By Mark Rountree

Mark Rountree is President and CEO of Landmark Communications, Inc, a strategic planning and political consulting firm founded in 1991 and based in Metro Atlanta, GA. Since its inception the firm has professionally engaged in more than 1000 different primary or general elections at all levels of government.

Mark is also a Partner in the social media communication firm, Newsblasters, LLC. The firm specializes in communication, public relations and fundraising for political, governmental and non-profit organizations.

Mark is a graduate of the Henry Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia.

Special Election Mania

Four notable special elections are taking place today in different corners of the state. Polls close at 7.

SENATE 21 (Fulton and Cherokee)

Brandon Beach and Sean Jerguson are contesting Chip “Will-the-Winner” Rogers’ former Senate seat. Both candidates have relied on a geographic base of support. Beach’s home county of Fulton makes up less than 25% of voters in the district, though he has done a pretty good job of earning endorsements in the Cherokee area. Jerguson should be helped by the fact that he had to vacate his House seat, thus driving up turnout in his home area.

Beach has been blasting Jerguson for voting to put the TSplost on the ballot. The TSplost seems to have become the zombie that opposing political consultants continue to resurrect.

HOUSE SEAT 21 (Cherokee County)

House 21 is the seat vacated by Jerguson. On the ballot are three Republicans: yard sign magnate Brian Laurens, former anti-Jerguson candidate Scot Turner, and Kenneth Mimbs. Democrat punchline Nathalie Bergeron is making sure no Republican is safe by running from the Left.

SENATE DISTRICT 11 (Southwest Georgia)

State Senator John Bulloch resigned his seat to focus on his health. He was a great leader for Southwest Georgia.

Republicans Marshall Berman, Dr. Dean Burke, Brad Hughes, Mike Keown and Eugene McNease are contesting the election. Libertarian Jeffery Bivins is in the mix, Democrat Lisa Collins somewhat oddly dropped out days after qualifying ended.

SENATE DISTRICT 30 (Carroll, Douglas and Paulding Counties)

Senator-elect will be the title bestowed upon Republican Mike Dugan tonight. He earned the Republican nomination over former Rep. Bill Hembree (and former Speaker Glenn Richardson) by relying on a strong base of support in Carroll County. Dugan is facing Libertarian James Camp in the election today.  No Democrat is running.

Investigators raid DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’ Home

Police have executed search warrants this morning at the home and office of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis. The search warrant may (may) be related to an ongoing investigation of DeKalb’s watershed operations projects.

DeKalb has a $1.3 Billion capital improvement program to upgrade its watershed operations. There was significant criticism of Ellis by opponents during last year’s Democratic primary regarding Ellis’ acceptance of large campaign contributions from vendors related to this massive project.

The AJC article mentions that District Attorney, Robert James, is investigating claims of bid rigging and kickbacks.

Congressman strikes again, calls American workers “Midgets”

Quickly approaching “LOL status” on McKinney-esque levels, Congressman Hank Johnson Wednesday actually called American workers “Midgets” — and their employers “Giants”. points out the obvious that, “many consider this (calling people “Midgets”) a slur.”

Said Johnson about the “Giants’, “They need those Midgets, they need the Midgets out there. They need the workers to actually produce the goods or service that is traded in return for the money, which strengthens the Giants.” (But apparently in Johnson’s view, those services traded in return for money presumably don’t strengthen … the “Midgets”).

Careful. Guam’s tipping™ again.

Mike Dugan Defeats Bill Hembree in Senate District 30

Carroll County resident Mike Dugan defeated former Rep. Bill Hembree 56-44% in the Senate District 30 Special Election Primary Runoff tonight.

Dugan was significantly outspent in this contest. His home county, Carroll, went for him by a margin of about 3,000 to 1,000. Hembree carried the other two counties of Douglas and Paulding but turnout was extremely light in those.

Congratulations to Mike Dugan.  However, Dugan will still face a Libertarian in the upcoming Special General Election for the seat. No Democrat filed for the seat.

