Posted: 9:55 am Monday, March 3rd, 2014
By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy
Updated at 5:15 p.m.: At the state Capitol, Georgia Democratic chair DuBose Porter said Monday the party is rounding out its ticket.
Former state Rep. Keith Heard of Athens has jumped into the race for insurance commissioner – joining Liz Johnson of Statesboro as the second Democrat in that race. Former state Rep. Robin Shipp will run for labor commissioner.
But the most calculated initiative by Democrats won’t show up until tomorrow. That would be Valarie Wilson, former president of the Georgia School Boards Association and former Decatur city school board member.
She would be the second candidate on the Democratic side of the contest. State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell has announced, but didn’t qualify today – according to the secretary of state’s website.
Morgan also has been part of the charter school movement, and so has drawn the suspicion of teachers groups.
Why would Wilson be the preferred candidate? Because state Sen. Jason Carter, running for governor, intends to hammer Republican incumbent Nathan Deal on education. He would need someone who didn’t work with the governor on the 2012 charter school amendment.
Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Eugene Yu, the former candidate for U.S. Senate, officially dropped into the 12th District GOP race to oust U.S. Rep. John Barrow. That makes four in the Republican race, which pretty much guarantees an expensive runoff:
Updated at 3 p.m.: So up Mitchell Street, toward the state Capitol, came a figure who looked like he walked right out of the 1990 race for governor. But it wasn’t Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the longtime member of the Public Service Commission.
It was Lauren McDonald III, son of Bubba. Who stopped at the state Capitol crosswalk to let a reporter know that he was filing as a Republican against incumbent state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming.
Just then, who should walk down the Capitol steps but Murphy himself. The pleasantries were exchanged, but it was clear that Murphy wasn’t pleased. He has said he’ll decide on Friday whether to run for re-election.
Updated at 1 p.m.: Four of the five players in the 12th District congressional contest have breezed through the state Capitol in the last hour or so, including Democratic incumbent John Barrow of Augusta, who — as usual — kept this profile low.
State Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glennville, signed his paperwork and went back upstairs to finish out Day 30. Augusta businessman Rick Allen, who has been campaigning since he lost his 2012 GOP primary bid, addressed talk that Dutton had been recruited by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“I don’t know why they don’t like me,” he said. “But I do know that I’m not the establishment candidate.” Allen said introducing a new candidate into the race merely divides a very finite cash pie.
“Nobody’s raising money out there,” he said.
Just in front of Allen was John Stone, the congressional staffer who — long before Paul Broun made it popular — campaigned on the need to replace House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Stone was on Martha Zoller and Tim Bryant’s radio program this morning, calling NRCC involvement “a circus.”
“We desperately need new leadership in our party,” Stone said.
Also spotted recently was former congressman Bob Barr, who’s focused on a return to Congress and the 11th District GOP primary to replace Phil Gingrey.
House Speaker John Boehner has become an issue in that contest. Former state senator Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, who also qualified today, has vowed not to re-elect Boehner. State Rep. Ed Lindsey of Atlanta has said something close.
Marietta businessman Tricia Pridemore, who inked her candidacy early this morning, has declared the issue an unnecessary diversion. As did Barr, whose campaign in the past has boasted of his connections to Boehner. Said the former federal prosecutor:
“For Republicans to allow themselves to be distracted with a premature, intra-party squabble makes absolutely no sense.”
Updated at 11:50 a.m.: Former state Rep. Randall Mangham of Atlanta was seen hanging out near the Democratic qualifying office. When we asked him why he was there, he offered that he didn’t know – yet. When asked if he’s considering qualifying for the governor’s race – he ran in 2010 – he said, “All I can say is I’m not qualifying for anything today.”
As you can see by the chart below, running for governor would be a $5,220 lark.
Updated at 10:45 a.m.: U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun have both qualified for the Senate bid. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, also stopped by to give Congress another go. Asked whether he could one day be qualifying for another gig – speaker of the U.S. House – the Roswell Republican smiled and said, “I’ll let you know.”
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson also made it official. He is facing a spirited challenge in DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown, who has raised significant cash since entering the race late last year. Johnson said he isn’t worried about the well-funded challenger:
“I expect it to be a spirited race. I have a record of performance doing what I do and I think that the people know of my record, and those who don’t will learn of it. And they will learn of my opponents’ records and they’ll make the choice that is best for the district. And whatever that is, I’ll live with it.”
