Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 19, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 19, 2015

Georgia and American History

President Abraham Lincoln delivered an 87-word speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

On November 19, 1864, as Sherman marched toward Savannah, the Georgia delegation to the Confederate Congress in Richmond, Virginia, sent a message to the state,

“Let every man fly to arms! Remove your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from Sherman’s army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no rest.”

The first issue of National Review magazine was published on November 19, 1955.

Reagan Gorbachev 11191985

President Ronald Reagan met for the first time with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on November 19, 1985.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Yesterday, the AJC ran a story about a lawsuit filed over an inadvertent release by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office of personal identifying information for 6.1 million registered voters. The information included Social Security Numbers and Drivers License numbers as well as the usual voter registration data.

Two Georgia women have filed a class action lawsuit alleging a massive data breach by Secretary of State Brian Kemp involving the Social Security numbers and other private information of more than six million voters statewide.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, alleges Kemp’s office released the information including personal identifying information to the media, political parties and other paying subscribers who legally buy voter information from the state.

In response, Kemp’s office blamed a “clerical error” and said Wednesday afternoon that they did not consider it to be a breach of its system. It said 12 organizations, including statewide political parties, news media organizations and Georgia GunOwner Magazine, received the file.

The problem is that the information released is kind of an identity theft starter kit, as another AJC article noted.

The security breach that potentially compromised the personal information of more than 6 million Georgia voters included a lot of information that criminals would love to get their hands on, security experts say.

The information, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers, is far more valuable to criminals than the bank card information that has been stolen in several recent high-profile cyber-attacks against retailers such as Target and Atlanta-based Home Depot.

“When you get a Social Security number and a date of birth, you’ve got everything you need to do tremendous damage to these consumers,” said Stephen Coggeshall, the chief analytics and science officer for data security firms LifeLock and ID Analytics.

Yesterday, Secretary Kemp issued a statement on the data release.


Georgia’s voter registration system was not breached. The system has been and remains secure. This was a clerical error that has been remedied.

“Our office shares voter registration data every month with news media and political parties that have requested it as required by Georgia law. Due to a clerical error where information was put in the wrong file, 12 recipients received a disc that contained personal identifying information that should not have been included. This violated the policies that I put in place to protect voters personal information. My office undertook immediate corrective action, including contacting each recipient to retrieve the disc, and I have taken additional administrative action within the agency to deal with the error,” said Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A § 50-18-72(a)(20)(A), personal identifying information cannot be withheld from news media when they verify they are using the information for news purposes. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-225(c), no person that receives this data may use it for any commercial purposes.

He also sent a letter to county elections officials:

Dear Georgia Voters:

On Friday, November 13, my office learned that voters’ personal information was inadvertently included on a statewide voter file that was sent to twelve groups on October 13.

As a standard practice, these twelve groups, comprised of Georgia’s news media and political parties, receive a computer disc with an updated list of all of Georgia’s registered voters every month. This information is available to them per existing Georgia law.

However, in October, a clerical error in the IT Division led to these discs containing personal identifying information that should not have been included. The IT employee has been terminated for breaking internal rules governing the release of this information.

Upon learning of this mistake, my office took immediate action to retrieve the discs and to confirm that the recipients had not copied or otherwise disseminated the data.

All twelve discs have been accounted for. Each recipient, including the Georgia Republican Party and the Georgia Democratic Party, has confirmed that the data was not retained or diseminated to any outside parties.

To reiterate, the Georgia Voter Registration System was not breached. The system has been and remains secure, and I am confident no voter’s personal information has been compromised.

I want to assure Georgia’s citizens that it is my top priority to protect their personal information. I have put in place additional safeguards to ensure this situation does not happen again.



Brian P. Kemp

I should note that Georgia Pundit is on the list that receives the list periodically.

Georgia Democratic Party
Georgia Republican Party
Georgia Libertarian Party
Independence Party of Georgia
Southern Party of Georgia
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Macon Telegraph
Savannah Morning News
Georgia GunOwner Magazine
Georgia Pundit
News Publishing Co.

We’re working on an analysis of voting in this year’s special and off-year elections, but that will be delayed a little bit. The moment it was brought to my attention that the additional information was there, I deleted my copy of the database and sent the physical disc to my lawyer so he could hand it over to whichever authorities were appropriate.

Political consulting types are already pulling out the knives for Secretary Kemp and his handling of the issue in the coming days and weeks will likely determine whether his much-talked about ambitions for higher office will gain any traction. So far, while I do have an issue with the breach happening, it appears that he has taken swift action to begin addressing the issue.

Ultimately, most of the issues the SOS departments have had appear to originate in the IT Department. Maybe it’s time to rethink the legacy systems that were in place when he took office and consider a wholesale modernization of the IT operations.

