The Importance Of The Undercard

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The vast majority of airtime and newsprint dedicated to the 2014 election has been dedicated to the race for Governor and U.S. Senate. Ironically, these races that have received the most attention are also the most likely to go beyond next Tuesday and give us negative ads and direct mail into and possibly through the holidays. Yea us.

Looking a bit further down the ballot, however, may well give us a clue as to what the near future of Georgia elections will be like. Casey Cagle is the clear front runner for re-election to Lt. Governor. A recent 11Alive Survey USA poll showed Cagle 7 points ahead of challenger Connie Stokes – the strongest lead of any statewide candidate polled.

Cagle will become the de facto front-runner for the Georgia GOP nomination for Governor regardless how the current Governor’s race ends up. Governor Deal is of course term limited. In the event there is a Governor Carter, it will be Cagle along with House Speaker David Ralston that will be the face of Republican rule.

The future of David Ralston was largely decided by a May 20th primary. Not only did he win re-lection by the voters of his home district, but his team faced down primary challenges across the board. Cagle, however, currently runs statewide. And presumably, will be again in four years, though likely for a different position. As such, the tea leaves from this election will likely tell us a lot about the GOP agenda from the Senate will look in the immediate future – as well as a potential body of work to be presented in four years.

Cagle used the weekend GPTV/Atlanta Press Club debate to articulate a need to better match education with skills needed by employers. Specifically, he hopes to expand workforce development efforts among high schools and technical colleges to train workers for skills that Georgia employers currently have difficulty hiring employees.

Saying that “education drives the economy” Cagle noted that Georgia currently has 29 College & Career academies that blend high schools and technical colleges to provide skills matched to local employers. He went on to say graduates of these programs make twice the amount of money than with a regular diploma.

It remains a hallmark of GOP responses to education questions that goes beyond additional tax dollars. Republicans are willing to talk about specific changes and programs such as career academies and charter schools while their opposition seems content to say fully funded schools must come first. This despite the fact that no Governor has “fully funded” QBE since its inception, nor the fact that Governor Deal’s last budget puts education at the highest percentage of the state budget in 50 years.

Connie Stokes, meanwhile, seems to be representing the Democratic party of Georgia’s future. While most Democrats currently seem willing to allow Jason Carter to vote for a “guns everywhere” bill and Michelle Nunn to run commercials featuring George H. W. Bush, there is anticipation of a day when a Georgia Democrat no longer has to quickly plan a fishing trip when a Democratic president comes to visit. Stokes seems much closer aligned to the national party platform than those in the top ticket races.

Stokes favors traditional Democratic initiatives such as an increase in the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion. She also took issue with tax cuts used to lure businesses here to add jobs, saying there’s no accountability. She keeps the party line of “invest in education” without specifics offered in the debate beyond hiring more teachers. And of course, she wants full funding.

Where there is perhaps less philosophical disagreement is also an area where it appears there may be movement in the next General Assembly: Transportation. Cagle called it “a huge issue” noting the continued decline of the motor fuels tax. Telegraphing what will be heavily debated beginning in January, Cagle said “We have to look to alternative funding. … It does need to be big and it needs to be bold.”

And that, perhaps, may be a line that shows how the next four years could be the most different than the last four from a GOP controlled legislature. “Big” and “bold” have not often been used with expensive programs, much less revenue streams. And yet, there’s the reality that Georgia is a large and rapidly growing state which has underfunded transportation infrastructure for decades.

That growth will be part of the ongoing “changing demographics” story we’ll be hearing a lot between now and the 2018 election. “Big and bold” may not be a message tailored to the 2014 Georgia electorate. But it may be the first salvo in what will be needed to win statewide in 2018.


  1. blakeage80 says:

    So the only question is, will they cut other areas to fund our transportation needs, or will they simply ‘expand the revenue stream’? A real win for the GOP would be finding a way to accommodate population growth without stalling personal economic growth with higher taxes. Can they be that bold and creative?

