release of a stamp bearing the images of Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Little White House.

N/S Savannah, the first nuclear-powered merchant ship, visited the Port of Savannah on August 22, 1962. Savannah was named after S.S. Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. N/S Savannah is moored at the Port of Baltimore and designated a national historic landmark.

More than 3000 demonstrators disrupted the Democratic National Convention on August 22, 1968.

Nolan Ryan recorded his 5000th career strikeout against Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A’s on August 22, 1989.

Navy diver continue to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise the remains of CSS Georgia from the Savannah River.

Since the beginning of June, one of the U.S. Navy’s premier diving teams has been working with the Corps of Engineers and archeologists to help salvage Confederate warship CSS Georgia from the depths of the Savannah River.

Built in 1862, the ironclad was originally intended to be a gunboat but was too heavy to maneuver offensively against the Savannah River’s strong currents, so the Georgia was subsequently anchored in the river to help protect Fort Jackson and Savannah.

Before it ever fired a shot, the 1,200-ton ironclad was scuttled by its own crew to prevent its capture by Gen. William T. Sherman when his Union army took Savannah in December 1864.

The warship was found during a dredging operation in 1968. Today, it is considered a captured enemy vessel and is the property of the U.S. Navy. The recovery is expected to cost about $14 million.

The divers working in Savannah are pulling up parts of the ship’s armor systems, steam engine components and small structure pieces.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Last week, I spoke with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp about the origin of the SEC Presidential Primary and the effects it is having on the campaigns and on Georgia. Here are the first two parts of our discussion.

When we spoke, Secretary Kemp mentioned that former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) will be coming to Athens for the Georgia-South Carolina game this fall. The Athens Banner-Herald spoke to UGA Political Science professor Dr. Charles Bullock about the SEC Primary and Jeb’s trip to Athens.

Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush will be in Athens for the Sept. 19 University of Georgia football game with the University of South Carolina, proving the effectiveness of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s push for a March 1 presidential primary across much of the southeastern United States.

Dubbed the “SEC primary” — a nod to the Southeastern Conference, in which Georgia, South Carolina and a number of other Southern schools play — Kemp’s vision is that the March 1, 2016, primary will put a large number of Republican and Democratic convention delegates at stake at one time, meaning that candidates would have to pay significant attention to the South.

Interestingly, South Carolina has historically hosted the “first in the South” presidential preference primaries — with this year’s GOP balloting set for Feb. 20 and Democratic primary vote set for Feb. 27 — already giving that state some significant leverage in primary voting.

Still, though, the SEC primary will represent a significant political milestone in the campaign for the 2016 presidential ballot, according to University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

“It has gotten the attention that Secretary Kemp had hoped it would bring,” Bullock said. Jeb Bush certainly won’t be the only presidential contender likely to visit Georgia in the month before the state’s March 1 primary, Bullock said. And, he added, University of Georgia football games are particularly effective venues for political campaigning.

“The great thing for a candidate is that there’s a large crowd,” Bullock said. There’s also a chance for some free television exposure, Bullock added, “and maybe they even get their picture on the Jumbotron.”

The kind of retail politics represented by an appearance at a college football game — a chance to meet voters, shake hands and make contacts for future campaigning and fundraising — remain[s] important in presidential races, Bullock said.

That style of campaigning will, though, be something new for Georgians, according to Bullock. “We’re not as used to it as people in Iowa and New Hampshire,” smaller states where it’s easier for candidates to meet a lot of voters on a personal level, he said.

And here’s the Jeb Bush campaign’s video of his trip to Atlanta to the Varsity last week.


A Georgia Connection to the Clinton Email Scandal

I’ve generally stayed away from writing about Hillary Clinton the way she’s stayed out of Georgia so far this year, but an article in the New York Post about her constantly changing latest story about her use of a private email server is notable for the inclusion of retired Colonel Larry Mrozinski, who ran for Congress in the 11th District Republican Primary last year.

“I did not receive any material marked or designated classified, which is the way you know whether something is [classified],” she said last week, revising an earlier claim that “there is no classified material.”

“That’s total BS,” said retired Army Col. Larry Mrozinski, who served almost four years as a ­senior military adviser and security manager in the State Department under both Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.

He says Clinton easily would have ID’d the material as classified based on “keywords and phrases” and the fact that the information came from foreign sources.

