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Greg Bluestein

Michelle Nunn endorses Keystone pipeline construction

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 Michelle Nunn told volunteers for her U.S. Senate campaign gathered in Marietta on Monday that she would support completion of the fourth phase of the Keystone XL pipeline in the name of economic development and national security.

“I have a lot of friends who have different perspectives on Keystone,” Nunn said. “We need to continue to focus on green energy and finding sustainable sources of energy, but I do believe we should move forward with Keystone.”

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogThe candidate also said she wanted to see a third, cheaper tier of health insurance coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act. “Obviously, there are trade-offs in terms of price and coverage,” she said in an interview afterwards.

Nunn also said she would work to repeal cuts to federal funds aimed at rural hospitals that treat the indigent. In Georgia, those hospitals have been pinched by the state’s refusal to expand its Medicaid rolls under Obamacare.

While making appearances throughout the state, Nunn has avoided forums that also feature her Democratic primary opponents. She has committed to a single televised debate, sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, which would be taped May 11 and aired on Georgia Public Broadcasting a day later – eight days before the primary.

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“That’s the only one that we have planned right now,” she said, in a brief interview after meeting with 60-plus volunteers at the Marietta Diner – including state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Austell.

While dodging waiters delivering onion rings, burgers and chicken-fried steak, Nunn pointed her supporters to her first TV ad, which emphasizes her optimism, and polling that has her even or better with the seven candidates who make up the Republican field. Nunn also reassured those worried about Super PAC attacks from the likes of the Koch brothers, declaring that the 17,000 people who have donated to her campaign thus far would serve as a buffer to TV ad attacks.

The topic of the Keystone pipeline, a divisive issue in Democratic ranks, was the first question posed in Nunn’s back-and-forth with those gathered. The candidate elaborated afterwards:

“I ultimately believe that environmental concerns have been addressed through a deliberative process, and that the issue of economic growth, economic development and the imperative to focus on North American energy independence is compelling.”

Her father, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, only recently put his name to a recommendation that the U.S. boost its sales of natural gas to Europe, in order to reduce the leverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the region. Said the daughter:

“We need to be aware of where we’re getting our energy. Getting it from Canada is a good alternative to getting it from a variety of other places.”

***

Over at myajc.com, two of us look at Georgia Republican worries that Michelle Nunn could take advantage of serious infighting on the GOP side of the U.S. Senate race:

At Republican events across the state, there is an undercurrent of fear that the divided primary could strengthen Nunn, a nonprofit executive who is the daughter of former Democratic U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton made that much clear last month with an impassioned introduction to a Senate debate in Macon.

“Barack Obama would not be the president today if every one of us would have gotten over not having the person we might have voted for in the primary,” Scott, his voice crackling with emotion, told the few hundred activists who came to judge the Republican Senate candidates that Saturday night.

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The liberal group MoveOn.org today released results from a series of polls it commissioned in seven states with competitive Senate or gubernatorial races. The automated polls, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, focused on Medicaid expansion. But in Georgia, the PPP poll also included a head-to-head match-up between Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Democratic challenger Jason Carter. The numbers:

– Deal 42 percent;

– Carter, 43 percent;

– Don’t know, 15 percent;

Carter has an 11:15 a.m. press conference at the state Capitol, specifically to offer his reaction to Deal’s proposal to overhaul the state ethics commission. But the poll is sure to come up.

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Money is flowing to the top of the Democratic ticket, as Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter have each raked in more than $1 million in campaign donations. Not so much, though, for the down-ticket candidates.

Most Democratic candidates for the down-ticket statewide races are hardly treading water, despite the fact that they could freely raise money over the last two months while their GOP adversaries were blocked by law from getting campaign donations during the session.

Former state Rep. Keith Heard, running for insurance commissioner, loaned himself $3,500 – the entirety of his campaign war chest. Connie Stokes, a former state senator running for lieutenant governor, raised less than $5,000 between February and March and has about $21,000 in cash on hand. Robbin Shipp, seeking the labor commissioner’s gig, raised about $20,000.

