Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2014

On May 12, 1740, Georgia forces under James Oglethorpe took Fort Diego in Florida from the Spanish and mocked the defenders jean shorts.

The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurred at Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780. American Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who surrendered that day would later accept the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.

On May 12, 1789, the Society of St. Tammany was founded in New York and would grow to a dominant home for political bosses. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (Signet Classics) remains one of the best historical versions of how political machines worked.

George Washington visited Georgia on May 12, 1791. From Purysburg, South Carolina, Georgia officials escorted Washington on a barge twenty-five miles down the Savannah River to Savannah, where he would stay four days.

On May 12, 1864, Confederate General Joseph Johnston pulled his Army of Tennessee and Georgia back to Resaca, Georgia. In Virginia, Major General John B. Gordon saved the life, or prevented the capture of General Robert E. Lee at Spotsylvania. After the war, Gordon would serve as Governor of Georgia and United States Senator.

On May 12, 1865, the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets awoke in Staunton, where they had marched from Lexington 18 miles the previous day; after another 19 miles headed north up the Shenandoah Valley, the would make camp at Mt. Crawford, near Harrisonburg. The cadets ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five years.

On May 12, 1970, Georgia National Guard troops were mobilized to end race riots that had broken out the night before in Augusta. On that same day, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, my father’s favorite player as a youth, hit his 500th home run.

Georgia Public Broadcasting Debates yesterday

The Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting hosted debates yesterday for the Republican nominations for 10th and 12th Congressional Districts, the Democratic nomination for United States Senate, and the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Because the Democratic Senate debate won’t be broadcast until tonight, we’ll touch on it briefly today with more analysis yesterday.

Saturday was the first televised debate in the Republican Senate contest, in Columbus. WRBL carried it on the air, and you can watch video of the debate on their website. One of the gifts of participating in the last session of Republican Leadership for Georgia was getting to know Jenny Eckman, Chair of the Harris County Republican Party and one of my classmates. She helped introduce the debate and is one of our Georgia Republican Party’s many great women in leadership. If you’re interested in applying for next year’s Republican Leadership for Georgia class, feel free to email me and I’ll be making some nominations this week.

I wasn’t able to make the Columbus debate, but from the coverage by News4 in Jacksonville, it looks like it was a preview and warm-up for last night’s Senate debate.

The Republicans running for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat took aim at each other’s records and experience in a debate Saturday, with the three congressmen in the race facing criticism over their time in Washington.

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue have been battling each other as outsiders, and both set their sights on the three congressmen in the race – Reps. Paul Broun of Athens, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Jack Kingston of Savannah.

“I have a track record of standing up for my conservative principles at great cost,” said Handel, who fought a public battle with Planned Parenthood when she was an executive with the breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “The three congressmen, they have had every opportunity to do all the things they say they want to do.”

Perdue added Handel, who ran for governor in 2010, to his list of career politicians and said they have had every opportunity to make a difference and haven’t done so.

“If you like what is going on in Washington, you’ve got four good politicians to choose from,” Perdue said. “If you want different results in Washington, you need to send someone different to Washington.”

The congressmen pushed back, arguing that they have been fighting against Washington the whole time they have been in office.

Kingston, who has been leading in fundraising, said he has one of the most conservative voting records.

“I have to ask, where have some of these people been?” Kingston said. “I’ve been a soldier in the battle for a long time, and I will continue to fight.”

Kingston also took a direct swipe at Perdue, who has been leading in the polls. He noted Perdue had sought and didn’t receive the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce despite his business background. The chamber backed Kingston and has spent about $920,000 in TV and online ads supporting him.

“If someone’s business record is so good and so complete, perhaps they’re concerned about some of the shady business dealings and some of the layoffs and some of the golden parachutes,” Kingston said, drawing some boos from the crowd.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer also covered the Saturday warmup.

Each of Georgia’s seven Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls tried to stand out from the pack during a debate Saturday night at Columbus’ RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

But apart from Cobb County patent attorney Art Gardner, who was quick to stake out his ground as the moderate in the race, they seemed much in agreement on most issues, particularly on repealing Obamacare.

And that’s where we really are on the issues in the Senate race: very few differences on most major policy issues among the major candidates, so it has devolved into nitpicking, negativity, and is on the verge of getting some feelings hurt.

Tenth District Debate


I can’t really say anything happened that rose to the level of “game changer” in the Tenth Congressional Debate. Hardly anything rose to the level of “interesting.” In these debate, most of the drama and hype exists solely in the heads of the candidates and their handlers.

Walter Jones covered the Tenth District debate for Morris News:

Spending and the Constitution dominated a Sunday debate between the front-runners in the Republican primary for the 10th District.

Donna Sheldon pounced on Mike Collins for saying early in the campaign that he would have voted to raise the federal debt ceiling.

