Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 13, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 13, 2014

Yesterday, Republican Nancy Jester’s campaign for State School Superintendent received an important endorsement for voters who are concerned that our tax dollars — more than 50% of state tax revenue — are spent wisely.

Nancy Jester has already received support from radio talk show host Eric Erickson, Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon and former State Senator Eric Johnson. Today Ms. Jester received a shot in the arm from a national figure,  Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and the Cost of Government Center.

In a statement of support Norquist notes the efforts by Ms. Jester to use transparency and disclosure to the citizens of Georgia of all spending for the state on education.

“ATR and COGC  laud the efforts of Ms. Jester to improve the education system in the state of Georgia through sensible spending, increased transparency and strong accountability” said Norquist.

Ms. Jester has promised to “put the check register on-line for all to see” so that Georgians will know where their tax-dollars are being spent.

In one week, Georgia voters will cast their ballots in the 2014 Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan primaries. For many school systems across Georgia, this will be complicated by the fact that the fourth week in May is the last week for public schools. In Cobb County, it appears that all students will be released early on election day. Does that enhance or detract from voting? Will parents picking up their kids be able to vote at that time, or will the logisitics prevent their voting at all that day? More about early voting and voter turnout below.

On May 13, 1607, English settlers founded the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the James River. This led to the first English-language politics in America:

Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan Constant,Godspeed, and Discovery. Upon landing at Jamestown, the first colonial council was held by seven settlers whose names had been chosen and placed in a sealed box by King James I. The council, which included Captain John Smith, an English adventurer, chose Edward Wingfield as its first president.

Lyman Hall arrived in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on May 13, 1775.

On May 13, 1798, a Constitutional Convention adopted the Georgia Constitution of 1798.

The first fighting at Resaca, Georgia took place on May 13, 1864 and Union forces marched into Dalton. On May 13, 1864, 257 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute camped at Mt. Crawford near Harrisonburg.The next day they would continue their march to New Market, Virginia.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On May 13, 2005, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closing of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station in Marietta, and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens.

Debate about debates

Last week, the Republican National Committee convened in Nashville and took up the question of debates in the 2016 Presidential Primary season and created a Standing Committee on Presidential Primary Debates.

Each debate sanctioned by the Standing Committee on Presidential Primary Debates shall be known as a “Sanctioned Debate.” Any presidential candidate who participates in any debate that is not a Sanctioned Debate shall not be eligible to participate in any further Sanctioned Debates.

The proliferation of debates is seen as partly responsible for the eventual defeat of Mitt Romney in the general election, as he was battered by opponents for the GOP nod; other Republicans think the debate provide an important vetting opportunity and ways for voters to learn more about the candidates.

Several committee members said they were worried that activists might see their ability to prod candidates reduced under the new rule.

“You’re going to squelch the ability of candidates to get to know their voter base, and the voter base to get to know their candidates,” said Diana Orrock, a national committeewoman from Nevada. “As a voter … I want to see the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The RNC measure affects only debates as candidates vie for the GOP nomination; the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates will still have final say on the elections between the Republican and Democratic nominees during the general election campaign.

But the RNC recommendation did take a step at reining the haphazard debate style that characterized the 2012 selection progress. The freewheeling system provided a seemingly endless series of debates, from which former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney emerged as the party’s nominee, but only after weathering harsh criticism from his rivals.

“Spending too much time fighting with each other distracts the party from its ultimate goal, which is winning the presidency,” said Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC’s rules committee. Others said the debate moderators during the 2012 were hostile to the GOP or were Democrats who wanted Obama to win a second term.

The RNC rule does not explicitly pick debate moderators, but its members were openly critical of CNN journalist Candy Crowley, who moderated a debate between Romney and Obama. During that debate, Crowley corrected Romney’s erroneous claim that Obama had not called the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an act of terror.

Republicans, including Romney’s top aides, were furious that the moderator interjected herself into the debate as it was happening. It remains a point of frustration for GOP leaders.

This is overlaid by jockeying between backers of potential 2016 candidates who want their favorites to have a playing field that best suits their perceived strengths.

Though the loss of free media exposure could hurt dark-horse candidates — think Rick Santorum, Ben Carson or Peter King — Priebus said campaigns-in-waiting do not view the changes as aimed at working to any one’s advantage.

“Privately, I’ve spoken to more than a few of the potential candidates,” he said, “and overwhelmingly they support this. Not even overwhelmingly — unanimously.”

Georgia commiteeman Randy Evans, who was a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, attributed Gingrich’s win in South Carolina and loss in Florida to good, and then bad, debate performances. But he supported the measure as a compromise. He said the ban on participating in sanctioned debates was not as stringent as some others had hoped for. At one point, for example, Priebus floated stripping delegates from candidates who went to non-allowed debates.

“This is the product that made the most sense at the end of the day,” said Evans.

Many Republicans agree that better selection of media partners will help the Republican candidates and provide better debates.

