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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

11Alive/Survey USA poll puts David Perdue atop GOP heap

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021914 senate debate kdj09

David Perdue, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, at a recent forum. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

11Alive has a new statewide poll out this morning that shows businessman David Perdue moving ahead of the pack on the Republican side of the U.S. Senate race, trailed by another establishment favorite, Jack Kingston.

Credit those crying baby ads.

The straight-up numbers: Perdue, 29 percent; Kingston, 19 percent; Phil Gingrey, 12 percent; Paul Broun, 11 percent; Karen Handel, 10 percent; and 15 percent undecided.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogWith two months before the primary, Democrat Michelle Nunn is on the verge of winning her party’s nomination without a runoff, according to the automated SurveyUSA poll.

Straight-up numbers: Nunn, 48 percent; Todd Robinson, 14 percent; Steen Miles, 11 percent; and Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki at 5 percent.

Republican incumbent Nathan Deal is pulling 65 percent of the GOP vote in his contest. Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington comes in at 11 percent and School Superintendent John Barge registers at 7 percent.

But break out the salt shakers, ladies and gentlemen.

First, the numbers: On the GOP side of this poll, 508 likely voters were contacted, with an MOE of +/-4.4%. On the Democratic side: 443 voters contacted, with an MOE of +/-4.8%.

Also, we’ve never seen a caveat like this in an automated poll:

Respondents reachable on a home telephone (78% of registered voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (22% of registered voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.

***

The above poll’s assessment of the U.S. Senate race in Georgia is contradicted by these sentences from famed political prognosticator Charlie Cook, who has changed his assessment of the contest:

“The open seat in Georgia moves to the Toss Up column from Lean Republican. Michelle Nunn is proving to be perhaps the best Democratic challenger of the cycle. Republicans, meanwhile, are mired in a crowded primary that seems destined to produce a run off. As a result, Republicans won’t have a nominee until late July. Moreover, this may be the one race where the threat of nominating a candidate who is generally unelectable in a statewide general election is very real.”

The Nunn campaign quickly issued a press release about the move, which also was run through the Republican spin machine.

Jack Kingston backer Eric Johnson declared on Twitter that it wouldn’t be a toss-up if his man is the nominee. Karen Handel’s campaign sent out a fundraising missive calling attention to the news and declaring that she was the strongest candidate against Nunn, and therefore deserving of whatever money you can spare.

Then the Georgia GOP got into the act, issuing a release attacking Nunn and dismissing the “Beltway Crowd.”

“Washington insiders can pontificate all they want but Georgia Republicans are ready to fight and won’t accept anything less than victory,” said the GAGOP’s Ryan Mahoney.

***

One of the biggest questions of Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign for governor is just how much he’ll use his famous grandfather for help. We arrive at a hint today.

The New York Post’s Page Six reports that the ex-president is headed to New York on Sunday to raise money for his grandson. Attendees include party insiders like Patricia Duff, Maurice Sonnenberg and REM singer Michael Stipe.

***

Speaking of Jason Carter: On Wednesday, we had an item noting that  state Reps. Tyrone Brooks of Atlanta and Hugh Floyd of Norcross, had supplied the two Democrats votes demanded to pass SR 415 with the necessary two-thirds majority. The measure puts a proposed constitutional amendment capping the state income tax on the November ballot — a sure draw for GOP voters.

State Democratic party chairman DuBose Porter wondered out loud whether the pair had “lost their dadgum minds.” But we neglected to point out that, on the other side of the Capitol, state Sen. Jason Carter and several other Democrats seemed to have lost their minds, too. Only 11 senators opposed it.

***

A curious Federal Election Committee filing popped up Wednesday night for the “Georgia Group Federal PAC.”

The political action committee was formed in January and through February had collected $26,000 in donations from folks such as lobbyist and former Saxby Chambliss aide Rob Leebern; Josh Belinfante, the former Sonny Perdue aide and vice chairman of the state ethics commission; and Marietta Daily Journal publisher Otis Brumby.

The PAC gave away $21,000, hedging its bets in a pair of heated contests.

The PAC gave $2,000 each to Bob Barr, Ed Lindsey, Tricia Pridemore and Barry Loudermilk, the major GOP contestants for the 11th Congressional district race.

The Senate race donations tell a more interesting GOP establishment story:  $2,000 to Karen Handel, David Perdue and Phil Gingrey; $5,000 to Jack Kingston — and not a dime to Paul Broun.

***

The $17 million in state bonds to expand a parking deck near the new $1.2 billion Falcons stadium has emerged as one of the biggest surprises tucked into the state budget. Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday it’s been in the works for months.

Deal said that the Georgia World Congress Center came to the governor’s office with an initial $35 million request that was rejected. Campus officials returned earlier this month with a broader argument for the deck, saying it could also be used for conventions, the College Football Hall of Fame and the hotel that’s envisioned.

Asked whether the state should be in the business of dreaming up hotels on government-owned land, Deal answered thusly:

“We’re in the business of providing what’s needed for our World Congress Center campus and this would all be a part. And they tell me that parking is not adequate right now. I think the need is justified. We believe this first step is a critical step.”

***

We told you last week that state Superintendent John Barge’s campaign is paying a popular Twitter feed to boost his GOP bid for governor. The folks over at zPolitics noted that other accounts are getting in the game, too, this time posting his #ThisIsOurState hashtag. Our favorite? A feed called @TheAsianHotties repeating Barge’s slogan.

***

The state Capitol is the battleground for a perpetual war between Georgia business and the state’s trial lawyers. But it’s been a bad year for the Chamber of Commerce crowd. On Tuesday, HB 643 – which would have laid down rules of discovery for electronic records in lawsuits — went down to defeat in the Senate after the chairman of the chamber’s judiciary committee, Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, spoke against it.

The bill had passed out of his committee.

In an interview with the Daily Report, House Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said late changes doomed the bill:

[W]hen the bill went to the Senate, he said the Georgia Chamber of Commerce “overshot the runway in trying to make changes and didn’t recognize that the balance had to be maintained, otherwise the likelihood of the bill moving forward would deteriorate.”

“I was a little disturbed that the Chamber did not include me in the discussions it was having with the Senate to make changes,” Willard added.

The bill died on a 25-20 vote. Twenty-nine votes were needed to pass, but 11 senators went missing.

***

We don’t think that state Sen. Fran Millar, who’s city of Lakeside bill failed to gain traction with House Republican leaders this session, is of quite the same mind – but the senator has posted on his Facebook page a message from an angry constituent that begins thusly:

What a travesty – our Republican elected officials teaming with Democrats to kill the proposed City of Lakeside initiative. A very sad day for our state; I fear that the tide has turned and we are/will once again be led by self-centered, lobbyist-focused officials who’s priorities place the interests of our citizens a distant third (at best!) behind their own self-preservation and (seemingly) uncontrolled need to feed at the lobbyist trough. I am done with the republican party in Georgia.

***

That fight in the Senate over HB 707, the anti-Obamacare bill pushed through by tea partyers in highly diluted form on Tuesday, has already made its way into a GOP primary battle.

Michael Williams, one of three GOP challengers to state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, has sent out this note to supporters:

In a shocking last minute procedural maneuver, State Senator Jack Murphy, a member of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, voted to table House Bill 707 – The Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Non-Compliance Act.  This bill would prohibit the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by any local municipality, State Agency or Political subdivision of the State of Georgia.

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