“I’ve explained this, and I’ll be glad to explain it again,” he said, adding that he would extend it while also imposing a plan for reducing it.

Sheldon disagreed, saying spending should be cut first.

“We have got to cut spending. We can’t continue to raise the debt limit,” she said.

And Jody Hice took fire from several directions about his interpretation of the Constitution because he has said he opposes any federal programs not envisioned by the Founding Fathers in their draft of the document.

Hice, whose platform is based on ending federal programs that are not part of the Founding Father’s original intent when they drafted the Constitution, was stumped when asked if he supported repeal of the 19th and 26th amendments since they weren’t part of the original document.

“I never claimed to be a constitutional scholar,” he said. “Being a constitutionalist doesn’t mean you have the whole document memorized.”

After another candidate said they concerned giving women and 18-year-olds the vote, Hice said he is opposed to repealing them.

Also in the contest are Gary Gerrard, Mitchell Swan, Stephen Simpson and Brian Slowinski.


Twelfth District Debate

Twenty minutes before taping was scheduled to commence in the Twelfth Congressional District Republican primary debate, the hosts heard from candidate Eugene Yu that he was more than an hour away. So an empty podium took Yu’s spot on stage.


Walter Jones again, who covered four debates in a row yesterday, usually with about thirty minutes between them. Walter’s take on the 12th District ran in the Augusta Chronicle:

Four Re­pub­licans running for the U.S. House in the 12th Dis­trict disagreed Sunday about how to take the seat from the Dem­ocrats and how to work with leaders of their own party.

John Stone argues that he should win because he is the only candidate to sign a pledge to not vote for John Boehner to remain House speaker. That makes Stone an outsider among the House leadership with an insider’s knowledge as a former congressional aide, he said.

Allen refused to say how he would vote on the speaker. He did say he wants to be a leader in the House.

“I don’t agree with the leadership that we’ve had,” he said. “Their intention is solely to keep their job. They are making decisions based on ideology.”

He said his approach to defeating Barrow is to make him responsible for all the spending increases since he began serving in Congress.

Dutton said he wants to be an example to nudge the leaders toward a culture change, arguing that he had the same impact during his four years in the state Legislature.

“In the name of the culture shift that we’ve seen in this country, there’s an appetite there,” he said, adding, “The way you defeat Bar­row
is showing his voting record.”

One upside for Michelle Nunn of making Georgia Public Broadcasting the site of the only debate in which she’ll meet her Democratic opponenets is that her base of support among Atlanta liberals all knew how to get to the station for a pre-debate rally on 14th Street.

20140511-161753.jpg 20140511-161731.jpg

I suspect the predominance of women among the rally is no coincidence, as women are the major constituency that will largely decide the Senate contest in November. But more on the Democratic debate later, after it airs tonight at 7 PM on GPB.

United States Senate Debate


The Sunday night debate quickly became a pile-on of candidates against acknowledged frontrunner David Perdue.

Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, was a likely target since he’s led all the independent polls this year. Kingston, a Savannah congressman, has recently dropped from second to a close third, but the two are the top fundraisers. Karen Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has moved into second but escaped most of the barbs in the 60-minute forum except for Perdue’s charge that she used taxpayer funds to buy a luxury SUV while the state was cutting positions.

[Kingston] challenged Perdue for voting in only one GOP primary in any of the state’s he’s lived in and for also donating money to a Democratic candidate while living in Massachusetts.

“How could you not vote in a Republican primary and be active in Republican politics?” the congressman asked. “… I think that is extremely relevant.”

Perdue replied that he was a businessman and not a politician.

Handel blasted Perdue for the federal stimulus money taken by a company while he served on its board of directors and for outsourcing jobs while an executive at Hagar Clothing Co.

“You took millions in corporate welfare. Even after you railed against the (federal) debt, you contributed to it,” she said.

Kingston also got attacked for being a big spender by Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, who zeroed in on a vote for $1 million in sand replacement on Tybee Island when Kingston’s home is just 500 feet from the beach.


Christina Cassidy of the Associated Press also covered the debates.

The Republican debate was televised live and featured several testy exchanges among the seven candidates, particularly from former Dollar General CEO David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah.

The two candidates are leading in polls and fundraising. They traded barbs over Perdue’s business background and Kingston’s voting record, while fending off attacks from Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta and former Secretary of State Karen Handel. Handel called Perdue “another out-of-touch elitist” for earlier remarks in which he dismissed her lack of a college degree. Perdue later apologized.

Kingston went after Perdue for contributing to a Democratic candidate in Massachusetts, while Perdue criticized Kingston for serving 11 terms in Congress while supporting term limits. A pivotal moment came when Kingston attacked Perdue’s time as CEO of Pillowtex Corp., a North Carolina textile company.

