Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 1, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 1, 2016

On September 1, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood withdrew his troops from Atlanta, leaving the transportation hub to fall into Union hands.

The last hanging in Atlanta took place on September 1, 1922 outside the Fulton County jail.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II.

On September 1, 2004, United States Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat, spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Later that evening, Senator Miller got in the face of Chris Matthews.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Did the Trump-Pence campaign fall for a Hillary Clinton head-fake? Politico says the Clinton campaign thinks so.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign feels confident. So confident that behind closed doors her team is taking some credit for forcing Donald Trump to seemingly defend territory that Republicans almost never lose.

After weeks of Brooklyn telegraphing a competitive race in traditionally red states and making public moves that look like initial investments — boosting staff, holding fundraisers and promising more investments — Trump is now campaigning in Arizona, which has voted Republican in 15 of the past 16 elections, while his running mate goes to Georgia, a state that’s gone red in seven of the past eight cycles.

In private, members of Clinton’s team draw a direct line between their activity in those states and Trump’s worries there. In public, Democrats are starting to cheer the success.

Pence “is doing fundraising, among other things, which is important,” said former Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a campaign adviser, of the vice-presidential nominee’s trip to the state — which had three public, non-fundraising events attached to it. “I just think that by sending Trump down [to heavily Republican areas] now, it’s out of the way. But Trump has a 50-state vision.”

Such head fakes are classic campaign tactics, but they rarely appear to have the immediate effect of sending one’s opponent or running mate to a targeted state.

It’s true that Trump is still likely to win Georgia, Arizona and Utah.

Patricia Murphy writes in DailyBeast.com about the Trump and Clinton race in Georgia, giving some solid context.

Democrats love to talk about winning elections in Georgia, but for most of the last 15 years, Democrats haven’t won many big elections in the Deep South state.

The last time Georgia voted for a Democrat for president the Internet had barely been invented. It was 1992 and goofy Texas billionaire Ross Perot pulled in 13 percent of the vote to deliver a one-point margin of victory to Bill Clinton over President George H.W. Bush. Four years later, Clinton lost Georgia, and the state has gone Republican every presidential election year ever since.

An increasing minority population in the state and a better-than-expected result for Barack Obama in 2012 (he only lost by 8 points, y’all!) have fueled a now bi-annual ritual of Democrats promising that This Could Be the Year We Win, while the day-after sun always seems to rise on yet another win for Republican candidates.

Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said that Democrats have long believed their fortunes in the state could change in 2016. Latino voter registration is up 20%, while the African-American vote jumped from 23% of the electorate in 2000 to 30% in 2012. Turnout in November is expected to be over 75%, compared to the 50% turnout in 2014, another metric Democrats believe will break in their favor.

Murphy’s article carried the headline, “Donald Trump makes Georgia Democrats Great Again.” I think that reflects a Daily Beast editor’s decision to use “[X] makes [Y] Great Again” as a clickbait headline. As in ‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Great Again.

Loganville Vice Mayor Rey Martinez joined Mike Pence onstage in Cobb County during the VP candidate’s rally.

“Black, white, Hispanic, Muslim — Donald Trump is going to pick all of you up and make you believe in this country again,” said Martinez in a speech excerpt released by the city. “I am the vice-mayor of Loganville, one of the few elected Latino officials in the state of Georgia and I am 100 percent behind Donald Trump.

“I have to ask you a question: Are you better off today than you were eight years ago? I got six words for you: what do you have to lose?”

City spokesman Robbie Schwartz said Martinez was invited by Georgia Republican Party leaders last week to speak at the rally. The city councilman also participated in a rally in Perry where Pence was the featured speaker earlier on Monday.

“When I took the stage and was given the opportunity to speak on why I think Donald Trump and Mike Pence are the best option to lead this country, I did so with a great deal of pride,” Martinez said. “It is time for the Republican Party to unite and get behind our presidential candidate.”

Senator Johnny Isakson’s reelection chances move back into the “Safely Republican” category, according to University of Virginia Political Scientist Larry Sabato, though he still predicts that Democrats will take a majority of the Senate.

From the vantage point of Labor Day, it appears as though that 2014 flip could become a 2016 flop, and on Nov. 8, Democrats have a good chance to grab at least a tie (broken by the new vice president) and possibly a majority of as many as several seats.

The takeaway is that as we head into the stretch run of the campaign, the Democrats seemingly hold a narrow edge in the race for a majority. But that majority could be quite small, small enough that Republicans could be poised to wipe it out in 2018, perhaps leading to another bare minimum stint in the majority.

We believe Trump retains an edge in Georgia, and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) should run ahead of Trump. However, Isakson is not doing dramatically better than Trump in polls: In the RealClearPolitics average, Isakson is up eight points on his opponent, businessman Jim Barksdale (D), and is at an average of 45% in support, while Trump is at 43% and tied with Clinton there. That’s not as much crossover support as one might expect for a long-time, well-liked incumbent, so Isakson could theoretically be vulnerable if Clinton ends up winning Georgia.

Isakson’s position is similar to that of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who also should be fine in the end, but is a little more vulnerable than usual because of the presidential race. We’re moving Georgia from Safe Republican to Likely Republican, mostly just out of an abundance of caution. Isakson is still the clear favorite. [Emphasis added.]

Senator Johnny Isakson highlighted his commitment to military funding in a visit to Warner Robins.

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System at Robins Air Force Base is down to just four flying aircraft in a fleet of 17, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said Wednesday.

Isakson, R-Georgia, made that comment to reporters after he visited with J-STARS officials. The Air Force is moving toward buying new planes for J-STARS, but Isakson said it’s not happening fast enough.

“The Air Force keeps pushing the decision down on capitalization,” he said. “The longer you do that with an aging weapons system, the more vulnerable you are as a country.”

