Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 18, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 18, 2017

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes mounted up on horseback to warn of British troops on their way to confiscate American arms and to warn patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who the British sought to capture.

By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government had approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from Great Britain to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against Concord and Lexington.

The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a British military action for some time, and, upon learning of the British plan, Revere and Dawes set off across the Massachusetts countryside. They took separate routes in case one of them was captured….

About 5 a.m. on April 19, 700 British troops under Major John Pitcairn arrived at the town to find a 77-man-strong colonial militia under Captain John Parker waiting for them on Lexington’s common green. Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation, the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead and 10 others were wounded; only one British soldier was injured. The American Revolution had begun.

President William H. Taft learned on April 18, 1912 of the death of his military aide, Major Archibald Butts of Augusta, Georgia on RMS Titanic.

The honeybee was recognized as the official state insect of Georgia on April 18, 1975.

On April 18, 2006, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation establishing February 6 of each year as “Ronald Reagan Day” in Georgia and celebrating the date of President Reagan’s birth.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters will go to the polls today to vote in Special Elections in the 6th Congressional District, State Senate District 32, and municipal elections in Roswell, Johns Creek, Stonecrest and South Fulton. Voting is open from 7 AM to 7 PM and you’ll need to remember your photo ID.

President Trump continues to tweet about the Special Election in the Sixth Congressional District today:
Trump Tweet Super Liberal

Trump Tweet Eleven

A robo-call from President Trump was also sent to voters, according to The Hill.

President Trump recorded a robocall Monday calling on voters to help defeat Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate running for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, saying he will “raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare, and flood our country with illegal immigrants.”

In Trump’s automated call about Tuesday’s Georgia special election, he urges voters fight against the “Washington Democrats” such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to win the seat that former Rep. Tom Price recently vacated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Liberal democrats from outside of Georgia are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to take your Republican congressional seat away from you. Don’t let them do it,” Trump said in the phone call.

“Only you can stop the super-liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi’s group, and in particular Jon Ossoff. If you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare, and flood our country with illegal immigrants,” he continued.

Trump did not name a specific Republican candidate, but he urged qualifying voters to vote “Republican,” which could include Karen Handel, Bob Gray, Dan Moody or Judson Hill.

“That way we can cut spending and get our economy back on track, and keep America safe. It is already happening. There’s only one way to stop the Washington liberals from taking your congressional seat, and your money, and your safety. And that’s by voting Republican for Congress tomorrow,” the president said.

The Republican National Committee, which sponsored the call, declined to comment.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC spoke to a couple voters about the “Trump effect” in today’s Congressional election.

The Trump factor was on vivid display at a campaign stop Monday at a Roswell diner, where attorney Deborah McKinley had but one question for Handel: Did she vote for Trump? When Handel answered yes, McKinley sighed in relief.

“My main concern is finding the Trump loyalists who have the chance to win,” McKinley said after her encounter. “And I think she’s got the best shot.”

Trump is also energizing droves of left-leaning voters who want to hand his administration its first electoral defeat.

“He’s a dark shadow. I despise Trump. I feel like he’s a con man who has manipulated a lot of people,” said Peggy Williams of east Cobb County. “And this is a way to send a message.”

Pollster Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications said his research found that there are 77,000 voters in the district who cast ballots in the past two GOP primaries. On the Democratic side, that number is just 17,000.

“It tells you that Republicans have a huge potential upswing,” he said. “But so far Democrats are battling hard to get their votes out and are having reasonable success.”

Trump’s late tweets could boost Republican turnout — and aggravate Democrats looking for a late edge. Trump won the district with 48 percent of the vote, and the Republicans running as his loyalists hope to land a runoff spot by locking up most of that bloc. And polls show despite his struggles in the district in November, a majority of GOP voters give the president sound approval ratings.

Here are my thoughts on the Congressional election today, originally written in response to questions from a reporter.

- Ossoff’s chances of topping 50 pct on Tuesday -

“I’d estimate Ossoff’s chances of winning without a runoff at less than ten percent.”

– what’s at stake for Republicans – why is this election drawing so much outside attention and dollars

“I don’t see this as being a high-stakes election for Republicans going forward. The result of Tuesday’s election are unlikely to be reproduced elsewhere because it’s such an unusual case – you have a normally Republican district that swung to almost-even in the Presidential election; it’s a “jungle primary” style election that is used in very few states; and you have a field with eleven Republican candidates and a Democratic candidate who has coalesced national organizations behind him.”

