Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for October 31, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for October 31, 2016

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

The United States Congress admitted Nevada as the 36th state on October 31, 1864. Kind of fitting, in a way.

The carving on Mount Rushmore was completed on October 31, 1941.

President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail to help his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her race for United States Senate from New York on October 31, 2000. On October 31, 2014, Bill Clinton came to Atlanta to campaign for Michelle Nunn for United States Senate.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

Libertarian Senate Candidate Allen Buckley doubled down on being the biggest jerk running for office.

“The best thing for Johnny, his family, our state and our country would be if he were not running right now,” Libertarian Allen Buckley said. “I talked to a lot of his friends who’ll tell me that confidentially.”

What followed was one of the most biting and emotionally charged exchanges of the hourlong debate.

“I think that’s a veiled reference to the fact that I disclosed a year and a half ago that I had Parkinson’s,” Isakson said.

Announcing that he had been diagnosed with the disease, Isakson said, “was the hardest thing that I ever did and also the best thing that I ever did. … I’ve told everybody I intend to win that battle, and I will win that battle.”

Isakson said he felt like going public with his diagnosis was something he owed his constituents. Once he did, it “was a burden lifted off my shoulders,” the Republican said in an interview earlier this month.

Isakson says people he knows and people he doesn’t, including some wrestling with Parkinson’s themselves, approach him regularly at political events to thank him for being open about his diagnosis.

“I kind of consider it part of my job to be a role model for people who might have the disease or have a loved one who has it to say ‘things aren’t over, think positive, act positive and do positive things and you’ll be fine,’ ” Isakson said.

Miller County Sheriff Shane Rathel has been arrested and charged by Federal authorities with selling stolen firearms.

According to an affidavit, Philip Weston Jones gave Rathel the guns as part of his bond revocation hearing, which required him to “give up all firearms in his possession to the Miller County Sheriff’s Office.”

Rathel instead told Jones to bring the weapons to his house.

Jones saw the guns the next day up for sale at a pawn shop and contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to the affidavit.

Rathel, according to the affidavit, sold two of the guns to a friend’s pawn shop for $600. He allegedly sold another gun to a couple for $200.

Joe Mack Eckler, Henry County Democratic candidate for Sheriff is reportedly under investigation at his day job with the Clayton County Police Department.

Voters in Baxley and Bryan County have reported problems with voting machines in the General Election.

Rapper 2Chainz joined Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) and Rev. Raphael Warnock at a voter drive on Sunday.

The pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and the rapper 2 Chainz stood before a rumbling bus that had just dropped dozens of churchgoers to a Sunday voting station to urge early votes.

“If we don’t vote, we don’t have a reason to complain,” said the College Park rapper, whose real name is Tauheed Epps.

[Rep. Lewis] and other Georgia Democrats are aggressively pushing back on the bombshell revelation by the FBI that that investigators have found a trove of emails – the contents of which are unknown – that could be linked to their probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Donald Trump, Jr. drew roughly 900 people to a rally in Millner, Georgia.

A boisterous crowd of about 900 people attended a “God & Country” rally at Rock Springs Church on Friday for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, featuring his son, Donald Trump Jr.

“I think it’s time to have someone in office that isn’t beholden to the special interests,” Trump said. “Someone who hasn’t been part of that culture for decades…. Someone who has had the livelihood of people and families dependent on his success and the success of his companies. And that’s my father. I’ve seen him do this for decades.”

“This is not a four- or eight-year election,” Trump said. “This is a 30- or 40-year election” referring to the likelihood three or four of the Supreme Court justices would be replaced during the next or following presidential terms. “That’s scary because that’s something you don’t come back from. It’s a generational shift, and as the father of five young kids I want to make sure that’s not the America they grow up in.”

Trump, Jr. also spoke at a Metro Atlanta event.

He got mostly respectful treatment at a restaurant hosting an African Americans for Trump prayer breakfast in Atlanta.  The restaurant owner estimated eighty percent were Trump backers.  He was not.

