Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On April 22, 1891, Asa Cander bought the recipe for Coca-Cola for $2300 and eventually turned its marketing from a “brain tonic” into a plain old tasty beverage.

Adolf Hitler admitted defeat in World War II on April 22, 1945.

The Atlanta Braves won their first home game in Atlanta Stadium on April 22, 1966. The Braves beat the New York Mets 8-4. It’s interesting to look back at how the Braves landed in Atlanta.

During his 1961 campaign for mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen, Jr. promised to build a sports facility to attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington–Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways. Allen, along with Atlanta Journal sports editor Furman Bisher, attempted to persuade Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, to move his team to Atlanta. Finley was receptive and began discussing stadium design plans with Allen. The deal, however, ended in July 1963 when the American League did not approve the move.

In 1964, Mayor Allen announced that an unidentified team had given him a verbal commitment to move to Atlanta, provided a stadium was in place by 1966. Soon afterward, the prospective team was revealed to be the Milwaukee Braves, who announced in October that they intended to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. However, court battles kept the Braves in Milwaukee for one last season.

A verbal commitment by an unnamed team brought the Braves here.

The Blues Brothers made their worldwide debut on Saturday Night Live on April 22, 1978. Two prominent Georgia musicians, Ray Charles (born Albany) and James Brown (died Atlanta) would co-star in The Blues Brothers movie.

[Language warning for this last clip.]

Former President Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

Yesterday, Meb Keflezighi, a naturalized American citizen, became the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 to win the race, at 39. Meb’s personal story of how he and his family came to the United States is moving and uniquely American.

Born in 1975, Mebrahtom (his full name means “let there be light”) grew up in an Eritrean village with no electricity and no running water. Besides poverty, Meb’s parents, Russom and Awetash, feared for their family’s safety because of Russom’s involvement with the Eritrean Liberation Movement and because of the ongoing war with Ethiopia. Meb’s father decided to flee. “He walked all the way”—60 miles—to Sudan, Meb says. Russom eventually made his way to Milan, Italy, where he worked to raise the money to bring his family out of East Africa.

On Oct. 21, 1987, a date that rolls off Meb’s tongue, the family immigrated to San Diego as refugees with the help of the Red Cross and the sponsorship of Meb’s half-sister, Ruth. “Dad used to wake up at 4 a.m. so we could learn English,” Meb says. “He worked as a taxi driver and worked in restaurants to be able to feed the family.”

Meb adds, “You start on the bottom, work hard, and your dreams will come true—and that’s what happened. We have a very successful family because my parents always emphasized using the opportunity you have to the maximum: ‘There are a lot of people that don’t have this opportunity, so make sure you use it.’ That stuck in our head.”

At 12, he ran his first mile. He clocked in at five minutes and 20 seconds—with no training. Dick Lord, the PE teacher at Roosevelt Junior High, called up the high school coach on the spot: “Hey, we got an Olympian here.”

If Meb sounds old school, that’s because he is. His message for young people is simple: “Life is precious. Do something that is optimistic—that is good for society. Don’t sit on the couch.” His heroes, other than the list of American long-distance runners he rattles off (Jim Ryun, Steve Prefontaine, Steve Scott, Eamonn Coghlan, Paul Tergat), are Jackie Robinson and his parents. About himself, he says: “My God-given talent was discovering when I could run 5:20. Not everyone can run 5:20 . . . I was definitely gifted, but I have to work hard.”

Also finishing the race, for the last time ever after 30 Boston marathons, was the father-son Team Hoyt.

Dick Hoyt pushed his son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair for their first race in 1977. It was a five-miler, but soon the duo went on to compete in 1,100 athletic events, including more than 30 Boston Marathons. But now that Dick Hoyt is 74 and Rick is 52, they believe it’s time to slow down.

“When Rick was born, they said, ‘Forget him. Put him away. Put him in an institution. He’s going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life,’” Dick Hoyt told ABC News. “And here he is. He’s 52 years old and we haven’t figured out what kind of vegetable he is yet.”

Rick Hoyt graduated from high school and college, and Team Hoyt has inspired people all over the world, Dick Hoyt said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Delvis Dutton’s campaign for Congress from the 12th District, currently held by Democratic incumbent John Barrow, wins special mention for this beautiful photo tweeted from the campaign trail yesterday.