He added this, as if to emphasize a philosophical approach:
“If I worried about the future I would not be effective in the present … That’s all that I can do. I just have to let my work speak for me. My opponents will be on the ground campaigning 24/7 just like I did before I won the seat. My opponent then had to do what I’m doing now.
“And if my opponents make a compelling case they will win this race. But if not, and citizens believe they are getting good representation right now and there is no need for change, then they will send me back. And whatever the decision is, I’ll live with it.”
Getting solid word that Greg Hecht of Clayton County, the former state senator and ’06 candidate for lieutenant governor, will carry the Democratic banner in a race against Attorney General Sam Olens.
Updated at 9:45 a.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston led a lengthy line of Republicans seeking to qualify for another term in office.
“We haven’t finished everything that I would like to complete before I leave office as governor,” Deal said after he qualified — likely the last time he’ll ever appear on a Georgia ballot. “We’ve done a lot of good things, but there are some things that still need to be finished.”
Ralston echoed that sentiment.
“There’s still some work to be done,” said Ralston, adding that he’s proud of his tenure as speaker. “That gets me excited about the future and I want to be a part of that future. And I think I still have something to contribute.”
Ralston said he expected the medical marijuana bill to pass the House on Monday but said there were still concerns about legislation that would restrict taxi services such as Uber. He also told reporters to be watchful for new versions of legislation aimed at proving Georgia is inclusive. It may be a backlash to the “religious freedom” bills that sparked widespread outrage. Said Ralston:
“We try to be fair and inclusive and I think we have been. You’re going to see some measures that are brought up to day that will be very very inclusive and very fair. Sometimes measures that don’t get the level of attention actually have more substance as to what really speaks to fairness … I just ask you to pay attention to some of the things we’re going to talk about today that I think are going to speak to where we are as a state.”
Over on the Democratic side of the ledger, Kyle Williams was the first in line to qualify. Williams, seeking to succeed state Sen. Jason Carter, said he would be the first openly gay state senator in Georgia if he won. But he doesn’t think that will be a factor in his race. After all, he noted, the Atlanta district he is seeking is more than 70 percent Democratic.
Democrat Branko Radulovacki also qualified early Monday to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. He said party leaders urged him to run for insurance commissioner and secretary of state, but he wanted to send a message to frontrunner Michelle Nunn that her path to the party’s nomination won’t be a cakewalk.
Qualifying for the 2014 election cycle begins in just a few minutes. Check here throughout Monday for the latest on who’s in and who’s not.
Just to prime the pump: State Sen. Tim Golden, R-Valdosta, sent out a note this evening that included this:
Today, I am announcing that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the Georgia State Senate, District 8, in 2014. After 34 years in public service – more than half of what will soon be my 60 years on this earth – and having gone through many difficult yet successful campaigns during that time, I have decided that this is the right time to devote more time to my business career and to my family during the remainder of our son’s high school years before he goes on to college.
And contrary to a Tweet that was passed around this weekend, state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, tells Martha Zoller’s operation that he’s still considering whether another term is in his future:
“Contrary to the wide speculation being tossed about by my opponents, I have not made any decisions about qualifying. I am carefully considering my options and will make a decision before Friday of next week.”
In case you’re still making up your mind, too, here’s the cash you’ll have to come up with, depending on your ambition:
Also, check out this assessment of the week to come by a pair of well-known AJC writers. A taste:
[S]tate Democratic Party Chairman DuBose Porter is optimistic that enough down-ticket candidates will join the ballot to boost Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, the political scions running for the Senate and governor, respectively. “I think we’ve got a ticket that’s stronger than anyone has ever imagined,” Porter said. “Politics in America is now about Georgia because of who we have running.”
Republicans can’t help but scoff. They know the state’s share of minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic, is projected to surge while the proportion of white voters shrinks. But many see their short-term prospects as brighter than ever. “At the end of the day the strength of their ticket, it really is about the down-ballot races. It’s about challenges for the state Legislature,” Republican consultant Joel McElhannon said. “They have virtually no one running for these offices. It continues to be a story that the Democratic Party of Georgia has no bench.”