Yet some who weren’t sold on Hillary Clinton were looking for a reason to swing their votes.  “I wanted to keep an open mind. And that’s why I came,” said J’Lyn Furby, who says she frequently votes Republican but is undecided on the presidential race.

Isakson may be headed for a runoff according to the Associated Press

Isakson still holds an 11 percentage-point edge in public polling averages over Barksdale, a first-time candidate who stepped into the race at the last minute after better known Democrats ruled out a run. But the incumbent hasn’t passed 50 percent and risks a January runoff. Georgia law requires a runoff election if no candidate wins a majority of the vote.

A Senate runoff isn’t unprecedented in Georgia. In 2008, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss survived a runoff after falling just short of 50 percent in a three-person general election. Republican Paul Coverdell narrowly defeated sitting Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr. in 1992.

For Isakson, though, it would be a first. The Republican secured about 58 percent of the vote in his last two Senate campaigns, leaning on his well-cultivated reputation as a moderate open to working with Democrats. Leading Democrats including Atlanta Congressman David Scott and former governor Roy Barnes have said they’ll be voting for Isakson this year.

That may have been true at the time it was published that Isakson had passed 50 percent in any polls, but it’s not true now. Three publicly-released polls show Isakson at or above 50% and two of those show him over 50%.

The Albany Herald headline “Democrat Barksdale closing gap on Isakson, Jim Barksdale makes second visit to Albany as polls show him surging” betrays a misunderstanding of mathematics.

After outpolling Cheryl Copeland in the Democratic primary on May 24, Barksdale has slowly but steadily closed what was an imposing gap between himself and Isakson. Now, slightly more than a week away from the Nov. 8 general election, the Macon-born investment manager is thinking victory.

“I feel good about where we are right now,” Barksdale said after a recent campaign run that brought him to Albany for a second time. “I believe the people of the state are really starting to pay attention to the things I’m saying. I’ve felt a connection with the people as I’ve traveled to places like Albany, Columbus and other parts of the state outside metro Atlanta.

“I’m also encouraged by polls that show a veteran senator like Johnny Isakson is not polling 50 percent. I believe people in Georgia are ready for change, and many of them are starting to see (my candidacy) as a possibility for positive change.”

Latest poll figures released by Barksdale’s campaign show the newcomer actually leading, 47-46 percent, among early voters in the state. A Washington Post poll from last week shows Isakson with a slim 50-46 advantage in a head-to-head comparison. And with Libertarian Allen Buckley polling at 11 percent in a recent AJC poll, Barksdale said he believes his hard work is starting to pay off.

In fact, the RealClearPolitics polling average shows Isakson with a 12.2 point lead over the erstwhile challenger, nearly identical to the 12-point lead shown by the first public poll of the Senate matchup back in late May.

Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks has endorsed Senator Isakson’s reelection.

“By listening to teachers, administrators and employers, along with students, Johnny Isakson has always worked to make sure our kids receive the best education possible here in Georgia to ensure their long-term success,” Wilbanks said in a statement released by Isakson’s campaign.

“Johnny listens and then he acts. He does everything he can to help educators equip Georgia students for a bright future. I look forward to his continued leadership in Washington.”

Other local members of “Educators for Isakson” include state Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, Georgia Gwinnett College adjunct professor Jose Perez and Georgia Department of Education Teacher Advisory Board member Donna Aker.

The AJC looks at five state legislative districts it thinks are “swing districts.”

Obama bested Mitt Romney by the slightest of margins in 2012 in [House District 138] where whites fall just short of 50 percent of the population. Former President Jimmy Carter — the dean of Georgia Democrats — lives in Plains, a 25-mile jog south of Buena Vista.

House District 145 is so split that President Barack Obama won the area by a mere three-hundredths of a percentage point in 2012. It’s so split that it’s the only district in modern Georgia history to elect — and then re-elect — an independent candidate to the state Legislature.

