From Party Politics/Elections

Amanda Swafford Becomes an Independent

Amanda Swafford, who ran on the Libertarian Party ticket for the Senate seat now occupied by David Perdue has decided to become an independent. In a Facebook post this morning, Swafford says,

As a member of the Libertarian Party working to reform Georgia’s ballot access laws, I have enjoyed a degree of privilege and access to our ballot that others have not. Independents and other third parties do not have the same access to our statewide or Presidential ballot in Georgia. As I take a step back from the Libertarian Party and become unaffiliated with any party, I will be able to work in concert with those individuals that must face tremendous obstacles in accessing our statewide and presidential ballot here in Georgia.

Swafford served as a city councilwoman in Flowery Branch prior to her run for Senate, where she received 49,067 or 1.91% of the 2,566,518 votes cast.

Frank Luntz Will Headline the #GAGOP Fall Banquet as the Georgia GOP Foundation Adds Events

Now that former congressman Jack Kingston is at the helm, the Georgia Republican Party Foundation is wasting no time setting up a number of events designed to generate enthusiasm and attract sponsorship dollars.

The foundation will sponsor a Legislative Cocktail Series which will provide an opportunity to support the party while interacting with someone in the GOP congressional delegation. First up is a reception with Rep. Lynn Westmoreland next Tuesday at the Peachtree Club in Atlanta. With Westmoreland’s position on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Benghazi and the Iran nuclear deal may very well be discussed. The foundation expects to have a number of these receptions leading to 2016, with possible guests including House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Tom Price and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Rep Rob Woodall.

The Foundation also announced a Fall Banquet that will feature pollster Frank Luntz. On Tuesday, Luntz told the Georgia Chamber of Commerce that he doesn’t know who will will the presidency in November 2016, and that Donald Trump is likely to stay in the mix. The banquet will be at the Hyatt Atlanta Buckhead on October 5th.

The Foundation is seeking high-dollar sponsors to the events, with levels ranging from $5000, which gets you a table at the banquet and invitations to two of the cocktails; to $20,000, which includes a much broader set of perks, including invites to a reception with constitutional officers at the banquet. Presumably, information on purchasing tickets to the banquet will be available soon.

It’s Augusta!

The news is out that the 2016 Georgia Republican Convention will be held in Augusta on June 3-4. Based on what I’m seeing on this Facebook page, the event will be at the two year old Augusta Convention Center.

Why the June date, instead of the second week of May, as it the usual custom? Probably because the new primary schedule will put the Peach State’s primary on May 17th, 24th, three days* after the convention would have gaveled to a close if it had been held on its normal weekend. There was no convention in 2014, when the primary was May 20th.

Excited about Augusta in June? Let us know in the comments.

* I’ve been alerted by the ever-astute Senator Josh McKoon that according to 2014’s HB 310, the primary is supposed to be the 24th week prior to the general election. Because Election Day 2016 will be on November 8th (The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,) that makes Election Day take place during the second week of November, and moves the primary and runoff dates a week later than in 2014.

The good news is that because May 2016 has five Mondays, Memorial Day will still be the Monday after the primary. The runoff, if required, will be July 26th.

About Those GOP Fundraising Numbers

Almost predictably, after the news got out that the Georgia GOP is financially in basically the same shape it was back in February, I saw social media status updates decrying the financial stewardship of GAGOP chair John Padgett. The complaints were very similar to those made prior to Padgett’s re-election at the state convention. The gist of one was that the party had ignored its base, and the disappointing cash flow was the result.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had on the Sunday after the convention. It was with a big muckety muck who works at a major Atlanta based company. You would know the company if I mentioned its name.

“Who won the chairman’s election?” he asked. “Padgett,” I said. “That’s good,” he continued. “My company usually makes a big contribution to the Georgia GOP, but we were waiting this year until we knew the results of the election.”

He told me that had Alex Johnson won the chairmanship, the company’s money would have gone to a SuperPAC instead of the party. I asked him if he knew if other companies were doing the same thing. He allowed that his was not the only one to hold back. That made me wonder. “So maybe the complaints by Alex’s supporters that the party wasn’t raising enough money were the result of the fact that Johnson was in the race.”

“It was.”

I have no idea whether his company, or any of the others he referenced, made their contributions to the party yet or not. I’m not going to speculate as to why the party’s cash position hasn’t improved much in the last six months. I may not have quoted my conversation with the company exec exactly, but it’s pretty clear that those who think the party would be in a better financial position now if a different chairman had been elected back in May don’t understand where much of the party’s money comes from.