“Whatever the result, I think you’ll see Republicans look at ways of either informally or formally limiting the number of GOP candidates in races like this, and you’ll see greater and earlier competition among Democratic candidates for the early backing of liberal and progressive groups outside the district.”

“The eight-million dollar question for Republicans and conservatives going forward is whether someone can build a vehicle to compete with the Democratic funding that poured into this race in small dollar contributions from across the country. Even in the beginning days of President Obama’s first term, when the Tea Party formed, it didn’t have the fundraising clout we’ve seen here. On the Democratic side, it was remarkable to see how quickly and solidly Jon Ossoff got the backing of these outside groups and the effectiveness with which he milked them of dollars.”

– is this a referendum on President Trump?

“No, it’s not a referendum on Trump, but it’s a test-case for how far a Democratic candidate can go in a Republican district on the strength of opposition to Trump. There’s been considerable competition among the Republicans on the ballot to claim the Trump mantle, and Trump supporters appear to be splitting their support among several candidates.”

– how has the race changed in the past week – are Republicans uniting behind a particular candidate?

“The main change I’ve seen in the last week is Republican early voters coming on line to the point where early voters with a past GOP Primary voting history inched past those with a past Democratic Primary history. We on the Republican side have also had more time to reflect on the realities of this race, and the way we’ve seen this story play out in the last couple elections.”

“There was a distinct panic moment when we read that Ossoff’s fundraising total was over eight million dollars, but since then, my anxiety has begun to subside.

“We’ve seen this story about a Democrat becoming suddenly competitive – back in 2014 with Michelle Nunn in the US Senate race and Jason Carter in the Gubernatorial election and in 2016 with the spectre of Hillary Clinton’s campaigning moving assets into Georgia and putting the Peach State in play at the Presidential level for the first time since her husband was on the ballot. And each time, that media-hyped possibility failed to appear.”

“This year’s made for mainstream news scenario of a young Democratic wunderkind somehow winning a district that routinely gives GOP candidates a 20-point margin is even more far-fetched. Republican voters who are disillusioned with Donald Trump aren’t going to vote for a liberal Democrat, and in this district, they’re unlikely to stay home.”

The Center for Public Integrity published an analysis of spending in the 6th District.

Through Sunday, super PACs, nonprofits and other groups independent of any candidate’s campaign have spent $9 million on the Georgia 6th race.

Just one of these outside groups spending money to influence the Georgia 6th election — Athens, Georgia-based Better Georgia Inc. — is headquartered within state lines. Better Georgia Inc.’s $1,070 in spending, all to support Democratic front-runner Jon Ossoff, accounts for less than one one-thousandth of overall non-candidate spending.

Said another way: When the candidates’ own campaign money is excluded, the Georgia 6th special election has attracted about one Georgia penny for every $10 in national cash, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance disclosures.

So far, Ossoff has raised far more money than any of his 11 Republican opponents. In fact, he’s raised more than all of them put together.

But outside organizations have rushed in to make up the difference: about 65 percent of all non-candidate money spent so far — $5.8 million —has gone toward opposing Ossoff.

If Ossoff fails to win more than half the vote Tuesday, a special election runoff between the top two finishers would be scheduled for June 20 — giving national political groups more than two more months to fight their proxy battle in suburban Atlanta.

FiveThirtyEight weighs in with their prediction in today’s congressional election.

If the polls are right, then Democrat Jon Ossoff will receive by far the most votes in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which is holding a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price on Tuesday.1 But Ossoff will probably finish with less than 50 percent of the vote, which would trigger a runoff between him and the next-highest finisher — most likely the Republican Karen Handel, but possibly one of three other Republicans (Bob Gray, Dan Moody Judson Hill) who are closely bunched behind her in polls.

Furthermore, the combined vote for all Republican candidates will probably exceed the combined vote for Ossoff and other Democrats, although it should be close. And the district has historically been Republican-leaning, although it was much less so in the 2016 election than it had been previously. All of this makes for a fairly confusing set of circumstances and a hard-to-forecast outcome.