House District 151 defies political logic. The majority-black district voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2012. Yet voters keep returning Republican state Rep. Gerald Greene to the Capitol.

House District 80 should not be competitive. The suburban Atlanta district, famous for its shopping and traffic, has a voting-age population that is more than 85 percent white. Voters here backed Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, and Republicans David Perdue and Nathan Deal for U.S. senator and governor, respectively, two years ago.

House District 105 voted for Barack Obama by a slim 50.77 percent to 48.36 percent in 2012, but it is held by Republican state Rep. Joyce Chandler. Whites make up only about 43 percent of its population, making it one of the most diverse districts in the state held by a Republican.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is taking his vision for education on the road, speaking to the Alpharetta Rotary Club.

Georgia’s education system needs less red tape, said Lt. Gov Casey Cagle.

“We have an educational system that, in my mind, has failed many of our kids,” he said. “And I don’t mean that in a negative way because, quite honestly, our teachers are doing a great job. It’s the government bureaucracy and this mindset of a top-down style of management requiring every single system to treat a student like a one-size fits all.”

Cagle said each student has a different learning style, and Georgia’s education system needs the freedom to meet their needs.

“We need to create an educational system that ultimately is designed around the needs of the community, but more importantly designed around the need of the individual student,” he said. “And we need to give flexibility to the communities to design that educational curriculum.”

State Senator Freddie Powell Sims also visited a Rotary club to discuss education.

Sims presented the case for passage [of the Opportunity School District Amendment] Thursday before the Albany Rotary Club.

“I hold in my hand a list of school districts throughout the state that have really bad audits. There are 38 districts out of 181,” Sims said. “I’m telling you this because a lot of the school boards around the state want to maintain, and always have, local control. The Opportunity School District takes nothing away from local control, absolutely nothing. A lot of the information that you are hearing in opposition to the Opportunity School District is very, very flawed.

“So let me try to help you understand exactly what this bill means to 68,000 children statewide that are in failing schools.”

In Forsyth County Board of Education District 5, both candidates oppose the Opportunity School District Amendment.

The NAACP of Georgia reversed its earlier position on Amendment 2, the Safe Harbor Amendment, now supporting its passage. From their Press ReleasE:

GEORGIA NAACP CHANGES POSITIONS ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 2

“Today, we encourag our members, units, and the community to Vote Yes only on Amendment 2.
Specifically, Amendment 2 will trigger the implementation of Senate Resolution 7 and allow the state legislature to provide for additional penalties or fees to a court case in which a person is found guilty “of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, [or other related crimes]. The Georgia NAACP fully supports that initiative. Although those changes don’t require a Constitutional Amendment and additional tax and spend powers to the General Assembly and a already too powerful Governor; support for sexual exploited children is too critical” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro Attorney and Georgia NAACP State President.

Congressman Tom Price (R-6) has competition in his reelection campaign. Who knew?

U.S. Rep Tom Price, R-Roswell, said he will continue working to help local businesses and families through creating a simpler, fairer tax code if re-elected next month.

“As I travel around the Sixth District and talk with folks about the challenges facing our nation, I know that many of our citizens are struggling in today’s economy,” Price said in an email.

Price, who was first elected in 2004, is facing Democrat Rodney Stooksbury of Atlanta, a retired Lockheed Martin employee, next month to represent District 6, which includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties and just under 700,000 people.

Stooksbury, who does not have a campaign website, did not respond for comment before press time.

Congressman John Lewis (D-5) also has an opponent.

[Republican Doug] Bell said his life story helps him identify with the problems of average Americans.

“I have been an educator, a small businessman, worked in ministry to youth from tough environments most of my adult life, and I took care of my father in my home for the last four years of his life,” he said. “He was a veteran and suffered from dementia. I work hard each and every day to try to make ends meet for my family. Due to these various experiences, I understand the issues that ordinary citizens face every day and therefore can be a true representative in the government of the people and for the people.”

