Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 13, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 13, 2015

Georgia and American History

On August 13, 1909, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation designating February 12 as Georgia Day to commemorate Oglethorpe’s landing near Savannah in 1733.

One year later, Brown signed the first legislation regulating automobiles in Georgia on August 13, 1910. The act included a minimum driving age of 16, prohibited driving while intoxicated, and required a car tag, headlight, and red taillight.

President Jimmy Carter was nominated for reelection as President by the Democratic National Convention in New York City on August 13, 1980.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act on August 13, 1981.

The ERTA included a 25 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals, phased in over three years, and indexed for inflation from that point on. The marginal tax rate, or the tax rate on the last dollar earned, was considered more important to economic activity than the average tax rate (total tax paid as a percentage of income earned), as it affected income earned through “extra” activities such as education, entrepreneurship or investment. Reducing marginal tax rates, the theory went, would help the economy grow faster through such extra efforts by individuals and businesses. The 1981 act, combined with another major tax reform act in 1986, cut marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers from 70 percent to around 30 percent, and would be the defining economic legacy of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan’s tax cuts were designed to put maximum emphasis on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and creating incentives for the development of venture capital and greater investment in human capital through training and education. The cuts particularly benefited “idea” industries such as software or financial services; fittingly, Reagan’s first term saw the advent of the information revolution, including IBM’s introduction of its first personal computer (PC) and the rise or launch of such tech companies as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Cisco Systems.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released on August 13, 1982.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator Johnny Isakson has drawn a potential Democratic opponent in the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Jim Galloway of the AJC has one of his signature in-depth pieces on how the race is shaping up.

Last week, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer [Baptist Church], announced he is considering a Democratic challenge to Isakson’s re-election bid.

So far, Warnock is the only Democrat to speak publicly of a challenge to Isakson. Warnock has never run for public office before, but the 45-year-old pastor is a stirring orator.

Warnock has spoken of the need to register more African-American voters, and that may be incentive enough to enter the race. In any case, he would provide Isakson with eloquent, if not necessarily well-funded, opposition.

[O]n a visit to Isakson’s Atlanta office, it only made sense to ask Isakson what he thought of the Ebenezer pastor’s deliberations.

“I know Reverend Warnock very well. He’s a very talented and gifted preacher,” the 70-year-old Republican senator began….“I gave him my ticket to the State of the Union address that President Obama made one year.”

Before I walked into Isakson’s office, I had texted the vacationing Warnock to give him a heads up. I would need the pastor’s response if Isakson said anything untoward. Warnock replied that he doubted it would be necessary. “He and I have a good personal relationship,” the pastor texted back. And he was right.

[I]n Georgia, we have a U.S. Senate race that is veering dangerously close to becoming a bombast-free zone. If he runs, the Reverend Warnock will have to answer the same question I posed to Isakson: Where’s the anger?

“I can get angry in a heartbeat if someone’s picking on my friends,” Isakson replied. “I’m a passionate man, not an angry man. There’s a difference.”

But a lack of animosity between the candidates doesn’t mean that negative attacks are off the table – it only means that any such attacks are likely to be made by third parties.

Ted Cruz Southern Tour

After last weekend’s Red State Gathering, Senator Ted Cruz continued on a bus tour of Southern states. It’s the first 2016 Presidential campaign I’ve seen that has made clear an electoral strategy of any sort.

CNN Politics discusses the Cruz strategy,

In barbeque joints and tea rooms, Cruz is courting the southerners who are likely to play an outsized role in next year’s Republican primary. Eight southern states are slated to cast ballots on March 1, a day now monikered the “SEC Primary” after the top-performing college football conference that voters here cheer.

So Cruz and a large group of aides are spending the congressional recess not in New Hampshire — a more liberal state, for instance, that he has not visited in more than two months — but on a bus tour in places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Van Buren, Arkansas, hoping to quietly build the infrastructure and lavish candidate attention on SEC states while rivals spend time in Iowa.