My normal guidelines for good campaign photos from the trail include including people, as that’s the number one correlate to re-tweeting, but a close second is that the candidate’s name should appear, usually in the form of a bumper sticker, t-shirt on a volunteer, or yardsign in the frame.

But the beautiful saturated colors, the prominent yardsign, and the local color from South Georgia make this a sure winner. Bonus points are awarded for the farm equipment being Case IH. My grandfather spent his entire career with International Harvester and when my father was young, he was made to avert his eyes when they saw other manufacturers’ blue or green equipment in the fields.

As of yesterday, it is now Vidalia onion packing season under Georgia state agriculture regulations. The state regulation is not without its challenges, as Georgia onion farmers have sued the state Commissioner of Agriculture over the rules.

The judge denied a request by farmer Delbert Bland to stop the commissioner from enforcing a new rule prohibiting Vidalia onions from being packed for shipping before April 21. The rule was struck down last month, but Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black says it’s still in effect while state attorneys file an appeal.

Vidalia onions are a sweet variety of onion that is a source of local pride and $150 million a year in sales. Only certified onions grown in a specific 20-county area of Georgia can use the name Vidalia.

Here is a list of places you can buy Vidalia onions, though I’m sure they’ll be in supermarkets everywhere soon. Although I’m pretty sure they’re even sweeter when bought from a roadside stand or directly from a farmer. If you’re in Gwinnett County, I highly suggest getting a big sack of Vidalia onions from the Lawrenceville Lions Club in their annual fundraiser.

The 2014 Vidalia Onion Festival opens Thursday and runs through Sunday.

And if you need recipes for your Vidalia onions, here are a couple ideas, from, of all places, The New York Times.

Cut a cone from the top of a whole, peeled onion and fill the little cavity with butter. Add some salt and pepper, wrap it in foil and roast it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. People get fancy and tuck in a bouillon cube or add a few drops of Worcestershire to create something that tastes like a distant cousin to French onion soup. Others wrap a couple of pieces of bacon around the buttered onion and cook it on a grill, a twist that developed a fan base after the country singer Trisha Yearwood put it in a cookbook in 2008.

Columbus held a Mayoral debate last night between Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and challenger Colin Martin. You can click here to watch online. It was televised! What a novel idea, televising a debate! Alternatively, you can check out Senator Josh McKoon’s play-by-play on Facebook or on Twitter.

The Walter Jones effect

Walter Jones, writing for Morris News, suggested that a high number of undecided voters in current polling might suggest lower turnout in the 2014 Primary Election on May 20th.

Morris News and Fox5 of Atlanta released a poll Thursday conducted by InsiderAdvantage on April 13-15.

The poll’s relatively high number of undecided voters 10 days before the start of early voting — 33 percent — reflects low voter intensity. If there were a populist revolt brewing, people would have already fallen in line behind the candidate leading it.

The high undecided figure in the governor’s race, 28 percent, also shows little interest in overthrowing the establishment incumbent Deal, who commands 61 percent in the survey.

The undecided numbers from the two races combine to burst another early prediction about turnout. When a federal judge ordered the primary moved earlier in the year to allow time for overseas military ballots to be counted in runoffs, most political operatives expected a May election date would result in greater turnout than the traditional July date when school holidays left many voters on vacation.

If one of the two races had a much lower undecided rate than now, it would mean voters would show up for that race and then make a last-minute decision on the other one, which usually benefits an outsider. With high undecided numbers in both, the folks who are noncommittal usually just stay home, leaving the decision to the older, establishment diehards.

The first question is whether 33 percent undecided in the Senate race and 28 percent undecided in the Governor’s race represents a higher than usual number of undecided voters.

Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage (where I work occasionally writing for the website, but have nothing to do with the polling) told WABE that IA polls typically have a higher undecided rate than other pollsters.

Luckily, the closest historical comparison is another InsiderAdvantage poll, from the 2010 Governor’s race conducted July 1, about three weeks out. The current IA poll is four weeks out, but it’s a pretty good comparison.