Chris Irvin, the grandson of long-serving Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, hadn’t filed any campaign disclosures in the race to reclaim his grandpa’s seat. Neither had Gerald Beckum, the small-town mayor running for Secretary of State.

(Even Carter’s campaign hadn’t filed their report by Tuesday morning; a spokesman cited a technical difficulty and sent us over a copy.)

An outlier was Greg Hecht, the Democrat running against Attorney General Sam Olens, raised about $148,000 and spent very little of that money since jumping in the race in March.

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The Democratic contest for the wide-open superintendent’s race shows no sign of simmering.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, unpopular among some Democrats for her charter school stance, reports about $56,000 cash on hand after raising about $6,000 in the days following the session. The party’s favored candidate, Valarie Wilson, has virtually matched her by raising about $50,000 and spending only a tiny fraction of that sum.

A sign of Wilson’s embrace by party stalwarts? Her contributors include state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and the Georgia Federation of Teachers. Morgan, by the way, has her own establishment support to boast about: A $1,500 contribution from former Gov. Roy Barnes’ law firm.

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Get ready to start seeing more Gov. Nathan Deal ads. The incumbent snapped up a lot of ad time in the runup to the May 20 primary, mostly in metro Atlanta. Click here for the details.

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Walter Jones of Morris News Service reports that the state Democratic party will pose the following questions to voters on its May 20 primary ballot:

1. Should Georgia raise the state minimum wage above the current $5.15 an hour?

2. Should Georgians’ federal tax dollars be returned to Georgia to fund Medicaid expansion and relieve the indigent-care burden on our hospitals?

3. Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to create an independent ethics commission, not tied to the governor’s office, legislature or other elected office, to more effectively police potential ethics violations by elected officials?

4. Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to make the education budget Georgia’s first funding priority?

Jones notes that the Georgia GOP will pose no question on its primary ballot. In 2012, Republican voters were asked their opinions on a cap on gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists, and on gambling. The question on ethics fueled an uncomfortable debate on the issue during the 2013 session of the Legislature.

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On the Republican side of the U.S. Senate race, certain candidates have been debating the value of a college education – to which Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has now offered a solution. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

More than two decades after leaving Marquette University without finishing up his degree, Gov. Scott Walker wants to earn his diploma.

A spokeswoman said the governor wants to finish his college degree through the University of Wisconsin-System’s innovative online course offerings. For now, however, Walker is still waiting for the right degree program to be added to the lineup of the still fledgling program.

“Governor Walker would like to finish his degree through the UW FlexOption once they expand the degree offerings,” Laurel Patrick said.

The governor left Marquette University his senior year to take a job with the American Red Cross and hasn’t finished his degree. He has often said he would like to wrap up the task.

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In the coastal First District congressional race, Republican John McCallum is up with a new ad in which he talks about his wife’s hearing loss and shows former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum along with their four young children. He also calls Obamacare “un-American.” Watch here:

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Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign manager, Matt McGrath, is quickly establishing himself as a force for Twitter humor. We dare say he’s giving Deal spokesman Brian Robinson, strangely absent from the social media platform these days, a run for his money.

Check out some of McGrath’s rhetoric from yesterday. These days, Twitter can be more important than a press release for campaigns.

***

Rep. Jack Kingston has a new epithet for Common Core: “Obamacare for education,” as he put it in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. The key excerpt:

A competitive grant from Washington means states get to compete for their own tax dollars by kowtowing to Obama, Duncan, and their teachers’ union overseers. The Department of Education, by carrot and stick, can enforce their vision of schooling on classrooms throughout the country, all the while hiding behind it being “optional.”

The most notorious competitive grant is the Race to the Top program, the vessel through which the Common Core national education standards were coerced upon 45 states and the District of Columbia. By giving out waivers to the No Child Left Behind mandates and some Race to the Top dollars in exchange for Common Core compliance, the White House got its “Obamacare for education” imposed on states while claiming the initiative was voluntary, state-driven, and competitive.

Kingston is taking a more aggressive tack than businessman David Perdue, who backs the “original intent” of Common Core — as proposed by his cousin, Gov. Sonny Perdue — but takes issue with aspects of how it’s being implemented.

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