It’s UGA vs. Tech in Brookhaven

Former Tech QB Taylor Bennett will meet Republican J. Max Davis — a former offensive lineman at UGA — in a runoff for House District 80.

The Brookhaven Post is reporting that the two will meet in an August 11th runoff for the seat vacated by Republican Mike Jacobs, now a DeKalb state court judge.

Republicans Catherine Bernard and Loren Collins came in third and fourth, respectively, in Tuesday’s special election. 

Analysis

Bennett — whose campaign visibility throughout the district was dwarfed by Davis and Bernard — was surprisingly the top vote-getter on Tuesday, with 36 percent. Davis came in second, with 33 percent.

Bennett’s campaign seemingly came on strong in the final days before the election, as the Democrat received endorsements from such organizations as the Sierra Club, Georgia Association of Educators, Planned Parenthood and even former state senator Jason Carter.

Davis, Brookhaven’s first-ever mayor and arguably the highest profile candidate in the election, also had a hefty list of endorsements, most notably from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and local political heavyweights such as state Sen. Fran Millar, Rep. Tom Taylor and three of the four members of the Brookhaven City Council.

Any contest fielding four candidates is most likely bound for a runoff, but Bennett’s first-place showing has to be considered somewhat of a political shock, given the district’s strong GOP leanings, along with some of its neighboring communities.

Another factor contributing to Davis’ second-place showing could be residual damage resulting from some unflattering charges made against him during the campaign, dating back to his tenure while mayor of Brookhaven.

In any event, if Bennett defeats Davis on August 11, it could signal a dramatic, political changing of the guard in an important metro Atlanta house district.

Kemp: SEC primary means road to White House runs through South

The so-called SEC primary now has six states holding their presidential primaries on March 1, 2016.

OnlineAthens.com is reporting that Arkansas is the latest state to join Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s effort to give the South a larger voice in choosing the Republican and Democratic White House candidates.

Arkansas joins Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Other Southern states holding primaries around the same time next year are Louisiana (March 5); Mississippi (likely March 8); Florida and Missouri (March 15); South Carolina (Feb. 20); and Kentucky (possibly May 17).

“It is now clear that the road to the White House runs through the South,” Kemp said in a statement.

The SEC primary has also spawned a website, secprimary.com, reportedly the work of young Alabama Republican Jordan Doufexis, and a companion Twitter feed, @SECPrimary, with almost 300 followers.

Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Integrity Project Guilty by Default in Breach of Contact Suit

A Gwinnett County State Court judge recently entered a default judgement against the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, the Georgia Integrity Project, and Debbie Dooley, apparently because of unpaid hotel bills following one or more events the groups held at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast hotel in Norcross.

According to court records, the case was filed on February 27th, 2015 by Crestline Hotels and Resorts, doing business as the Hilton and as Sky Harbor Results. The three defendants were served their summonses on March 3rd, and on April 24th, the plaintiffs filed for a default judgement, which was granted by Judge Pam South on April 30th.

The Georgia Integrity Project sponsored a Repeal Obamacare Summit that was held at the Hilton in February, 2014. The Tea Party Patriots held a boot camp at the Hilton in August 2014. It is unknown if these were the specific events that led to the lawsuit.

Dooley is one of the original founders of the Tea Party Patriots, and the Georgia Integrity Project was announced at the Georgia GOP State Convention two years ago as a conservative alternative to the president’s Organizing for America effort. During the 2014 cycle, most of the group’s effort appeared to be in trying to unseat House Speaker David Ralston.

Is the Georgia Latino Vote Shifting to the GOP?

With both Nathan Deal and David Perdue winning with a wide margin, one has to wonder what happened to the Democratic Party of Georgia’s secret weapon, a.k.a. “minority voter turnout”. Did the anticipated voters not show up to the polls? Or did the Georgia Republican Party actually win a significant chunk of the minority voter share? Exit poll statistics of one demographic in particular seems to have surprised many.

From WABE:

National exit polls show Republican Governor Nathan Deal took 47 percent of Latino votes, while Republican Senator-elect David Perdue got 42 percent.

Compare that to the 2010 midterms, when Republicans nationally got about 34 percent of that demographic (Latino voting numbers were too small in 2008, the last time the state had a U.S. Senate race, for reliable polling data).

One could argue that the recent shift in Latino voting trends can be attributed to the Georgia Republican Party’s minority engagement efforts. Leo Smith, the Minority Engagement Director for the Georgia Republican Party is also quoted in the same article:

“When it comes to business opportunities and developing a personal economy, I think that our messaging really resonated,” said Leo Smith, who heads minority engagement for the Georgia Republican party.