Because of last cycle’s circus-like atmosphere, and because of suspicions of liberal bias, some Republican constituents would like to ice out mainstream media journalists altogether.

“The people running the debates need to be Republicans,” said Georgia GOP Chairman John Padgett.

Randy Evans took to Facebook this weekend to discuss the role of moderators and how it appeared in the GPB Senate debate:

Watching GPB GOP Senatorial debate – it is an excellent example of why we passed a rule at the RNC addressing debates – every panelist thinks they are a candidate, trying to make their own points, and argue their own cases – and none are Republicans or know what is important to Republicans – it should be about the candidates, not the panelists

Having been a panelist at several debates during the GAGOP Chairman’s race and the Gainesville Senate debate, what I tried to do with my questions was: (1) involve the readers of GaPundit and grassroots Republicans by offering opportunities to literally write one of my questions; and (2) ask questions that would highlight substantive policy differences between the candidates and their records. I also like the approach taken by the Georgia YRs in the 11th District Congressional Candidates’ debate at the Cobb Galleria, where they took questions via Twitter.

Speaking of debate….

Democratic U.S. Senate Todd Robinson got this zinger against fellow Democrat Michelle Nunn in the GPB debate for Senate.

I’ve written before that the November General Election is likely to be won or lost among unaffiliated white women, and Nunn’s answer was clearly aimed at them. The specific issues she mentioned were ensuring that the minimum wage is a livable wage (crypto-Dem speak for raising the minimum wage), comprehensive immigration reform, and pay equity.

A January Wall Street Journal poll showed that 60% of women nationally, compared to 41% of men, think raising the minimum wage should be a national priority this year. Use of this issue as a bludgeon against Republicans is part of the national Democratic strategy.

According to the Associated Press’s Alan Fram: “Democrats, aware that the measure faces all but certain rejection Wednesday in the chamber they control, plan to use the vote to buttress their campaign theme that the GOP is unwilling to protect financially struggling families. ‘Americans understand fairness, and they know it’s unfair for minimum-wage workers to put in a full day’s work, a full month’s work, a full year’s work, and still live in poverty,’ the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said.

2014 Turnout: the Million Dollar Question

Today, I wrote at that turnout appears to be sluggish this year, based on a very small sampling of two counties. While two counties is hardly a comprehensive look at turnout, when it’s the GOP powerhouse duo of Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, early turnout is very important both for those candidates on the ballot next Tuesday, and for November.

Cobb County saw 441 votes cast at two locations on Saturday, while Gwinnett saw 596. For Cobb, it wasn’t even that it was a small turnout – it was actually fewer votes cast than the preceding four weekdays.

The 441 Cobb Ballots cast on Saturday broke were distributed this way:


In Gwinnett County, 596 ballots total were cast on Saturday. They broke down this way:


While changes in the election schedule this year — namely a very early primary and a shorter advance voting period than 2010 — make a direct comparison to earlier years impossible, here’s where Cobb County early and advanced voting stands today compared to 2010 and 2012:

2014 through May 10….in-person …3830……mail……943…………total ….4773

2012 entire period.….….in-person …18,306…….mail…..5,953……….total…24,259

2010 total six weeks……….9,641…….mail….1,833…………11,474

[Note that mail votes returned in 2014 may be depressed by a lag between when the county election office mails ballots to voters and when they are received back by the county from the voter.]

While the 2012 early/advance numbers are final, and we still have this week’s ballots to include in the 2014 totals, it appears to me to show lagging turnout. Even if early voting this week doubles the first week’s totals, Cobb County early votes could be 10,000 fewer than the 2012 total.

So, what does this mean for total votes cast, including election day? The novelty of early voting and the ever-changing rules make it impossible to say, but here’s some historical perspective:

Cobb County 2012 Primary Election July 31st

Total ballots cast………..83,618

Early/advance cast……24,259

Percent early…………….29.0%

If early voting represents, as it did in the 2012 General Primary, approximately 30% of votes cast in Cobb County will be those cast last week and this week. And slow voter turnout to this point portends very low overall turnout statewide.

What could be causing low turnout this year? Obviously the change in election date is responsible for part of it, but national voter enthusiasm may be a factor as well. Gallup released a poll today that sheds some light.

A majority of U.S. registered voters, 53%, say they are less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, while 35% are more enthusiastic. This 18-percentage-point enthusiasm deficit is larger than what Gallup has measured in prior midterm election years, particularly in 2010 when there was record midterm enthusiasm.

Among registered voters, 42% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents currently say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 50% are less enthusiastic, resulting in an eight-point enthusiasm deficit. But Democrats are even less enthusiastic, with a 23-point deficit (32% more enthusiastic vs. 55% less enthusiastic).

So, what does this mean for campaigns in the field this week? The magic words are: “Get Out the Vote.” I also think it means that Jack Kingston and Karen Handel will both outperform their poll numbers and David Perdue may underperform his, giving us a tight race headed into the final stretch.

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