He said he is hopeful that once the election is over one of the Senate’s first priorities will be funding new planes for J-STARS. He called the unit “the eyes in the sky” for troops on the ground.

He said having only four operational J-STARS planes is a major issue for the military.

“Even without a major conflict, it’s a big deal,” he said.

Yesterday, a joint legislative committee heard testimony about broadband availability in rural parts of Georgia, according to Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph.

“So many people have said they want to come … let this group know what their specific problems are,” Monticello Republican state Rep. Susan Holmes said Wednesday at the first meeting of a Georgia House-Senate study committee on broadband access.

parts of Macon, Bibb County and surrounding areas lack some of the fastest services, according to data collected from several federal sources by the state of Georgia.

And where there’s no robust internet connection, it can be hard for businesses to grow.

What lawmakers don’t know yet is what to do about it.

“I just feel like if the state is not involved in some way, good coverage is never going to happen. I don’t mean regulate. I don’t mean pay. But I say we’ve got to make it easier for providers to provide this service,” Holmes said.

“If we don’t do it, it just won’t happen. And if it doesn’t happen, shame on us as legislators.”

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce wants the legislature to expand Medicaid in Georgia in what they call a “conservative alternative.”

Savannah is one step closer to a new City Manager after an introduction of the sole finalist in the job search.

The Savannah City Council’s most important function is appointing the city manager, Alderman Van Johnson told a crowd of residents, city employees and business owners Wednesday.

“The city manager is our quarterback on the field,” Johnson said. “We don’t run the ball.”

To assure residents he is a good fit for the team, the council’s choice to lead the city, Rob Hernandez, spent about an hour introducing himself and sharing his plans for the city before talking individually with community members during a morning and evening reception on Wednesday at the Savannah Civic Center.

The council will vote on hiring Hernandez at their council meeting Thursday.

Chatham County Recorder’s Court judges are “feuding,” according to a report ordered by the City of Savannah.

“The investigation revealed ample evidence that there are two factions with Recorder’s Court: ‘Judge Stokes’ side’ and ‘Judge Williams’ side,” Bowen’s report said. “In addition, the investigation revealed multiple other situations where the Recorder’s Court management targeted certain employees who were seen as being ‘on Judge Williams’ side.’”

Hall County municipal leaders appear to unanimously oppose consolidation of local governments, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I would think we could … better serve our citizens rather than creating a larger, consolidated government that is further from the citizens,” Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Oakwood Councilwoman Sheri Millwood said she also believes working relationships between local governments could be frayed by the push to study consolidation.

“That’s exactly how I feel,” Millwood, a lifelong Hall County resident, said. “I’m not in favor of it in any way, shape or form.”

“The study has been done before,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “It’s not beneficial. Macon was in trouble. The city of Gainesville is not in trouble. We’re doing just fine.”

More Opposition to Opportunity School District

Last month, the Henry County Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the Opportunity School District Amendment.

The school board voted 4-0 on a resolution put forth by Superintendent Rodney Bowler opposing Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to authorize the creation of a statewide Opportunity School District, designed to turnaround so-called “failing” schools. Board member Josh Hinton was absent from the August meeting.

Henry County has no schools that qualify as chronically failing under the governor’s proposal. But local board members expressed concern about eroding local powers under an Opportunity School District whose administrators reportedly would not only control operations of chronically failing schools but the schools’ purse strings as well, leaving the local districts on the hook for school maintenance.

Board Chairwoman Pam Nutt asked that each board member sign on to the resolution in a gesture to illustrate the BOE’s full-throated opposition to the amendment question that will appear on the November ballot.

Clayton County will also consider passing a resolution to oppose the Opportunity School District.

During the board’s work session Monday, members reviewed a draft of a “resolution to oppose the creation of a state-run school district, otherwise known as the ‘Opportunity School District.’”

School board members went back and forth about their opposition as individuals to the governor’s idea, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot as a constitutional amendment question.

School officials have pointed out that OSD as proposed by the governor would dilute the concept of local control, conceding authority of so-called “failing” schools to the state.

“[S]end a message to the governor to go to hell,” said Barrow County Board of Education member Lynn Stevens.

One Barrow County Board of Education member opposed to the governor’s Opportunity School District proposal thinks voters should tell the “governor to go to hell and take his money with him.”

The Barrow County BOE plans to take a stand against a proposed state constitution amendment creating “Opportunity School Districts.” The BOE will likely sign a resolution opposing the amendment at its Sept. 6 meeting.

The BOE will join several boards throughout the state that are voicing opposition.

When you consider the weight you give the pronouncement of the Clayton County School Board, remember where that body’s best efforts got them. In 2013, the regional body that accredits public school systems found the Clayton County failed to remedy a number of major problems and put the county on probation. The county regained full accreditation earlier this year, but only after Gov. Deal removed 6 of 9 members on the Board who served when the probation was enacted.

The Cherokee County School Board is employing some colorful language to criticize the ballot language.

“The language is all motherhood and apple pie, unicorns and rainbows. It’s crazy what’s going on here and counter to everything we talk about.” [School Board Member Mike] Chapman said. “There is really nothing we can do but to try and get the word out.”

It appears that at least two organizations are leading the opposition to the Opportunity School District amendment.

The Georgia Association of Educators President Dr. Sid Chapman has vocally criticized the amendment, visiting Statesboro to trash the amendment.

Georgia School Boards Association President Valarie Wilson traveled to Barrow County to “slam” the amendment.

Governor Deal has a pithy response to the school boards who are opposing the OSD Amendment.

“I would hope they would put the same amount of effort into making sure they don’t have any failing schools in their school district,” he said. “Because if they don’t have any failing schools, the Opportunity School District has nothing to operate about.”

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