Smith says the state GOP did virtually nothing to bring in Latinos in 2010, and looked to change that this time around. He said the party did a lot of outreach with the Latinos this year, speaking with community leaders, talking with Latino media and using Spanish messaging.

Leo Smith may actually be on to something here. A recent PewHispanic study shows that most Latino voters (49%) rate the economy as their number 1 issue, followed by health care (24%) and illegal immigration (16%). It is no secret that the economy was a key issue in the campaigns of Governor Deal and David Perdue. Is the recent Latino surge to the GOP a sign of things to come? Also, is the Republican Party’s fiscal platform enough to attract Latinos their way? Discuss.

J. Carter: Georgia Dems’ Last Hope for Political Relevancy

Forget about the Senate race. Georgia’s big battle is for governor in 2014 … and the stakes are much higher than simply winning West Paces Ferry’s big house.

For Georgia Democrats to return to political relevancy, Jason Carter has to become governor this year. Here’s why:

Let’s say Carter wins in 2014. He then has one midterm legislative election (2016) to increase his party’s numbers at the statehouse. That’s also a presidential election year, so turnout is going to be higher than usual.

Then, Carter no doubt runs for reelection in 2018; another legislative election to grow the Democrats’ presence under the Gold Dome.

Let’s also say Carter wins reelection. He then has one final ballot – 2020 – to elect more Democrats to the state House and Senate.

The next political battle? The biggest one of all: the 2020 Census and the new legislative and congressional maps that will come out of that process.

No doubt here; whichever party controls the governor’s mansion and the Gold Dome when those new maps are drawn, controls Georgia’s political future until 2030.

But if Carter loses, Georgia Democrats wander in the wilderness for another decade. Even if a Democrat wins the 2018 governor’s race, that hardly leaves enough time for him or her to make any substantive effort to elect more Democrats to the House or Senate. Democrats won’t regain anything close to a significant political presence in just two years. That effort has to start now.

So if you’re wondering why House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Raphael Warnock are working so hard to register minority voters — and why Secretary of State Brian Kemp is giving them such a hard time about it — look to the 2020 Census. That’s the end game in this year’s elections.

And it’s a big one.

Will Zell Tip the Balance for Michelle?

No question that Zell Miller is one of Georgia’s legendary political figures, right next to 20th-century titans like Herman Talmadge, Tom Murphy, Sam Nunn, Richard Russell and Carl Vinson.

I remember some colorful stories and tall tales from a former Miller campaign supporter, Francis Holland, who briefly ran John Russell’s U.S. Senate bid way back in ’86, a campaign on which I worked.

Georgia’s longest-serving lieutenant governor rode a single issue – the Lottery – into the governor’s mansion, and from there, he went to the U.S. Senate. Who can forget his electrifying keynoter at the ’92 Democratic National Convention?

Twelve years later, Miller thrilled members on the other side of the aisle, keynoting the 2004 GOP convention and endorsing George W. Bush for re-election over Democrat John Kerry. To top it all off, the next day he challenged MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to a duel (!)

Miller was also a huge fan of the old Atlanta Crackers baseball team, a subject with which I’m somewhat familiar. I had the privilege of speaking at the Governor’s Mansion to a group he’d assembled to launch a scholarship honoring the team’s all-time most popular player, Ralph Brown, also known as “Country.”

Now, the man known to some as “that damn Zell” is back in the news, endorsing Michelle Nunn last week in her U.S. Senate campaign.

Miller’s endorsement likely won’t mean much to Democrats; they’re going to vote for Nunn regardless. But Nunn is riding Miller’s endorsement for all its worth because she needs disaffected Republicans to abandon David Perdue and come over to her side.

Will it work? Since the GOP Senate runoff, Perdue’s campaign has been relatively quiet. Sure, Georgia GOP honchos held a media confab to show unity the day after Perdue’s win over Jack Kingston defied virtually every poll that was out there. Outside of that, he’s run a low-key campaign everywhere but on TV where, right now, he believes it matters most.

Nunn, meanwhile, has had her share of headlines, good and bad. But right now, she’s dominating the news cycle, the only drawback being is that she might be peaking too soon. It’s still a long way to November.

The big question is how much pull Miller still has among modern Georgia Republicans who may not recall his contrarian streak. And for those who need a little refresher, here’s a small one –

Two Tales of Changing Demographics

Two news stories this week illustrate how changes in voter demographics are rapidly changing Georgia’s political landscape.

The first story is from the UK’s Guardian, and talks about white and minority voting habits, and how they affect the Senate race:

Half a century after the civil rights movement began nudging much of the south into the grasp of the Republican party, politics in Georgia remain a black and white issue.