Apply these principles to the Georgia 6 race, and you’ll conclude that Tuesday night’s first round won’t actually resolve that much — unless Ossoff hits 50 percent of the vote and averts the runoff entirely. (That’s an unlikely but hardly impossible scenario given the fairly high error margins of polls under these circumstances.) Even if Ossoff finishes in the low 40s, it will be hard to rule him out in the second round provided that he still finishes in first place by a comfortable margin. But even if Ossoff finishes just a point or two shy of 50 percent, and Democrats finish with more votes than Republicans overall, he won’t have any guarantees in the runoff given that it’s a Republican-leaning district and that the GOP will have a chance to regroup. With the runoff not scheduled until June 20, there will be lots of time for speculation about what the first round meant — and a lot of it will be hot air.

In Cobb County, four voting machines were stolen in advance of elections today.

On Saturday, two cases containing four ExpressPoll machines were snatched out of a Ford F-150 parked at the Kroger at New Chastain Corners Shopping Center of Canton Road in Marietta. ExpressPoll machines are the devices into which you put your ID after you walk into your polling place to prove you are eligible to vote.

Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said the machines hold a list of names and addresses of every voter in Georgia. Deeper within the system are driver’s license numbers to go with the names, but it is not clear whether thieves would be able to access this information. Eveler said the machines do not contain social security numbers.

“(The thieves) could type in a name and bring up a name, but they’re not going to just turn it on and there’s voter information in a spreadsheet or something like that,” Eveler said.

“Our office has re-configured the coding for the April 18th election to render the stolen ExpressPoll units ineffective, and we have partnered with local law enforcement to track down the perpetrators and monitor suspicious activity at polling places,” the secretary of state’s office said in a statement. “We are also asking poll workers to be vigilant on Election Day, and we are calling on members of the public to report any and all irregularities at the polls.

In a statement, Secretary of State Brian Kemp blasted the county’s elections office for not going public with the information sooner.

“It is unacceptable that the Cobb County Elections Office waited two days to notify my office of this theft,” Kemp said. “We have opened an investigation, and we are taking steps to ensure that it has no effect on the election tomorrow. I am confident that the results will not be compromised.”

Tech issues at Fulton County voting locations caused outages and delays for voters.

The issues affected voters at the Roswell Library and at Ocee Library in Johns Creek.

Candice Broce, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, said in an email that the two libraries “experienced internet connectivity issues at the polls starting Friday afternoon and throughout the evening.”

[Fulton Elections and Registration director Richard] Barron said without access to state databases, poll workers had to call in to verify voters by phone.

That extended waits at a time when lines were already long, Barron said. The polls closed at 6 p.m. Friday, and when the issues surfaced at 6:10 p.m., more than 100 people were still waiting to vote.

Broce called the issue an “internet outage at the county level” and said there were no problems with voting machines. She said the matter will be referred to the state elections board.

Three separate sets of votes were taking place at the county’s early voting sites Friday — for the sixth district congressional race, for runoff elections in Roswell and South Fulton, and for a city council seat in Johns Creek. Residents voting in more than one of those elections had to be checked in twice, Barron said, and vote on separate machines. He called on the governor to not schedule new elections at the same time that runoffs are slated.

Barron said that had more of an effect on long lines than the outage did.

“If you’ve got a connectivity problem, plus long lines, plus after hours, it’s kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

Governor Nathan Deal has signed two pieces of legislation this week:

HB 231 – Controlled substances; Schedules I, II, IV and V; change certain provisions – Signed April 17, 2017

HB 238 – Ad valorem tax; use of property for solar power generation; provide exception to a breach of covenants – Signed April 17, 2017

House Bill 231 is the annual bill updating the list of controlled substances to include new drugs. HB 238 allows use of property subject to a conservation easement for solar power generation without breaking the easement for the rest of the property.

Interstate 20 was closed in both directions yesterday in DeKalb County after the pavement buckled, sending a motorcyclist to the hospital.

All lanes of I-20 westbound were closed for several hours after the highway buckled Monday morning. Around 4:30 p.m., crews reopened two lanes. They reopened a third lane just after 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The HOV lane and two other left lanes of the expressway near Flat Shoals Road in DeKalb County remain closed as crews work to repair the area.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has started excavating the roadway. GDOT said they hope to have all lanes of the interstate back open by noontime Tuesday.

“It was a bizarre sight. The roadway completely buckled up in the air. Some people I spoke with said it looked as if an earthquake had happened under the roadway,” [Channel 2's Tom] Regan reported.