“TS/SCI is very serious and specific information that jumps out at you and screams ‘classified,’ ” Mrozinski said. “The sources [of the information] also drive and signal sensitivity.”

“You are strictly forbidden to discuss TS/SCI of any kind outside a SCIF,” he explained, and yet “she was viewing and hand­ling it in direct violation of the law and possibly exposing it to our enemies,” such as ISIS and Beijing, which has hacked Pentagon sites.

“Anybody else would have already lost their security clearance and be subjected to an espionage investigation,” Mrozinski added. “But apparently a different standard exists for Mrs. Clinton.”


Donald Trump Polls are Rising

We’ve been saying for weeks at the least that you shouldn’t give much credence to Presidential election polls this far out, but here’s an interesting article about why Donald Trump’s current frontrunner status doesn’t mean he’ll be the nominee.

Trump hasn’t been out of first place in national polling since he filed as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission in mid-July. Most polls have him leading in the double digits.

He is not only ahead on paper. He draws the biggest crowds, too. A rally for the candidate in Mobile, Alabama, on Friday night had to be moved to a larger stadium to accommodate a horde of thousands – although the estimated crowd of 20,000 fell short of the 40,000 the Trump campaign said had RSVP’d.

But can Donald Trump really win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination?

Knowledgable people think he might. They include some journalists, some former Republican consultants and operatives, talk show host Bill Maher and a contestant from season three of NBC’s The Apprentice, who now is co-chairperson of Trump’s Iowa operation.

But more-knowledgable people think he won’t. They include the quants and geeks, some Republican consultants and operatives, and lots of political scientists.

A trio of political data experts empanelled by FiveThirtyEight for a podcast earlier this month estimated Trump’s chances of snagging the nomination at 2%, 0% and minus-10%, respectively.

“If Trump is nominated, then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong,” Larry Sabato, head of the center for politics at the University of Virginia, wrote last week.

Early polling is not very predictive. Especially polling more than 300 days out. (We have 444 days to go.) There are charts that illustrate this. But there are also instructive examples – as well as exceptions.

Except when you overlay it with, for example, the arc of the early frontrunner in the 2008 Republican nominating race, Rudy Giuliani:

Next to Giuliani’s lead, Trump’s lead looks like … a joke. Trump is having trouble cracking 25%, while for months at a stretch in 2007, Giuliani swanned around in the 30s. And yet Giuliani ended up winning not a single primary or caucus. He ultimately focused all his efforts in Florida, where he came in third.

What happened to Giuliani? He is said to have made tactical errors such as bad hires and ad buys. But the real explanation, many analysts think, is that Giuliani’s lead was a phantom lead. He was just ahead in the polls in a race most people were mostly ignoring.

“Giuliani was better known than the others, except for McCain,” David Karol, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and co-author of the book The Party Decides, told the Guardian. “The other candidates [Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul] were not that well known. Over the course of the campaign, voters got to know the others.”

It’s not just a Republican phenomenon. The 2004 Democratic race saw two substantial – but ultimately failed – frontrunners in 2003 in Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean, who held a double-digit lead in Iowa as late as December, only to come in third in the caucuses a month later.

Donald Trump’s rally in Mobile, Alabama this weekend drew some 20,000 voters spectators and highlights what Trump says is the importance of Alabama to winning the Republican nomination.

Trump views Alabama, and the other Southern states that hold March 1st primaries, as the key to locking down the Republican nomination. The stadium rally is also a way to deepen his identification with Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who lives in Mobile and whose view on immigrants and immigration—he’s mainly against both—Trump shares. As Sessions told me, he and Trump appeal to the same type of voters, “a lot of middle-class working people, who don’t trust establishment messaging. I call it ‘honest populism.’”

Here is the Trump political logic: “Alabama is extremely critical,” a close associate of Trump’s told me (actually, we agreed I’d call him “a close associate of Mr. Trump”). “You have Iowa’s caucus on February 1st, New Hampshire on the 9th, and South Carolina on the 20th.” The race, this associate explained, would not be wrapped up by then. According to this political calculus, the crucial moment arrives three days later, on March 1st, with the “SEC primary”—the belt of Southern states that encompass the Southeastern Athletic Conference—when Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and several others hold their primaries.