Republicans candidates get as much as 80% of the white vote. Democrats receive upwards of 90% of African American support. That colour divide has, since the early 1990s, enabled Republicans to dominate elections in the predominantly white state.

Yet come November, when either [Jack] Kingston, a congressman, or another Republican contender, businessman David Perdue, stands for election, they will find themselves going up against a demographic shift that is upending old political certainties.

Although the article begins in Buckhead’s mostly white Tommy’s Barbershop, it quickly moves to Michelle Nunn’s midtown campagn headquarters, and eventually to Clayton County, where, “In the 10 years leading up to 2010, the number of white people living in the county dropped by 41,000. During the same period, the African American population grew by 50,000, and today African Americans are more than 66% of the county’s residents. The Hispanic population doubled.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press takes a look at how Georgia Republicans are trying to reach out to minorities, recruiting voters and candidates:

As the minority engagement director for the Georgia Republican Party, [Leo] Smith is helping to lead an effort to recruit African-American voters in pivotal states, a priority for a heavily white party staring with uncertainty at a country that is fast becoming more black, Hispanic and Asian.

Black Republicans cringe when they hear vitriol from conservatives directed at President Barack Obama, or negative comments about black people coming from extremists. The challenge is to assure blacks who may lean conservative that they can publicly identify with the GOP without hurting their standing in the black community.

The GOP is caught in somewhat of a chicken-and-egg situation here. As one African-American Republican told me, minorities are not going to vote Republican until they see people who look like them holding elected office. Yet, as the recent primaries showed, when candidates like Ashley Bell and Fitz Johnson run on the GOP ticket, they can’t get past the primaries.

African Americans are not the only ones the GOP needs to reach out to. Nowhere else is this clearer than in Gwinnett County. According to census estimates, in 2012, the county was 42% white, 25% black, 20% Hispanic and 11% Asian. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney took 54% of the vote. Ten years ago, the Bush-Cheney presidential ticket received 66% of the Gwinnett vote.

Speaking to the Gwinnett GOP last Saturday, Congressman Rob Woodall offered a succinct challenge to attendees.

“I have never seen a time in my lifetime when all the folks who run all the campaigns and do all the party policy statements have been watching Gwinnett County they way they’re watching it right now. Because we look in Gwinnett County today the way America’s going to look in 15 years…

We are the testbed. We look today the way every other district in the country is going to look. We have to win elections today that the entire Presidential staff is going to have to win in 15 years. We are planting the seeds today that 300 million Americans are going to benefit from. It matters.”

Is the GOP destined to become a rump party of mostly white Southerners, or does it figure out an answer to Woodall’s challenge to maintain Republican control in an ever more diverse county, state and country?

The results of the 2014 elections will go a long way towards answering that question.

AJC Poll Shows Deal with Nine-Point Lead over Carter

A new poll finds that Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has a 9-point lead over Democratic challenger Jason Carter in the race for Georgia governor.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s poll showed that Deal has 47 percent support in a head-to-head matchup against his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jason Carter, who had 38 percent.

Carter campaign spokeswoman Meg Robinson said the poll shows that a majority of voters don’t support Deal. She said the results show that Deal is a weak incumbent.

The poll also showed no clear front-runner in the contest to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

The poll of 802 registered voters was conducted Jan. 6-9 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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.

BY POLITICAL PARTY

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

BY RACE

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

 

Georgia’s Ten Most Vulnerable Democratic (and/or Independent) Districts

To restate some of what I wrote yesterday in my post entitled “10 Most Vulnerable Republican Districts”:

There are a hundred ways to determine how vulnerable a legislative district is for a takeover by the opposing political Party.

Just because a district or a legislator appears on this list does not mean that they are in political trouble.  It does generally mean that the legislators who represent these districts must be able to find ways of winning over voters from the opposing Party.

These rankings are not a statement about the legislator who represents them. This ranking is simply a mathematical formula that determines how strong or weak a district is compared to all the other districts in the state.

The following is a list of Democratic House members representing districts in which Republicans can win a majority, or a significant percentage, of the vote. Of all the Democratic-held districts in Georgia, these 10 Democratic-held districts have the highest capacity for Republicans to win votes, a figure that is stated in the right column: The Democratic Ideal.

The Republican Ideal is the average of multiple election results within each district for the best-performing statewide (non-Presidential) Republican candidates in 2006, 2008 or 2010.

Thanks to Mike Seigle, Gabriel Sterling, Mark Pettitt and Andrew Pantino here at Landmark for researching and contributing to this targeting report. Doing a report like this requires hundreds of man-hours, accumulating thousands of pieces of information including election results, voter history, and geographic and demographic information.

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