Much of Bell’s life story centers on his Christian faith and service to others. He said he opened his small business, Windows, Etc. Cleaning Services, to help provide job skills to the East Atlanta children to whom he and his wife ministered.

He said expanding religious freedom will be his top priority if elected.

“I believe the current election cycle should make it evident to all that we as a nation are extremely spiritually and morally bankrupt,” he said. “I also believe it is the underlying reason that we have amassed the amount of debt that we have. My focus is to work for more freedom to value and promote faith in God for private employers by amending the Civil Rights Act so that the religious component of Title VII is rescinded.”

Tommy Hunter, incumbent Gwinnett County District Three Commissioner faces Democrat challenger Jasper Watkins III.

“We’ve accomplished quite a bit, but there’s a lot of things still to come that are coming out of the ground now and starting to work through the process that I want to see done,” Hunter said. “It’s going to take some more time and some of them may not get done in the next four years.”

Watkins added, “I love it here, and I’m not leaving. It could be better, and that’s why I put my name on the ballot. It’s good, but it could be better.”

“To be able to get them moving down the road and going toward implementation or completion, I want to be able to see that done,” Hunter said. “I’ve got a lot of time invested in it, a lot of sleepless nights invested in it and I just want to see those things accomplished.

Hunter and Watkins may have ideas about what needs to be addressed in Gwinnett County commission District III, however, there is one issue they agree needs to be addressed: Transportation.

Both candidates have expressed support for Bus Rapid Transit, which is a bus system that behaves like a rail system, as a public transit option for the county. Watkins said he also favors a commuter rail option as well.

Republican State House candidate Deidra White is making a bid to join her husband, Rep. Jay Powell in the State House.

White, who maintains an apartment as her official residence in Valdosta, wants to join her husband in Atlanta.

If she wins, she and Powell would be the first husband-and-wife team in the General Assembly in recent memory.

The former Valdosta City Council member said she considered running for the Legislature before but didn’t want to have to resign her council seat first. When she decided to do it this year, no one was more surprised than she was. Except maybe her husband.

Now, she’s taking on two-term incumbent Rep. Dexter Sharper, D-Valdosta, who is also a former member of the City Council. White said it’s not personal but that as a Democrat, Sharper lacks the ability to make things happen for the district.

“Our current representative is just sidelined,” she said. “That’s the nicest word I’ve found to use. He can’t pass anything that’s beneficial to us or block anything that would be damaging to us.”

Severe drought conditions in parts of Georgia may threaten agriculture , the state’s largest industry.

In my career this is as dry as I’ve seen it in northwest Georgia, which I’ve always lived in,” said Norman Edwards, the county extension agent for the University of Georgia in Walker County. “It’s the most severe drought most individuals up here have ever seen. I’m sure other years that’s been dry, but some parts of the county – I mean, it’s totally been brown, grass has been brown, pastures, fields been brown all summer long.”

Edwards said people with cattle and livestock couldn’t grow and harvest enough of their own hay, or buy enough locally.

“It’s not uncommon to see tractor trailer loads full of hay coming in this year. About every day you see some coming in from several surrounding states.”

Row crops were severely affected this year too, he said. Corn yields are down, and he said some soybean fields were abandoned. And the ground is so dry, many farmers haven’t been able to plant winter crops which, according to Edwards, have their best yields if they’re planted by Nov. 1.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 77 Georgia counties as being in a “drought disaster.” The state’s Environmental Protection Division has declared a drought in more than 50 counties, including all of the Atlanta area.

Georgia and Florida meet in a courtroom today rather than on a football field.

Arguments in an unusual U.S. Supreme Court case begin on Monday. It’s the latest battle in a decades-long fight over water in the South known as the “Water Wars.” The outcome could affect farmers in South Georgia, oystermen in Florida, and how people live and do business in Atlanta.

The case will be in front of one man, whose title is “special master,” instead of in front of the Supreme Court justices. And it takes place in Portland, Maine, instead of Washington, D.C.

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