Trump is currently leading the polls in many of these states. A new Texas poll has him in first place, beating actual Texans Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. He’s dominating the field in Alabama, as well, doubling the support of second-place finisher Jeb Bush, from neighboring Florida. (Trump is winning in Florida, too, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, which, although it is an SEC state, doesn’t hold its primary until March 15th). If Trump sweeps the early states, or even just wins Iowa and South Carolina, these advisers believe he could effectively lock down the Republican nomination by sweeping the SEC primary on March 1st. “He feels he wins the nomination on 1 March with a sweep of the populist anti-establishment South,” another adviser emailed. “That’s when Trump’s ‘nationalism’ coupled with Sessions’ ‘populism’ comes to full fruition.”

Trump believes he has a secret weapon that could help him carry the South. “The other thing people don’t know about Mr. Trump is that his brand and sales are strongest in the South,” the associate told me. “His TV ratings, his Trump Resorts guests. So this [stadium rally] is about bringing the message that he is here to stay, and is the legit frontrunner. This shows a calculated strategy, that he understands the process and understands it’s not going to end in South Carolina. We’re going to bring the message down further into the belt and expand his support.”

AL.com dissects the role of Alabama in the SEC Primary and next year’s Presidential race.

Alabama will start to look a lot like Iowa or New Hampshire in the coming days, with five Republican presidential candidates set to visit the state. The frenzy can be attributed to Alabama being a part of-called “SEC Primary,” where voters in several southern states will head to the polls on March 1, 2016, to pick a presidential nominee.

Alabama’s presidential primaries have historically taken place in June – a time when a candidate usually locks up the nomination. The SEC Primary was the brainchild of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and got its name after the SEC Conference of NCAA Athletics.

“We’re going to get a lot more attention than we ever had,” Stephen Borelli, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, told AL.com.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said southern states like Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and possibly North Carolina holding their primaries on March 1 gives them increased influence over the nominating process.

“Clearly the states that have gathered together for the SEC Primary have probably done themselves a lot of good,” he said. “They’re near the front [of the primary calendar.] Obviously they’re not going to get the same amount of attention as Iowa or New Hampshire, but they will get a substantial amount of attention. They’re probably more powerful together than separate.”

“Clearly [the SEC Primary] benefits Southern candidates — people like Huckabee, Bush, Rubio, Ted Cruz, maybe Perry, if he’s still in it,” Sabato said. “They can make a claim that that’s their home region. They can claim some kinship to the states even if they’re not from those states.”

Whether the SEC Primary will lead to a more conservative candidate winning the nomination is unclear because the Republican Party hasn’t had a similar situation before.

“You only know by going through it. The law of unintended consequences always applies,” Sabato said. “You think you’re shocked by what’s going to happen and then you’re not because it doesn’t happen.”

I’m neither pro-Trump nor anti-Trump. I haven’t decided whom I will support next year. I’m excited about the SEC Primary bringing so many candidates to Georgia and I intend to see as many as I can. This story isn’t so much about Donald Trump as about a point that I’ve been making for some time: polls this far out can’t tell you who will be the nominee and they should be considered at a level of truthiness somewhere between pre-season sports predictions and anything Hillary Clinton says.


Peach State Politics

On Wednesday, political hack Kellie Austin (her word, not mine) will announce that she’s running for an office she hasn’t yet told folks about. The fact that she named her campaign committe “Committee to Elect Kellie Austin PSC” leads me to believe she’s running for the Public Service Commission seat currently held by Republican Tim Echols.

Former Georgia Federation of Young Republicans Chair Meagan Hanson wrote on Facebook that she’s giving serious consideration to a 2016 campaign for House District 80, where Democrat Taylor Bennett was recently elected in a Special Runoff Election.

In the Augusta area, both the cities of Hephzibah and Blythe will be holding elections for municipal seats in November, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Hephzibah and Blythe, municipalities that opted out of consolidation with Augusta-Richmond County 20 years ago, will feature the only contested seats on a ballot that countywide will include a sales tax referendum.

That Hephzibah and Blythe voters might turn out to vote in the elections and help approve special purpose, local option sales tax 7 wasn’t missed by Augusta commissioners.

Some $1.9 million in the $215.5 million package was earmarked by commissioners for Blythe, whose population was estimated at 704 in 2014 by the Census Bureau.

Qualifying for the Heph­zi­bah and Blythe seats begins Aug. 31.

