Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 25, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 25, 2016

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

With George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convenes on this day in 1787. The convention faced a daunting task: the peaceful overthrow of the new American government as it had been defined by the Article of Confederation.

The process began with the proposal of James Madison’s Virginia Plan. Madison had dedicated the winter of 1787 to the study of confederacies throughout history and arrived in Philadelphia with a wealth of knowledge and an idea for a new American government. It featured a bicameral legislature, with representation in both houses apportioned to states based upon population; this was seen immediately as giving more power to large states, like Virginia. The two houses would in turn elect the executive and the judiciary and would possess veto power over the state legislatures.

William Patterson soon countered with a plan more attractive to the new nation’s smaller states. It too bore the imprint of America’s British experience. Under the New Jersey Plan, as it became known, each state would have a single vote in Congress as it had been under the Articles of Confederation, to even out power between large and small states.

Alexander Hamilton then put forward to the delegates a third plan, a perfect copy of the British Constitution including an upper house and legislature that would serve on good behavior.

Confronted by three counter-revolutionary options, the representatives of Connecticut finally came up with a workable compromise: a government with an upper house made up of equal numbers of delegates from each state and a lower house with proportional representation based upon population. This idea formed the basis of the new U.S. Constitution, which became the law of the land in 1789.

The Battle of New Hope Church was fought near Dallas, Georgia May 25-26, 1864 between Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal troops under General William T. Sherman.

On May 25, 1907, an equine statue of John B. Gordon was unveiled on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held on May 25, 1962 that the Georgia General Assembly was malapportioned and ordered the reapportionment of the State House and Senate.

Star Wars opened on May 25, 1977.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday could be called, “The Empire Strikes Back,” after the vast majority of incumbents were reelected.

Last week on “Political Rewind,” I predicted a very strong finish for Senator Johnny Isakson, saying, “Isakson’s challenge is to get a percentage of the vote that equals or exceeds his age.” Unofficial returns show Sen. Isakson receiving 77.45% of Republican Primary votes, and his long form birth certificate indicates his age at 71.

Also victorious against GOP challengers were Austin Scott (8th District, 77.75%) Doug Collins (9th District, 61.27%), Barry Loudermilk (11th District, 60.28%), Rick Allen (12th District, 78.96%), and Tom Graves (14th District, 75.64%).

The North Georgia incumbent State Senators who were challenged all beat back their GOP opponents: Bill Cowsert (46th District, 76.24%), Frank Ginn (47th District, 80.58%), John Wilkinson (50th District, 69.63%), Steve Gooch (51st District, 73.12%), Jeff Mullis (53d District, 66.55%), and Charlie Bethel (54th District, 75.33%). Senator Jesse Stone in the 23d District took 76.83% to win. Senator Fran Millar stomped his opponent, taking 79.95% to retain his seat.

Blake Tillery, a first-time legislative candidate beat former State Rep. Delvis Dutton with 57.62%, more than double the second-place candidate’s total, in a three-way race to take the District 19 seat vacated by Sen. Tommie Williams. Matt Brass took nearly 82% of the votes in Senate District 28 to claim the seat being vacated by Mike Crane.

In Senate District 21, Brandon Beach, whom I thought the most vulnerable Senate incumbent, beat back Aaron Barlow’s challenge with 58.33% of the vote, and winning both the Cherokee and Fulton county portions of the district.

We’ll have several State Senate runoffs to look forward to.

In Senate District 23 around Augusta, former State Rep. Lee Anderson (36.19%) heads to a runoff on July 26 with Greg Grzybowaki (18.75%).

On the Democratic side, Senate District 43 will see a runoff between former State Rep. Tonya Anderson (46.05%) and current State Rep. Dee Dawkins Haigler (34.45%) to take on Republican JaNice VanNess in November.

I’m going to cover most of the House races tomorrow, but two deserve special mention today. In Brookhaven’s House District 80, Meagan Hanson and Alan Cole advance to a July 26 runoff.

In House District 91, controversial former State House member and former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones heads to a runoff with just under 49% of the vote, barely below the threshold for an outright win.

Finally, in House District 68, where the election campaign lasted twelve days from when the Georgia GOP re-opened qualifying after Rep. Dustin Hightower resigned to take a judgeship, former Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins beat former State Rep. Tim Bearden by piling up a large margin in Carroll County, while losing in the much smaller Douglas County portion of the district.

Tim Echols wins PSC nomination

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, one of five elected statewide, and the only one on this year’s ballot, won the Republican nomination with 68.93% against two opponents. This race is where I think we can see the best measure of the much-ballyhooed “anti-incumbent” sentiment this year.

In taking nearly 70% of the statewide vote against two challengers, Echols also won every single county in Georgia. Compare that to the 2012 Republican Primary elections for Public Service Commissioner.

That year, incumbent Chuck Eaton took just under 60% of the vote against a Republican challenger who had previously donated to Barack Obama, and incumbent Stan Wise took 56.5% against his challenger. In that contest, Wise lost thirteen counties, including Gwinnett, Hall, and ironically, Echols County.

The PSC is as good a measure of the effects of incumbency as I can think of. Incumbency is probably the strongest influencer on reelection to the PSC from an historical perspective, and individual voters are much less likely to have a personal relationship with a member of the PSC than their State Representative or State Senator.

Fraternity Members also win

The other winner of the 2016 Republican Primary elections was fraternity members. The Public Service Commission candidate who railed against fraternity alumni came in dead last, as did a State House candidate who made an insulting comment about “frat boys.”

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