World’s Oldest Person, a Strong-Hearted Georgian, Passed Away Today. She was 116.

The Associated Press is reporting that Walton County, Georgia resident Besse Cooper died this afternoon. She had been ill over the weekend and died today in Monroe, GA.

Georgia’s own lady was the oldest recorded living person in the world according to the Guinness World Book of Records.

Ms. Cooper shared the following advice earlier this year as her secret to living 116 years:  “I mind my own business, and I don’t eat junk food.”

Clearly, most of us on Peach Pundit don’t follow either of these sage pieces of advice. But we appreciated her wisdom, nonetheless.

For perspective, she moved to Georgia (Monroe, in Walton County) during World War 1. She was born August 26, 1896. Grover Cleveland was President of the United States of America. There were 45 States of America: Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii joined later.

RIP Besse Cooper.

643,193 Voters on TSplost Day, July 31. Who Were They?

There were 643,193 voters who voted in the July 31 primaries in the 10 Metro Atlanta Counties — aka the “Atlanta T-Splost Region.”  Here’s a quick review of the demographic and political composition of the voters that day.


50.6% of voters voted in the Republican Primary

43.9% of voters voted in the Democratic Primary

5.6% voters voted a Non-Partisan ballot


63.2% of voters were white

29.3% of voters were black

Among White Voters

73.6% of white voters voted in the Republican Primary

20% of white voters voted in the Democratic Primary

Among Black Voters

3% of black votes voted in the Republican Primary

94.2% voted in the Democratic Primary


New Polling Results on Presidential Race and Charter Schools

Our firm released a joint poll today of the Presidential race and Charter Schools Amendment. We (Landmark Communications) conducted the poll jointly with Rosetta Stone Communications last evening for Channel 2 News in Atlanta.

I really find the results of the Charter Schools Amendment particularly interesting.

First the disclaimers and background: 500 likely voters were interviewed last evening, Thursday, October 25, and participated in the entire poll. Black voters made up 31% of the survey, which is about what the turnout percentage will be when all the votes are counted. The margin of error is 4.3%. WSB owns the poll, but we are allowed to release it after they do.

The bottom lines: Romney substantially ahead with a week and a half to go, and while the Amendment leads 47-37%, neither side of the Charter Schools Amendment battle currently carries a majority. The Charter Schools vote will apparently go down to the wire.


1.     Former Gov. Romney leads President Obama in Georgia 53-42%.

2.     Inside the 15-County Metro Atlanta area: Obama leads Romney 50-46%. Outside of the Metro Atlanta area: Romney leads Obama 60-33%.

3.     Romney leads with all age groups and both genders. Men give Romney a 16-point margin, while women give Romney an eight-point margin.

4.     Younger voters aged 18-35 say they support Romney by a 49-42% margin. Voters aged 65 and older give Romney 56% of the vote vs. 37% for President Obama.

5.     Romney is running stronger among black voters than Republicans traditionally perform. 22% of black voters said they support Romney as of Thursday evening, which is more than twice the level of support given to Republican nominee John McCain in 2008.

6.     Self-described “Independent” voters give 58% of their votes to Romney vs. 25% going to President Obama.


1.     The Charter Schools Amendment leads in Georgia but has not yet earned a majority level of support among likely voters. 47% of Georgians say they will vote for the Charter Schools Amendment while 37% say they will vote no on the Amendment.

2.     There is a stark difference in levels of support based on the age of the voter. Younger voters are strongly supportive of the Amendment (57-32% among those aged 18-35), while older voters slightly oppose the Amendment (40-41% in opposition among those over age 64).

3.     There is very little difference in support or opposition based on gender, race or political party. In other words, there is no significant difference based on whether a voter is a Republican or a Democrat, a male or a female, or based on race.

4.     Support is much greater in the 15-County Metro Atlanta area than outside of it. 54% of voters in the Metro Atlanta area support the Amendment while 32% oppose. Outside of Metro Atlanta 42% oppose it while 41% support it.