In other voting news, Secretary Kemp took a trip to Savannah to address concerns about voting administration in the mayoral runoff election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced Wednesday he will send investigators to Savannah to respond to any concerns about “election irregularities” during the city’s municipal runoffs.

The investigators will be available to respond during early voting, election day voting and as votes are tabulated.

Kemp was in the area Wednesday morning and had scheduled “media availability” for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the decision, but he canceled the event late in the morning. Instead, his office in Atlanta issued a press release to announce the move.

“As Georgia’s chief elections official, I want to ensure every voter gets their opportunity to vote in a secure, accessible, and fair election on Dec. 1,” Kemp said in the release. “My office will have boots on the ground during early voting and on Election Day.”

Early voting is already underway for the runoff elections to decide the city of Savannah’s mayoral, at-large 2 and District 2 posts.

The candidates in those Savannah runoff elections met in a debate yesterday.

Local crime and gun violence continue to be the big concerns. Incumbent mayor Edna Jackson says the city has made strides in the right direction.

“The budget for public safety and policing is 51 percent of the budget,” Jackson says. “So if we didn’t care about it, then it wouldn’t be that way.”

Challenger Eddie DeLoach says what she has done is not enough.

“I feel like we’ll push forward with what we feel needs to be done now, and we’ll put that point across so that we can move the people in administration at a faster pace than they’ve been moving over the past few years,” he says.

At the podium, the topic of corruption got things heated, something DeLoach has been vocal about in the past. He says the city did not fire former police chief Willie Lovett, who is now in federal prison and charged with corruption.

“Instead we gave the police chief an opportunity to collect $100,000 for the rest of his life, even though he was going to serve time in jail for something that he obviously did,” DeLoach says.

Jackson says the city manager asked for his resignation, or they would have fired him.

“Yes we wanted to take the money that we had to pay him,” she says. “But there are laws, there are laws that say, federal and state.”

In the other races, candidate for alderman at large post two Brian Foster was alone at the podium. Alicia Blakely chose not to attend.

For the district two spot, Mary Osborne and Bill Durrence are the ones still in the race. Their big topic Wednesday proved to be tourism in the downtown area.

All those special elections and turnover in the state legislature have had one notable side effect – State Rep. Heath Clark (R), still in his first term, is now the senior legislator from Houston County.

When Clark took his House seat in January, veteran lawmaker Larry O’Neal held the District 146, seat which covers part of Houston County. O’Neal was the majority leader, the third most powerful House member. But O’Neal resigned the position in April to take a judgeship.

That spawned this year’s first special election to fill a vacant seat in Houston County. Shaw Blackmon won the position in a runoff.

A few weeks later, Ross Tolleson, a Perry Republican, announced he would resign his state Senate District 20 seat for health reasons. His resignation became effective Oct. 30. It prompted another special election. But this time, voters in Bleckley, Laurens, Pulaski and Houston counties will determine who gets the seat.

He’s not the senior member of the entire Houston delegation because two other legislative districts, one House, one Senate, come into the county. Senate District 26 includes part of north Houston. Sen. David Lucas, a Macon Democrat, holds that seat. Prior to becoming a senator, Lucas served in the Georgia House for 35 years. He was elected to the Senate in 2012.

Rep. Robert Dickey, a Musella Republican, holds the House District 140 seat. That district snakes its way into western Houston County. Dickey was elected in a special election in 2011.

Early voting began today in the runoff election for Mayor of Ringgold.

Early voting in Ringgold’s run-off election to determine the city’s new mayor will kick off Thursday, Nov. 19, and run through Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Early voters can cast their ballots between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Nov. 19, 20, 23, 24, and 25, at city hall at 150 Tennessee Street.

A little more than a week later — on election day, Tuesday, Dec. 1 — voters who have not yet cast ballots will head the voting booths.

The runoff is to determine whether current vice mayor Nick Millwood or challenger Tony Hullender will succeed long-time mayor Joe Barger. Voters can cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on election day.

Max Blau, writing for Atlanta Magazine, calls attention to emails between folks in the beer distribution industry and employees at the Department of Revenue, and claims that new DOR rules will harm the craft beer industry.

Over the summer, DOR officials were in constant contact with Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association lobbyist Martin Smith. In addition, Casey corresponded on a regular basis with Canby Laird, a lobbyist with Eagle Rock Distributing Company. Casey and Laird discussed DOR potentially attending an educational class about Georgia’s three-tier system. On August 18, he asked Laird for his advice about a potential policy about alcohol distribution.

In early September, DOR officials emailed with one another about “clarifying language re: tours”—giving distributors advanced notice about the forthcoming bulletin. DOR Commissioner Lynne Riley approved the policy revision. Then the department posted the bulletin that subsequently restricted brewers from selling tours at different price tiers tied to the amount of beer being given away. In effect, though, the regulatory agency tasked with enforcing a law had effectively revised the rules altogether, doing so without another round of public comment.