Buford Highway was also closed in Brookhaven, due to a fire under a bridge.

Buford Highway has re-opened in Brookhaven following a fire under the Peachtree Creek bridge.

The highway was closed in both directions between North Druid and West Druid Hills Road late Monday night.

The highway closed after a debris fire under the Peachtree Creek bridge.

The bridge remained closed after the fire so it could be inspected by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston spoke to about issues facing rural Georgia.

Ralston went into detail about the new Rural Georgia Economic Council. This council will be co-chaired by (R) Terry England from Auburn, (R) Jay Powell from Camilla and Vice Chair (R) Sam Watson from Moultry. The council will be holding meetings across Georgia to hear from elected officials, local businesses and citizens about how they feel rural Georgia economy can best be improved. Ralston said jokingly that he better not find out that one meeting took place in Atlanta.

Health care is a major concern in rural Georgia. Several hospitals have closed in rural Georgia areas including one in Ralston’s district in North Georgia. We spoke to Ralston abut one possible solution to meet rural Georgia health care needs. Ralston used the example of the first stand alone emergency room, opened by Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Gilmer county. In this interview we asked Ralston if Gilmer county still had the possibility of having a full hospital.

Ralston told us that sometime within the next month Governor Nathan Deal would be visiting Gilmer county’s Fire Station 1 to sign the fire fighter’s workmen’s compensation bill.

Democratic state legislators hosted a session to review the 2017 legislative session.

Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and state Reps. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, and Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, hosted a town hall on Monday to talk to residents about the previous legislative session.

About 50 Savannahians showed up to Savannah State University to ask their elected representatives questions about recent legislative session at the state and city level. Abrams said town hall meetings similar to this have been popping up around the state, citing events in Columbus, Atlanta, Macon, with Albany and Valdosta iterations coming in the near future.

“The goal is to make certain, first and foremost, that Georgians understand the work that has been done for them and to them at the capitol,” Abrams said, “We want to make sure people are aware of the work the Georgia Democrats are doing.”

Abrams, Gilliard and Stephens discussed the new bills in three categories: The good, the bad and the ugly. The “good” bills were unanimously or nearly unanimously supported by Georgia Democrats. The “bad” received no or very few votes from Democrats. The “ugly” were bills formally opposed by the Democratic Caucus.

Marie Willsey picked up two endorsements in the Roswell City Council runoff election.

City Council members Donald Horton and Nancy Diamond have endorsed Marie Willsey in her bid to win the runoff for the Post 4 race. Willsey and Lori Henry are vying for the seat, which was vacated when Kent Igleheart resigned after he was charged with child sex crimes.

Horton and Diamond’s announcements come just days after fellow Roswell council members Marcelo Zapata and Michael Palermo announced their endorsement of Lori Henry. Mayor Jere Wood has also expressed his support for Willsey.

CobbLINC buses are rolling out onboard wifi and other tech upgrades.

Marietta Board of Education members will likely discuss the proposed FY 2018 budget at their meeting tonight.

All Marietta City Schools employees could receive average salary increases of 2.5 percent next school year if the school board approves Superintendent Grant Rivera’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018.

There will be no tax increases to fund the raises, according to Marietta school board Chair Randy Weiner.

The school district has scheduled public hearings for the budget on June 13 and June 20 before the board is scheduled to vote on final approval on June 20.

Lowndes County Board of Education will vote on whether to approve a night school program.

Dalton City Council finally closed the books on FY 2016.

Warner Robins City Council voted for a project list to prioritize spending of sales tax revenues for recreation.

Augusta City Council will vote on a measure to host a satellite office of the Georgia Secretary of State.

An effort by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to open a regional satellite office at Augusta Municipal Building goes before the Augusta Commission for approval Tuesday.

The matter appears on the regular commission meeting agenda after a vote to deny the request failed in committee last week 2-1.

Commissioner Grady Smith said he referred Kemp downtown and that the addition will make it easier for citizens to file documents with the Secretary of State. “Papers that might have to go to Atlanta, they can do it at that office,” Smith said.

The agenda item states the satellite office would be the state’s second, would not duplicate services of Richmond County Board of Elections and would “offer an added benefits to our citizens who may experience difficulty with contacting the SOS office by phone.”

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