“Like the SEC does two-a-days, we’re doing two-a-days here right now,” said Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe as Cruz greeted a crowd in Huntsville. “Everybody comes in for a Fourth of July event — a big speech, or some sort of cattle call — but spending the time, doing these type of events? We don’t see that from anybody else.”

The Cruz campaign believes its path to victory rests on a slow, slog-it-out winning of delegates in states that award them proportionally like these. So with at least 356 delegates up for grabs in the South on March 1, the campaign is placing a particularly large emphasis on the SEC primary, especially in Georgia, where the campaign has many financial ties, and Texas, the popular senator’s home state.

Roll Call discussed the strategy with Cruz between the Newnan and Columbus tours last Saturday.

“The RNC changed the primary calendar this year, so that the entire primary is accelerated. You’re going to have the first three primaries — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina — and they’ve always been critically important. They will remain critically important,” Cruz said. “But then just two weeks later: boom, we hit Super Tuesday. We hit primaries all across the country, primarily across the South, big states that are expensive to be on media, and it’s so fast that any campaign that hasn’t done the hard work of building a grass-roots team, putting in place strong leaders, is going to find themselves behind the eight ball because there’s not enough time.”

The following day, introducing Cruz at a Shelby County GOP event, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the decision of SEC states to unite behind the March 1 primary date would give the conservative primary electorate in the region the chance to meet and greet candidates up close.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., told CQ Roll Call likewise before introducing Cruz at a packed house in Huntsville Sunday evening. An estimated 1,400 people attended that stop in northern Alabama, and it was nearly moved outside because of the turnout.

“The South as most people understand it, which is a culture and a belief system, has not had much of an impact in general elections because we  can be relied on to go one direction only,” Brooks said. “This time though, it looks like that we’re going to have a major say in who the Republican nominee is, and I think that’s very important.”

From Katie Glueck, writing for,

Cruz has an advantage in the South over most of his rivals: His campaign is already extensively organized there, with a roster that includes some of the region’s most prominent tea party activists. With at least seven Southern states slated to vote in the March 1 “SEC primary” (the name is a reference to the storied college athletic conference), the region will have a rare early and influential say in the Republican presidential contest — and Cruz is betting he will be a beneficiary.

With the prospect of multiple victors emerging from the early state primaries and caucuses — and no candidate currently occupying a commanding position in the GOP’s Southern heartland — a strong performance there March 1 would instantly alter the dynamics of the race.

“Anyone who wants to win the nomination had better try to compete in the SEC primary, because any candidate who comes through Super Tuesday and gets blown out is likely to suffer a fatal blow,” Cruz told POLITICO aboard his campaign bus. “Right now there are very few other candidates investing the time, there are very few other candidates putting in place the leadership teams, the grass-roots organizations” in the South.

“There are seasons and phases to a campaign,” he said, explaining why his campaign committed so much time to a Southern swing while the polls show him as a middle-of-the-pack candidate in the states that precede it. “We have spent a great deal of time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and as the primary gets closer we will spend much more time [there]. This is a window now where we can invest, and invest early in March primary states. Build in place a leadership team, put in place a grass-roots infrastructure that can continue to build while we return to an intensive time commitment [in the early states].”

“If you look at the states in the SEC primary … all are conservative states. All are heavily evangelical states. All have a strong military and veteran presence. All are passionate about Second Amendment rights. And what we are finding is that my record as a consistent conservative is resonating powerfully throughout the March 1 states.”

The AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy also wrote about how the SEC Primary is affecting campaign strategies for GOP candidates.

The Republican’s jam-packed bus tour across the South this week is the biggest commitment yet of any presidential candidate to the “SEC primary,” the collection of mostly Southern states voting as a bloc on March 1. He followed his weekend swing through Georgia and South Carolina with scheduled visits this week to five other Southern states.

The four early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada remain the prime draw, but with 17 candidates in the race, a drawn-out battle for the Republican nomination is all but assured.

All across the South this weekend, Cruz and other candidates sought to stake their claim to the region. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had already made a couple of other stops in metro Atlanta earlier this year, met with faith leaders Saturday morning and then stopped by Lovie’s BBQ in Buckhead to shake hands with about 100 supporters and curious onlookers.