Blythe Mayor Brent Weir said he’d heard nothing about whether incumbent council members Jim Adkins and Troy Harwell planned to run again, or from anyone else interested in the posts.

Hephzibah Commission Chairman Robert Buchwitz is the chairman of the school’s board, while Commissioner Jody Boulineau is school superintendent.

Neither commissioner’s post is coming up for election this year, but the commission elects its chairman, according to clerk Martha Allen.

The two at-large seats coming open are held by Frank Williams and Sissi C. Dozier, said Allen, who said she was unaware whether either planned to run again.

As recently as two years ago, Hephzibah elections were canceled because none of the other three seats had opposition.

Richmond County School Board member Frank Dolan would likely be kicked out of school, or at least suspended, for his attendance record, but he says it’s because he’s stronger than the Board Chair who complained about his truancy.

Frank Dolan said he is tired of fellow Richmond County school board members, particularly the president, scrutinizing his attendance at meetings.

“I think it’s a petty move,” Dolan said. “I’m very disappointed in our chairman Helen Minchew for focusing on this. That’s something weak people do.”

Minchew has called for stricter record-keeping for committee meetings to make sure there are quorums and criticized Dolan’s attendance to an Augusta Chronicle reporter. Dolan, who represents District 7, missed 21 out of 48 meetings in 2014 and 20 out of 28 so far in 2015, the worst attendance rate of the 10 board members during that time.

Dolan said he has not been shirking his duties to his constituents. Rather, he blames Minchew for “neutering” him and removing him from the chairman position of the finance committee, where he could “best use his expertise.” Dolan, who is the president of Eagle Parts, has been the chairman of the finance committee for nearly all of his eight years on the board. He was appointed vice chairman of the finance committee and the student services committee in January.

“Most of these called board meetings I’ve missed are things I really can’t have an impact on now that they’ve taken me from where my strengths are,” Dolan said. “I have always made sure to be at board meetings that are important for me and those I represent. I have no experience with most sectors of public education. Finances, on the other hand, I know. I can tell you my constituents are fine.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation Board elected a new Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary.

Emily Dunn was named chairman, Robert L. Brown, Jr. was named vice chairman, and Jamie Boswell was named secretary. Board elections are held annually to ensure that all regions of the state are represented at the executive leadership level.

Cherokee County voters are likely to see a 2016 referendum to extend the existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST or Ed-SPLOST).

The Cherokee County Board of Education heard a presentation Thursday on a possible extension of the 1 percent sales tax for education, which could go to the voters for approval in 2016.

Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Ken Owen told board members at Thursday’s work session that the call for renewal of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in the fall of 2016 is necessary to ensure the Cherokee County School District can continue to provide facility and technology needs for students and teachers, while reducing bond debt.

Owen spoke during the Trends in Education portion of the work session, and stressed that without an extension of the voter-approved 1 percent sales tax for education now in place through 2017, the school system could face serious issues with needs for new facilities.

“We do not get any funding from the federal government and get very little from the state government. Less than 18 percent of the cost of building (a school) comes from state funding, the rest comes from Ed-SPLOST,” Owen told the board.

Woodstock City Council is considering rolling back the millage rate from last year’s rate.

In Gainesville’s City Council Ward Three, Barbara Brooks announced she will run in the November election, joining previously-announced candidate Lemuel Betancourt for the seat currently held by Myrtle Figueras, who is not running for reelection.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods presented the first Superintendent’s Impact Award to State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

Coleman sponsored House Bill 91, which was signed into law March 30 and retroactively eliminates all graduation tests for students who took those tests from the early 1980s to the present.

To date, more than 17,000 Georgians have become high school graduates as a result of the bill, according to a release from the state. Hundreds of these recipients are from Hall County.

In recognition of this, State Superintendent Richard Woods presented Coleman with the first Superintendent’s Impact Award.

“Representative Brooks Coleman was instrumental in the passage of a law that has allowed thousands of Georgians to receive their high school diplomas, many of them moving on to college or advancing in their careers as a result,” Woods said. “He has had an enormous impact on the lives of Georgia’s schools and students, and I’m honored to recognize him with this award.”

The quarterback for the Howard High School Huskies in Bibb County is named Courvoisier King. That is all.

Kemp SEC Primary

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