Perdue said he went to Pillowtex to help. The company had emerged from bankruptcy when he started, and its owners decided to sell the business soon after he arrived. But three months after he left the company, it shut down and 7,650 people lost their jobs across the country.

“Just as my record as a member of Congress is being scrutinized, I think someone’s business experience is relevant,” Kingston said. “My friend is telling everyone I can fix the problems in Washington, yet as CEO of Pillowtex, he bankrupted the company and received a million dollars on the way out.”

Perdue said Kingston’s attack was “what we’ve come to be accustomed to in politics.” He added: “Congressman Kingston knows full well that Pillowtex was in bankruptcy when I started.”

That last statement by Perdue led to a follow-up email by the Kingston campaign titled, “Perdue lies about Pillowtex.”

David Perdue suggested in Georgia Public Television Debate tonight that Pillowtex was in bankruptcy when he took over as CEO.

FACT: Pillowtex had already emerged from Bankruptcy according to their own press release. David Perdue then led them back into it.

Of course, its not surprising that David Perdue would get his facts wrong. The Charlotte Observer reported that workers nicknamed him “OZ” because he was rarely seen at headquarters and hardly ever returned emails.

On his watch Pillowtex lost $27 million and its stock plummeted by 95%. 7,650 people lost their jobs. For his trouble Perdue pocketed $3.2 million in compensation.


Finally, without this being a comment on any other candidate, it says something positive about Jack Kingston’s character that without offering her as a media spectacle, he has quietly escorted his mother to many, if not all, of the debates, and many of his other campaign events.

About the AJC polls

Today’s edition is primarily about the debates, but we’ll touch on recent polling released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Among the findings:

Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, has sizable leads against four of the five top GOP contenders for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. She polls only 1 percentage point ahead of David Perdue, a Fortune 500 executive who is among the front-runners for the GOP runoff in July.

The poll is good news for Democrats hoping the party can harness a rising number of minority voters and other newcomers in November rather than waiting for future election cycles, as national political observers envision Georgia as a swing state in the making. But there’s a long way to go.

Top Democrats are untested in statewide campaigns and have faced few attacks at this point. Deal’s campaign has so far ignored Carter in its feel-good ad campaign, and Republican Senate candidates are busy battering each other ahead of the May 20 primary. The independent voters who are likely to swing the race lean Republican, the poll shows.

One particular issue caught the attention of some ardent poll-watchers, who questioned the AJC’s assertion:

The AJC did not poll the Republican or Democratic primary races because low turnout and primaries not confined to party registrants would have made the polling results, in its view, too unreliable.

Here’s my fifty-cent answer to that question. I’m currently writing a longer analysis that will run tomorrow morning at InsiderAdvantage for subscribers. But first we look at the AJC’s statement of methodology.

The sample design was a random digit-dialed sample of cellphone numbers and land-line numbers with a Georgia telephone exchange.

Using random-digit dialing means that the survey will have to use questions to identify likely voters for the General Election and Primary elections. This takes more time and costs significantly more than robopolling that begins with a list of known past primary voters.

Both sampling approaches have their upsides, and the random-digit method reflects an academic approach to polling, while sampling from a pool of known likely voters, usually by starting with past voters from similar elections reflects a more practical approach that developed out of campaign polling where saying, “we can’t get a sufficient sample in a primary,” simply won’t ever work.

When you see media polls designed to show a horse race in a primary, you’re likely seeing the pre-screened sampling technique, even if it includes questions specifically designed to test likelihood of voting in the next election. Simple economics and time constraints as well as the background of most Atlanta media pollsters in practical politics dictates that frame.

One important finding we can glean is that the AJC and its pollster are of the opinion that voter turnout will be low compared to historical trends. In the 2010 Primary Election, more than 680,000 votes were cast in the Republican Gubernatorial primary election. I suspect we’ll be down significantly from that, possibly as much as 20-25%. My back-of-the-envelope calcuations give a range of 510k to 544k in the 2014 GOP Primary.

Once early voting numbers are available from this weekend’s Saturday early voting, we may have a better handle on the number one question in the mind of every Georgia political professional.

As of the currently available early/absentee voter file available from the Secretary of State’s office, 107,819 early votes have been processed through part of the day Friday. We expect a new file later today, but it may not contain complete date from Saturday.

Top Six Counties for Early/Absentee Votes


Early/Absentee Votes by Party

Missing data…..492………..<1%

Early/Absentee Votes by Gender

Missing data……..14

Early/Absentee Votes by Race

Amer. Ind. or Alaska Nat………28……….<1%
Asian or Pacific Islander……..314………<1%
Black, not Hispanic………20,007…..27.90%
White, not Hispanic……….73,710….67.36%

Competitive Congressional District Early Turnout

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