“We’ve been here a lot in the last couple months, and we’ll keep coming back,” Walker said at Lovie’s. “It’s important for us. The March 1 primary is incredibly important. We think we can do well here in Georgia, not just in Atlanta, but across the state.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee hails from a March 1-voting state and won Georgia in 2008. After speaking at RedState, Huckabee traveled to Perry for a fish fry, where he picked up the endorsement of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and won a straw poll.

“This is a part of the country with which I not only associate and identify, but connect to,” Huckabee said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.

“And I believe there is an incredibly important part of this process that’s going to keep me very focused on states like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee,” he said. “It’s critical for us to win here.”

State and Local Government

Georgia’s Department of Public Health studied procedures at abortion clinics in Georgia and found they are following rules regarding disposal of human tissue.

The commissioner of the Department Public Health, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter Wednesday that her agency had completed the inquiry that Deal ordered last month after videotapes surfaced of national Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting fetal remains.

Fitzgerald wrote: “As you know, Georgia law requires that licensed abortion clinics (or a medical disposal service provider with whom they have contracted) to bury or cremate fetal remains following the termination of a pregnancy. DNA or genetic testing can and does take place in certain cases, such as if a rape has occurred or there was an abnormality in the pregnancy.”

She said the abortion providers reviewed by her investigators are all complying with the law.

Macon-Bibb County Clerk of Courts Erica Woodford has announced she will campaign for reelection.

West Nile virus has been identified in Savannah, according to WTOC.

Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph spoke to Shaw Blackmon about how the first-time candidate won the Special Runoff Election in House District 146.

Blackmon credited his win to his platform and his team’s ground game.

“I think primarily it was just going door to door. We knocked on thousands of doors, we made thousands of phone calls,” Blackmon said.

The small business owner campaigned on cutting red tape on business, supporting local control of education and backing the missions of Robins Air Force Base, among other topics.

“People just felt comfortable with it,” he said. “They liked what we were saying.”

Blackmon also wooed some high-profile support, counting former Gov. Sonny Perdue among his backers.

The Elaine Boyer corruption scandal is poised to take down another, as televangelist Rooks Boynton has been indicted in connection with the phony invoice and kickback scheme.

The indictment says that over a two-year period, he accepted more than 35 checks from then-DeKalb County Commissioner Boyer, totaling about $85,000, for consulting services he never performed.

Boyer used false invoices to tap taxpayer funds to cut the checks.

Common Cause No Longer

After the purge of Republican members of the Common Cause Georgia board so the organization can go fully liberal, now longtime Executive Director William Perry has also left.

On Tuesday morning, Perry parted ways with Common Cause after more than four years, the latest move in a string of recent shakeups within the organization’s Georgia chapter. Last week, Common Cause President Miles Rapoport asked Perry to resign. The move, which comes on the heels of the removal of two Georgia board members—including Chairman Bob Irvin—and the recent appointment of former GOP operative Clint Murphy as Irvin’s replacement, stands in line with the organization’s broader national shift away from filing ethics complaints toward a “broader policy agenda for an inclusive democracy.”

Perry, who was initially “surprised “about the resignation request, says he came to a mutual understanding with Rapoport. He’s now planning to start a new nonpartisan watchdog organization focused on filing ethics complaints and continuing to hold politicians’ feet to the fire. That’s actually new territory for Perry, who says that, during his time as executive director, Common Cause Georgia only filed two complaints—one related to a $17,000 lobbyist-funded European trip for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and one against state Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, over a contract between his private business and Atlanta Public Schools. He sees the opportunity to create an organization solely devoted to watchdog activism—which he says Georgia lacks right now. He’s now in the process of incorporating the group, raising funds, and finalizing a name.

I agree with William Perry that a vacuum exists for a nonpartisan watchdog organization, but I don’t think he’ll be the one to fill the role. Georgia needs a real nonpartisan watchdog that understands that corruption flourishes at the local level in a way that makes allegations against state legislators appear to be arguing about who owns the change they find in couches under the Gold Dome.

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