Fannin County Recap: Handel Gets Bragging Rights On Deal’s Turf, PSC Candidates Join The Fray, And Tom Graves Gets Significant Boost From Steve Tarvin’s Neutrality

So after meeting up with some friends yesterday in Northern Alabama, I decided to plan a route that made McCaysville in Fannin County on the way home. It took some creative thinking to justify that as a direct route, but I wanted to stop by the Fannin County GOP picnic to see how things were going in the 9th Congressional District after last Tuesday’s special election, and in the midst of a Congressional runoff.

There was a straw poll conducted, with ballots due by 12:30. Some speakers went after the ballot deadline, and I can’t imagine that helped their cause. I especially enjoyed hearing Darwin Carter speak, and now that I have, I’ll never confuse him with his namesake Jimmy. John Douglas also spoke after the ballots were due. There were others, but those are the two I remember.

The only potential surprise from the straw poll balloting was that Karen Handel took top honors from Nathan Deal in his home district, with both being present. In talking to some of the locals in attendance, I remain of the opinion that many will continue to support Deal because he is their local candidate, but also expect him to be in full time retirement soon. I’ll also note that a couple of the event organizers were clearly expecting John Oxendine to attend. He did not. I’m sure he felt he had somewhere more important to tweet from today.

It was also my first time seeing new candidates on the trail for campaigns that did not exist before qualifying week. As mentioned above, John Douglas was in attendance as was Jeff May. Both are running for the seat vacated by the surprise retirement of PSC member Bobby Baker. I’ve known Senator Douglas for a while, and met Rep May for the first time today. One of them will earn my vote over competitors Tim Echols (R-SupportsWhoeverWillPayMoneyForAnArmyOfHomeschoolers) and former Senator Joey Brush (R-Can’tSeeHisNameWithoutThinkingOfLindaShrinko).

As for the straw poll itself, we all know and understand around here that they are a political Rorschach test. Anyone can see virtually anything they want in them. While some can use the results to read tea leaves, I believe there was a real nugget that came from today’s event that will explain how events will occur in the 9th CD over the next few weeks.

Lee Hawkins spoke and left before I arrived, which was approximately half way through the event. I got to hear Tom Graves speak, and was again reminded why I fully support his candidacy. A few speakers later, Steve Tarvin, the man who came in third overall and won more counties than Lee Hawkins, had a chance to address the crowd. He divided his speech into two parts, and they were both worthwhile.

He started with a preface, about the campaign itself and his position after the special election. Given that the election to complete former Representative Deal’s unexpired term is just a month before the July Primary, he is in the unique position of potentially swaying the runoff to one person, then having to try and beat them in another primary one month later. He made it clear he is still running for Congress, and, as such, he will not endorse either candidate in the runoff. Nor will he drop out or cease campaigning for July. He noted that he had been talking with Tom and smiling just before his speech, but that didn’t mean he was endorsing him…but then also went on to say good things about Graves. He ended the first part by stating that whatever happened, he would be fully supportive of the nominee, him or another, after the July primary.

I take him at his word, and do not believe he was giving a wink-wink, nod-nod endorsement to Graves. He is a man that has a known independent streak, and does not shy away from uphill battles. That said, in the rules of runoff campaigns, his friendliness and kind words toward Graves speak volumes. For Hawkins, a distant number two candidate, to overtake front running Graves, he needs to not only improve his turnout on his home turf of Hall, but he would have to convert significant numbers of Tarvin voters to become Hawkins voters. Tarvin’s comments assured that he will not assist to make that happen. In a race that started with Graves at a geographic disadvantage, it is Hawkins who now seems to be playing on the smallest piece of real estate. Graves took Forsyth County away from what Hawkins believed to be his, and now should be positioned to convert Tarvin’s voters on the North/West side of the district to supporting the like-minded Graves.

I’ll add a few words about the second part of Tarvin’s speech as well. It was the part that was about him. I first heard Tarvin speak at a Walker County GOP dinner several months ago, and he is an impressive candidate and an impressive man. A self-made entrepreneur, Tarvin co-owns and operates a large textile business in NW Georgia. He emphasizes that he’s made a $4 Million payroll, he’s paid millions in utility bills and taxes, and he understands how to put people to work and keep them working. He is the kind of person we need in government.

I remain committed to seeing Tom Graves become a Congressman, because I believe he is also the kind of person we need in government. But I hope Tarvin will have another day. New maps will be drawn between now and 2012. There may be an open state House or Senate Seat, or one that may deserve a primary challenge. Possibly, an open Congressional seat could occur if the maps are drawn in the usual custom by Ouiji Board. He is qualified and worthy for any of the above, and I hope that if he is not successful this July, he will keep an open eye toward his options in two years.