5.     To keep perspective about the findings of this poll: With a week and a half until the election, neither side has a majority of the vote. Supporters of the Charter Schools Amendment currently have the lead but with 16% of the vote remaining undecided, this vote remains open for either side to win.

Comparing Early Voting Turnout 2008 vs. 2012

Comparing Turnout 2008 vs. 2012

We’re getting frequent requests for research on who is voting early in 2012 vs. those who voted early in 2008. My friend, colleague and data guru Mike Seigle was kind enough to research some comparisons for our Peach Pundit community.

A perfect comparison can’t be made because the laws permitting early voting have changed from 2008. Early voting was held for 45 days in 2008, but in 2012 early voting will only occur for 21 days.

However, percentages of turnout among various demographic groups can be compared.

Below you’ll see the turnout comparisons broken out by racial groups.

The Primary Finding: Essentially there has been a net +3.4% increase in the net number of white voters and nearly a 4% net decrease among black voters from 2008 numbers. Hispanic and Asian early voters in 2012 have voted in similar patterns to 2008.

Among white voters — comparing 2008 vs. 2012 early turnout as of 20 days before Election Day:
With 20 days left in the 2008election, 60.4% of voters were white.
With 20 days left in the 2012election, 63% of voters are white.

Among black voters — comparing 2008 vs. 2012 early turnout as of 20 days before Election Day:
With 20 days left in the 2008election, 34.9% of voters were black.
With 20 days left in the 2012election, 31.1% of voters are black.

Among Asian and Hispanic voters:
The early turnout percentages are essentially unchanged from 2008 to 2012 among both Asian and Hispanic voters (about half a percentage point each).

Who’s Voting So Far — Part Two

132,673 voters in Georgia have requested absentee ballots and 33,340 have actually returned them as votes.

Early voting has not begun as of this posting. Therefore absentee ballots are the primary measure by which we can gauge likely election results.

69% of voters who have requested absentee ballots are white, 24% are black.  Of those 33,450 who have actually returned the ballots and voted, 74% are white and 21% are black.

17,718 of those who have actually returned their ballots have voted in at least one Republican Primary since 2006; 14,285 have voted in at least one Democratic Primary since 2006.

Read more

Presidential Debate Round One. That’s what happens when…

It was a Smackdown.

While staged events rarely are decisive moments in Presidential elections, last night’s debate was the biggest factor in the Presidential election so far.

It was not just big in terms of Romney vs. Obama. It was big in terms of Romney vs. Romney. The various fantasy depictions of him as a leftist, or as an inarticulate bumbler with nice hair, or as a heartless corporatist, as well as many other portrayals were put to bed — at least for now.

Romney gave substance and style. I put myself in the camp of Republicans who were wincing in concern over what could be our latest hapless communicator as a Presidential nominee.  We’ve had the misery of sitting through Bush Sr…Dole (ugh)…GW Bush…then the hapless, visionless John McCain.

Our own Peach Punditeer Erick Erickson had my favorite tweet this morning: “I feel sorry for the Politifact guys today. They must’ve been up all night trying to spin it back for Obama.” Yep.

Bill Maher tweeted, “Obama needs a teleprompter.” I did like that one too, but for different reasons.

President Obama even owned the word “Obamacare,” calling his national health care plan by the derisive term that its opponents have been using for three years. Maybe the press will finally start referring to “Obamacare” by the name now used by both the President and his opponents — as well as virtually every other American.

Just one debate down, 30 days to go.  No single staged event ends up being decisive, and this debate will be old news in ten days.  But last night the world saw a President who came across as unconfident, disconnected, and poorly reasoned. He was the empty chair.

Heck, he was a cartoon of the empty chair.

That’s is the result of spending four years surrounded by a sychophantic press corps which doesn’t challenge you, debate you, and make you better. He was not used to being challenged face to face, and it showed.

Where are the Presidential Debate Viewing Parties and Events?