      • TheEiger says:

        Or we can do what our current Governor has done and take down a toll which was a dedicated revenue stream for future improvements to the 400 corridor. That was just dumb.

        • John Konop says:

          I was one of the few who spoke up at the time….It is tough to stand up to the something for nothing crowd….problem with both parties ie Medicare Part D, Social Security, No Child Left Behind,ObamaCare…….BS sells….kick the can worry about the bill latter….and blame the last guy…..Tough love is not what most want to hear….

          • Noway says:

            “Tough love is not what most want to hear…” Bingo, John! And not only that, talking tough love as a politician will get you thrown out on your a$$…no chance, zero, nada. If you ain’t Santa, you ain’t gonna get elected! “Get a motorized scooter with little or no cost to you..” “Nathan Deal…lining his pockets and not ours…” Go ahead, name your own clip….Disgusting…

        • blakeage80 says:

          I’m pretty sure the toll there was to pay the bond debt. Since the prepayment of the debt couldn’t happen before 2011, the state put the extra money to good transportation oriented use. If we need to institute a toll some highways/roads in order to move forward with meeting our transportation needs, then let’s have that discussion. The governor was right to make good on the promise of the 400 toll being temporary.

          • TheEiger says:

            The toll could have continued on and paid for future improvements on the 400 corridor. Like the big 285/400 improvement and the money we are spending on that could have been used in other places.

            • Will Durant says:

              Then Governor Deal should not have stood beside the toll booths with his sign. Though Perdue should not have reneged on the original deal to the taxpayers either.

              • John Konop says:

                In my opinion, if the unemployment rate was a point lower….I am sure the Governor Deal would of preferred the hit on the toll not being taking away…..And it could of been used for much need infrastructure which would of helped our local economy as well as job numbers…Nothing stimulate like improved infrastructure…..

            • blakeage80 says:

              See John Konop’s link below and read TLD’s comments in that exchange. That will tell you why your option wasn’t going to happen. It would have been wrong to pick on the folks in N. Fulton by having them continue to pay a toll that we were all promised was temporary. If Gov. Deal hadn’t done this, the lack of trust would have been a major roadblock (aren’t I clever) when it came to funding future transportation initiatives.

              • TheEiger says:

                I live in North Fulton. My wife drives through the old toll booth twice a day, but thanks for telling me what I want. I appreciate that.

              • John Konop says:

                It is all about jobs, jobs, jobs….did I mention jobs? Bill Clinton king dirt bag in private life….polls liked him via jobs, jobs…..The old saying it is the economy stupid….

              • NoTeabagging says:

                Blake, I seem to recall some ire over the perceived delay of ending the GA 400 toll. Other mistrust occurred from small items such as “support Wildlife” and other vanity tag fees not going to the designated cause but absorbed into the general fund. (That was remedied in a recent bill, correct?) Some of this mistrust helped to kill TSPLOST initiatives, although as pointed out in recent discussion there were bigger issues that caused that failure.

                Using tolls and creating new tolls is appropriated. I would support that, especially to fund maintenance and repairs. But the money has to go to the designated purpose and expire, if promised.

        • John Konop says:


          Comments I made at the time on the PP….

          John Konop July 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm
          Do you know how this will affect the budget?

          With a strong revenue model like the toll, they could easily borrow money and invest into rail transportation. This would have given North Fulton and Fulton a major economic stimulus ie jobs, jobs, jobs while helping the traffic problem. I think they are being short sided by not reinvesting the money into infrastructure in my opinion.

    • Jon Lester says:

      I’d much prefer something like the HOV/PeachPass lanes, that people can freely buy into for their own convenience, to another regressive state fuel tax increase that would further burden those with lower incomes. Republicans would do well to look at things from that angle.

      • John Konop says:

        Hard to leverage something without guaranteed revenue model….Need revenue for bonds….no bonds, not enough cash for project…..To much something for nothing math on both sides….