  1. Icarus says:

    I’ve had some communication with Steve Tarvin this evening both on my facebook wall and direct message. After such, some clarification of the above may be in order:

    1) As I’ve stated above, Mr. Tarvin is neutral in the runoff, and is still very much campaigning for the July 20th Primary.

    2) He is not playing favorites between Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins

    3) My view that #2 above is an advantage for Graves is based on a number of factors. Graves was significantly ahead of Hawkins in all but Hall County. Every county that Graves did not win, he came in second.

    For the distant #2 candidate to overtake the leading candidate, there usually has to be some galvanizing factor to have everyone rally against the first candidate. Something like an overpaid consultant saying “We’re coming to Athens and bringing hell with us” as he boards a plane to Tennessee leaving his candidate and campaign behind.

    I see no evidence that there is any catalyst to galvanize the voters of CD-9 either behind Hawkins or against Graves.

    In the absence of that, geography and in my opinion, philosophy of the voters up for grabs align more closely with Tom Graves.

    For that reason, I belive Tarvin staying neutral and focusing on July 20th is a huge boost to the chances of Graves winning the runoff.

  2. DoubleDawg3 says:

    I actually think Graves should be glad that Hawkins was in the run off, rather than Tarvin. If Tarvin were in the runoff (now, or in July), I can imagine that the vast majority of the Hawkins voters will go to Tarvin over Graves (the same would be true of Graves supporters over Hawkins).

    Tarvin’s in a good position heading into July…if Chris Cates were not in the race, I have little doubt that Tarvin would do even better than he did (b/c they’re splitting the “non-politician” vote). If Tarvin manages to get into the July runoff, I think he wins.

    So, I don’t blame him for staying neutral.

    As it is now, I agree with your analysis – Tarvin staying neutral favors Graves in a heads up against Hawkins – most of the NW GA pocket that was strong for Tarvin will likely go for Graves (given the strong support he has from so many other elected officials and their bases…Mullis aside).

    The Loftman votes in Pickens should go more for Tom as well, but that’s not a huge addition.

  3. bowersville says:

    First, I do not know Graves, Hawkins nor Tarvin (alphabetical order) other than by what I read.

    There has been an awful lot of mud slung both ways. For the purpose of argument it doesn’t matter where the truth lies, it’s still mud, it has been deep and it stunk to high heaven. Even after the special election was called, it continued. Consultants calling out consultants. Commenters calling out one another. Commenters outing contributors and supporters by NAME. There has to be some awful hard feelings beyond the normal feelings associated with an election loss and there will be some fired up sore losers. Kind of like the Cleland deal that’s never gone away. In this case it may very well boil down to the enemy of my enemy is my friend if Hawkins loses. If I were in the Hawkins camp and Hawkin’s lost I would be beating on Tarvin’s front door soon after the run-off…very soon as in 9 minutes ’til nine run-off night and the July primary is too close for people to forget or forgive.

    No wonder Tarvin is smiling. The Club for Growth can’t exactly beat him up. If Tarvin has the financial abilty and inherits enough grass roots volunteers to get his message out district wide, he could very well take this thing in July.

    The “hell’s coming to Athens” contributed to Broun recieving enough votes to win, but I think it’s a mistake to believe that’s the “why” of Broun winning. Whitehead was percieved to be hanging out in Columbia County supposedly believing Columbia totals would carry him. Broun was every where. Sometimes it seemed like he was in two places at once and never missed any opportunity to spread his message. And of course the Club for Growth endorsed Paul Broun.

    • Lady Thinker says:

      Well said Bowersville. With the mudslinging, the CD-9 issues have been lost.

      What does each candidate bring to the table, how do they perceive the issues, and what plan are they developing to resolve or address the issues? You know, education, energy, immigration, jobs, Obamacare, transportation, water rights, the things that are affecting us on a daily basis?

      Does anyone know where the CD-9 candidates stand on these problems?

  4. Nathan says:

    Tom and Steve are very much alike in terms of ideology. Both are fine men and would well represent the citizens of the 9th District in Washington. I will say this about Lee, if he wants to append the prefix “Congressman” to his name, he needs to venture out beyond Hall County and the eastern side of the district. Steve placed very well and could certainly be a contender in the July 20th primary. What I’m seeing though is a lining up of the “establishment/status quo GOP” and the “grassroots GOP”. It seems to me like that a lot of Evans’ support (along with the money) went to Hawkins. Both Graves and Tarvin are looking to the grassroots of the district. For what it’s worth, I believe the grassroots are larger in number than the establishment. Yes, Hawkins does have the bank roll behind him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll win. If he had the grassroots behind him in addition to his current support, he would have won the election on Tuesday and would be swearing in as our newest congressman.