I posted a request on my Facebook page today asking friends where some of the events or parties are for watching the Presidential Debate on Wednesday night. Reposting some of them below, and I’m sure you’re invited to any of them. It seems that most people are arriving at their various events at 8 PM.

It appears that most of the responses for events came from Metro Atlanta area, but there are lots of them going on around the state, as well, so post some here…

PAULDING COUNTY — Victory Center in Dallas, GA

ATLANTA — Atlanta Young Republicans – Hudson Grille in Midtown 942 Peachtree Street Northeast Atlanta, GA 30309

GWINNETT COUNTY— Flying Machine at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville (many of the Tea Party folks to be there)

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Voting under way: Who’s voting?

First voter stats:

Almost 60,000 Georgians have requested an absentee ballot for the November Presidential election. State records show that a whopping 20 ballots have actually been cast as of yesterday. They’re just coming in now…

(I bet those 20 voters are also the kids who sat on the front row in math class).

Who are the voters who have already requested absentee ballots?  Here’s a couple demographic and behavioral statistics about them:

Read more

Judge issues warrants against political consultant; candidates withdraw candidacies in protest four days before Runoff

A state legislator sent this to me as a heads up:  The Brunswick News is reporting that two candidates have withdrawn from the ballot to protest a Magistrate Judge’s “good behavior warrant” against a political consultant, essentially restraining him from ‘harassing’ opposing political candidates.

Judge Steven Morgan issued the warrant  to restrict the political consultant. The Brunswick News reports that the warrant is a good behavior warrant and is “most typically issued in domestic cases, such as a divorce.”

Failure to comply can result in jail.

Republican candidate Tashawanta Wells had faced Glynn County Commissioner Robbie Tucker in a Tuesday Runoff.

Dee Rogers, a Republican challenger for School Board, had already won the Republican nomination to face incumbent Democrat Venus Holmes in November. The challengers have withdrawn.

The warrant was issued against the Rev. Ken Adkins, the consultant worked and advised both candidates, after Commissioner Tucker reported “fear of my safety – well being” following alleged postings on Facebook by the consultant.

Holmes, the Democratic School Board member, reported “I have high blood pressure, and this attack (purportedly by Adkins) is weighing heavy on me. He (Adkins) has also ask(ed) for my (resignation) from the school board so his candidate can win. I say, ‘when pigs fly,” according to Brunswick News reporter Meghan Pittman.

In withdrawing, Wells, the challenger for the County Commission, said “I’m upset with the ruling. It’s unconstitutional and it is against his First Amendment rights.”

Both Wells and Rogers withdrew their candidacies in protest.

Anyone know more? Can Facebook postings count as ‘contact’ if they come up in the news feeds of the incumbents?  Can going to public debates or events as an attendee be considered a violation?  I assume that in a divorce case, these could be considered violations of good behavior warrants, but I don’t know that for sure.

Read more

#117 meets Phil, the hardest working political guy in JC18

I was the 117th person to vote in person as of 9:20 AM. I was the 97th Republican primary voter at my precinct, Johns Creek 18 in North Fulton County.  There were 20 Democratic primary voters who had voted as of that point, as well, for a total of 117 in-person voters.  Anyone else care to report *confirmed* turnout numbers?

Next… you HAVE respect the heck out of this guy (in photo)!  Meet Phil, the hardest working guy in politics today in my precinct.

Do the math here: Phil is volunteering for a *Democratic* candidate in a heavy Republican area, standing alone at a precinct for hours in Johns Creek IN THE RAIN to wave a sign for his candidate, former Fulton County Sheriff Richard Lankford.

All that work to impact 20 voters.

Now, I have to admit … I wondered and assumed he was a Sheriff’s deputy (or a former one) on ‘personal time’, so I stopped my car to ask him the question out of curiosity.

No. My bad. Former Sheriff Lankford is his uncle. Phil doesn’t even work for him.

Kudos to Phil. That kind of dedication to family and politics makes Americans of all political stripes proud.