“A manufacturer must charge the same rate for a tour where one tour attendee elects to sample free beverage alcohol during a tour and the second attendee elects to sample free beverage alcohol and receive a free beverage alcohol souvenir,” the bulletin noted.

Unsurprisingly, craft brewers who had tailored their business models around the new law grew angry over the unexpected change. In response, Nancy Palmer, executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, snapped back a lengthy statement, saying the change would hurt small brewers who had sunk hundreds thousands of dollars into their businesses given DOR’s past assurances.

Aaron Gould Sheinin at the AJC also looked at the issue.

Georgia officials showed favoritism toward politically connected beer distributors over craft brewers in their long-running feud over a drinker’s access to a cold one, records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show.

Officials with the Department of Revenue met with representatives of the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association and gave the state’s major wholesalers  group advance notice that it was working on a controversial regulation the agency issued in September, according to emails and agency records the AJC acquired through an Open Records Act request concerning the new regulation. Brewers, who said they were blind-sided by the new rule and say it threatens the future of the industry.

“Whether the (beer wholesalers) invited themselves into discussions with the department, or the DOR reached out to them, the result is completely unacceptable,” said Nancy Palmer, the executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. “The amount of access and power that the DOR granted the wholesalers smacks of insider politics and completely undermines the work we’ve put in creating a positive and open relationship with the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the DOR.”

The prohibitions here are protected by the state’s three-tier system of alcohol sales. Manufacturers can only sell to wholesalers or distributors, and they in turn can only sell to retailers.

Helping preserve that system is the close relationship beer and liquor wholesalers have with lawmakers.

The hard lesson that the craft brew industry is learning is that lobbying doesn’t end when you pass legislation – state agencies will write rules implementing the legislation and can affect the outcome as much as, or more than the legislature.

Georgia and the SEC Primary

The Dallas Morning News writes about the organizational prowess of the Ted Cruz campaign for President in the Peach State.

Now, for his presidential campaign, he’s raising cash and building a paid and volunteer army to strategically pluck off delegates in select primaries, particularly in the South and Southwest, where he believes his brand is the strongest.

A dozen states, including Texas, have primaries or caucuses on March 1, this election cycle’s Super Tuesday. The day has been dubbed by some “the SEC primary,” after the Southeastern Conference of college athletics, because of its heavy Southern tilt. One of the biggest prizes up for grabs is Georgia.

Still trailing Donald Trump and Ben Carson in the polls, Cruz has a plan to surge ahead: Win or stay close in the early contest states; use home-field advantage to stomp the competition in Texas; and impress Republican voters nationwide with a dominant performance in Georgia.

Already, Cruz has a more extensive organization in the Peach State than any of his rivals. The campaign has enlisted 1,500 volunteers, and it’s aiming for 5,000 by year’s end. There are Cruz supporters in each of Georgia’s 159 counties and designated campaign directors in the two-thirds or so that will generate the bulk of primary votes.

“When the time is right, when it’s time to move, we’ll be ready,” said Kay Godwin, the director of Cruz’s grass-roots efforts in Georgia. Godwin said new volunteers are signing on daily, “and we’re training them quickly.”

At the debate party in Marietta, Scott Johnson, a member of the Georgia Board of Education and a Cruz supporter, said his candidate is ready.

“We’ve built a strong infrastructure of volunteers … and no other candidate can match that,” he said. “From Jan. 1 to March 1, it’s going to be voter contact on steroids.”

While Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times looks at the bigger picture of the Cruz strategy.

Billionaire Trump’s bombastic style and sometimes offensive campaign has left Cruz looking more presidential. And compared to Carson, the first-term senator seems experienced. If those front-runners eventually fade, as some expect they will, Cruz is poised to scoop up their large base of anti-establishment supporters.

Meanwhile, Cruz is quietly amassing a war chest from small donors and big-ticket fundraisers, giving him more cash on hand than any other GOP candidate. The average donation from his 360,000 contributors has been $73.

He has tirelessly built an enthusiastic army of grass-roots volunteers and local infrastructure in counties across the early-nominating states.

Early on, Cruz staked his campaign on the party’s farthest right wing, solidifying his standing with the tea party voters who first sent him to the Senate in 2012. Then he began the tougher job of scooping up the religion-and-social-values flank now flowing to other candidates, namely Carson. Unlike his rivals, Cruz has been careful to avoid publicly mocking or criticizing either Trump or Carson, mindful he might one day be courting their supporters.

His goal has always been to become the last-standing conservative alternative to the establishment candidate — which once was expected to be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but now increasingly appears it might be fellow Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

“There is a sorting that’s happening,” Cruz said in Lubbock. “It is likely that this race — as many other races have in the past — will end up at the end of the day being a battle between a strong conservative and a moderate establishment candidate. I believe the conservative will win, particularly this time.”

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