In July 2010, during a heavily contested race for Governor on the Republican Primary, IA showed 34% of poll respondents undecided on that race. So the closest apples-to-apples comparison we have show a 2010 multi-candidate GOP Primary statewide with a one-point higher undecided than this year’s poll by the same pollster. And while IA was clearly an outlier at that time, with a higher undecided than most other contemporary polls, that probably shows a “house effect” related to the polling firm more than anything. But we can’t conclude on the basis of this poll that the undecided is higher this year.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at comparing other polls to see if this holds true.

Eleventh District Poll released

While we’re discussing polling, here’s another video shot with Tharon Johnson and Eric Tanenblatt. I hope this will become a regular feature. In this short video, the two national-level stragegists talk about what they first thing they look at in a new poll is. It may surprise you.

Yesterday, Landmark Communications and RosettaStone Communications released a joint poll in the 11th District Republican Primary election. The firms released the following numbers:

Loudermilk ……25%
Barr ……………..23%
Pridemore …….11%
Lindsey …………8%

It’s worth noting that about three weeks ago, we were treated to the same-day release of two different sets of purported polling numbers in this same race.

Here’s what I wrote in the March 27th Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections morning email:

First in my mailbox was an email breathlessly announcing, “Poll Shows Loudermilk Tied for Lead in CD-11”. In a 600 sample survey fielded March 20-24, the ballot question in the Loudermilk poll looked like this:

Loudermilk   12.3
Lindsey  2.7
Barr  12.2
Pridemore 3.7
Mrozinski .3
Levene .3
Unsure 65.5
Refused 3

Fast forward a couple of hours and another email containing poll results landed in my inbox, this time from Ed Lindsey. The subject line read “Poll: Ed Lindsey Leap Frogs Competition, Momentum Building” and the poll was conducted March 10-11.

Undecided 41
Barr 25
Lindsey 15
Loudermilk 13
Pridemore 4
Other 2

Clearly it is impossible to believe both polls. Further, I would say that I find it hard to believe that more than 65% of the electorate is undecided for the May 20 Primary. What is clear from both polls, is that Bob Barr is almost certainly headed into a runoff. The other name on the runoff ballot, coincidentally, is the name of the candidate who sponsored the poll. More than that I cannot say.

Two things are clear to me: first, neither of the March polls is consistent with the one released today. I cannot believe that the Undecided vote went from 65.5 (Loudermilk poll) to 33 or less in three weeks in the absence of serious spending by any of the campaigns. To my knowledge, no one in the 11th District is up on television. Going from 41 (Lindsey poll) to 33 is possible but I doubt the Lindsey numbers in the candidate’s own poll.

Second, I’d say that I think the current Landmark/RosettaStone polls paints the same picture as the others: Bob Barr is clearly one of the top two candidates, in fact, the only one to show in first or second in every publicly released poll.

Mark Rountree, one of the pollsters and for eight years my boss, was kind enough to email me the crosstabs, reproduced below:

Cong 11 Poll Crosstabs

Two things I would note, both of them in the County crosstabs, the second table.

First is that the number of respondents for both Bartow and Fulton Counties are low, in accordance with their relative proportion in the district. But a county sample size of 64 in Bartow means a +/- 12 point margin of error when you’re looking only at that county’s numbers. Thirty-six respondents in Fulton gives you a +/- 16 point margin of error when looking only at Fulton County.

In any case, I find it difficult to believe that Barry Loudermilk is taking 58% in Bartow County, which would mean he is outperforming Governor Nathan Deal.

Secondly, I would mention that Mark told me that they weighted by County, and that could mean that the actual number of respondents in Bartow or Fulton could be even lower, though I don’t know that for a fact.

I don’t raise these criticisms specifically toward this poll or the polling firms that produced it, but to illustrate one issue that arises in polling – when you break the sample into smaller segments, the margin of error in any group less than the entire sample is higher, sometimes, when you have a particularly low sample size – such as 64 respondents in Bartow County and 36 in Fulton, weighting can magnify the already sizable sampling error.

So, in the end, my take on this poll is that it’s fundamentally sound, and I think it accurately represents the big picture, though when you get into details, especially crosstabs, the small number of some segments raises the error rate to the point where I would say that the county-specific numbers for Bartow and Fulton are meaningless. Again, this is no reflection on the pollsters, but on the realities of sample size and margin of error.

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