    Tuesday’s results pretty much landed where I expected, but I’m uncertain about the July 20th primary. If Steve shores up his support by taking some of Bill Stephens’ and Bert Loftman’s supporters (let’s say an aggregate of about 3-4%) and if Hawkins gets beat down far enough during the special election run-off to lose a few percentage points of support (let’s say 4-6%), we could easily see a Graves v. Tarvin primary run-off. That would make for an interesting race and see how the losing candidates align their support…if at all! I told y’all we’re always interesting up here in the 9th Congressional District. 😉

    Back to my tea leaves… If I were to name a dark horse candidate in the 9th District, I would say that it would be Steve Tarvin.

  5. Brave New World says:

    Three Words: IN THE BAG

    Expect Graves to win at least 65% to 35% in a couple weeks,
    And then expect a Congressman Graves imminently district wide
    Through July 20, showing up at every single GOP breakfast etc.,
    Telling war stories as a “freedom fighter in Washington.”

    Over in the 10th District,
    Fleming could have won the special election instead of Whitehead,
    But Barry had no courage to stay in the race.

    Once Broun was wearing the badge well for a year,
    And spending $800,000 of franking on the district,
    Fleming lost 70% to 30%.

    Once Graves wins June 8, its in the bag.

    • DMZDave says:

      I like Tom Graves and have contributed financially to his campaign but it certainly is a “brave new world” when someone who hasn’t spent a day in combat is referred to as a “freedom fighter” at a time in which there are no kidding American soldier freedom fighters on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while I’m sure Tom will soon have stories to tell from Washington, they most certainly won’t be “war stories.” To true conservatives, words matter. Enough of this political “new speak.”

      • AlanR says:

        You are right. Well said. Poor choice of words for Graves.

        I also wonder how the economic issues/jobs rhetoric will play out. I’m so tired of candidates talking about how they’ll help create jobs, as though the government really ever creates anything. Graves has good legislative credentials on these issues, but Tarvin has actually had to make a payroll, pay the utility bills and put up with state and federal inspectors.

        It should be interesting and well worth our time and attention. I hope the consultants don’t muck it up.

  6. seekingtounderstand says:

    IF you look at Hawkins support as shown in the Gainesville Times news report mapping votes, there where one or two areas of high support, he does not have support in the rest of the county. Those two areas where probably his church and the local real estate and government workers.
    Hall County doesn’t know Graves and he didn’t campaign here enough. I wanted Tarvin or Cates but went with Graves to keep out Hawkins and I didn’t think Tarvin or Cates had a chance. Both would have been good guys to send to congress.

  7. Straight Talking Jim says:

    I’m very much torn between Bobby Reese and Steve Tarvin in the July 20 Primaries. I voted Bill Stephens on May 11 and I intend to vote for Lee Hawkins on June 8 because Graves is just an earmarker disguising himself as a budget-cutting Conservative. Who is better, Reese or Tarvin, and why?

  8. chefdavid says:

    Now Icarus hoping for a second chance for Tarvin has my vote also. I am a strong supporter of Tom Graves. I only wished Tarvin would have dropped to run at the state level. As far as lines being redrawn and hopes for a second chance. We must remember this is what Maglev Mullis hopes for. If someone wins from the east side of the district Maglev won’t have to run against a sitting congressman and could run with an endorsement from one. This is why he has been quietly supporting Hawkins as this has been pointed out by others on here many times. If Hawkins didn’t take any of the 53rd district with all of Maglev Mullis’s quiet endorsements what does that say?

  9. forthepeople says:

    Tell us your thoughts on John Douglas and Darwin Carter. You said you heard them speak and I’m interested in what you said about Carter “I especially enjoyed hearing Darwin Carter speak, and now that I have, I’ll never confuse him with his namesake Jimmy. ” Don’t just give us crumbs we want meat!

    • polisavvy says:

      forthepeople, John Douglas was our senator (prior to that he was on our Board of Education). I’m not a fan of his. I have never voted for him and do not plan to vote for him. A lot of people in our area feel the same. I question what qualifications, if any, he has for the PSC.

  10. Big Mack says:

    Most of you are not old enough to remember that Darwin Carter registered in Massachusetts and ran against Ted Kennedy for the U. S. Senate many years ago. He has huge huevos but not enough gray matter to be Commissioner of Agriculture.

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