      • Will Durant says:

        First, the projects building new lanes are not HOV lanes. HOV vehicles pay the same tolls on both of the I75 projects.

        Second, why is it more regressive to have the state motor fuel tax actually keep pace with inflation as opposed to using the biggest chunk of its proceeds in the history of the state to build a project that will never even come close to paying for itself in tolls?

  2. Will Durant says:

    Cagle did indeed project very well last night and I have some hope that a Republican in higher office in Georgia may be willing to face up to hard realities.

    Why no mention of the rest of the “undercard”? Hudgens, Woods, and Kemp and their opponents on a fight card would inspire me to arrive even later than the front row celebs.

  3. South Fulton Guy says:

    RE: “Cagle will become the de facto front-runner for the Georgia GOP nomination for Governor regardless how the current Governor’s race ends up.”

    Does the PP crowd think Secretary of State Brian Kemp is a viable candidate to run against Casey Cagle in the 2018 gubernatorial primary?

      • Trey A. says:


        Did we ever really get the scoop on that “back injury” that made Casey withdraw in 2010? We can only hope the 2018 gubernatorial primary season is as entertaining as 2010 was… This year’s Senate primaries weren’t nearly as fun.

        • Will Durant says:

          Here’s your bar of Lifebuoy, open wide.

          To answer SFG’s question, NO, though probably as much a hope as an evaluation of what Georgia voters have sometimes found viable.

    • Ellynn says:

      If how Kemp runs his current offices’ budget and the SOS webpage is any indication of how he would run the state, he has NO chance.

  4. NoTeabagging says:

    If Cagle is leading, doesn’t it make sense that Deal would benefit in getting more votes? I personally do not think many Georgia (lemming) voters would split party on the Governor/ Lt. Gov. choice if they have strong feelings for one.
    Are there enough Carter supporters willing to vote for Cagle because they do not like Connie Stokes?

    • John Konop says:

      His education message I would bet helps with soccer moms and minorities…..I am sure our resident expert Mark from Landmark knows the breakdown…..If Deal and Perdue had used the Cagle strategy they would have better numbers….Cagle by far has the best feel of the state via the mood of voters than any other statewide GOP candidate. I hope after this election cycle the GOP will realize Casey Cagel tone and message is the future for the party ….if not it will be a tough election cycles in the future….the demographic changes alone will be a mountain in the future for the GOP…You better listen to the expert Casey Cagle…..

      • NoTeabagging says:

        I would further endorse Cagle’s “feel good” approach to campaign ads. ALL future candidates should take note. People really are turned off by the constant negativity and obvious lies foisted on them every other year. Once elected, they continue obstructing each other and never get anything done.Why vote? Enough is enough.

        • Will Durant says:

          Is this approach due to his comfortable lead or the fact that the ads are not being produced by a “non-profit’ organ that theoretically cannot support a political candidate, but can oppose anything and everything?

          And yes, this is coming from a guy who was urging the Perdue campaign to take the positive route months ago. With the state still comfortably red this cycle I still think his campaign could have followed the lowly LT’s strategy here and been more successful. I would submit that the NRSC advertising in particular has harmed his campaign more than it has helped. Also that “Ending Spending” is the most ironic name for a Super PAC out there.

      • gcp says:

        Its easy to use positive ads when you have no serious opponents. Compare Cagle and Ralph Huggens opponents to Deal and Purdue opponents. Also Cagle is just another Lt. Gov. using the Lt. Gov. Office for its main purpose which is to run for governor. (See Zig Zag Zell, Mark Taylor, Pierre Howard)

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    Wasn’t GOP Senate leadership responsible for transportation legislation that went no where, with legislation the next session producing the ignominious (a wee bit exaggeration there perhaps) TIA/T-SPLOST?

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    The Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, Georgia Independent Expenditure PAC, is targeting African-American voters with flyers for Deal and Cagle. Two here in three days. It will be interesting to know how a tightly focused old school approach fares relative to what the Dems are doing.

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