Posted: 6:00 am Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The issues and races to watch tonight 

By Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway

From left, U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, Derrick Grayson, Rep. Jack Kingston, Arthur Gardner, Karen Handel, and David Perdue stand at their podiums near the end of the state GOP’s U.S. Senate debate in Grovetown, Ga. on Saturday. AP/The Augusta Chronicle, Sara Caldwell

From left, U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, Derrick Grayson, Rep. Jack Kingston, Arthur Gardner, Karen Handel, and David Perdue stand at their podiums near the end of  a U.S. Senate debate of GOP candidates.  AP/The Augusta Chronicle, Sara Caldwell

After months of campaigning, millions of dollars spent on advertising and no shortage of bickering, the primary vote is finally upon us. Here’s a few key factors to watch today that could help determine the nominees for the open Senate seat and the other top races

Turnout: No one is quite sure what type of voter participation to expect at the polls today with the earliest primary in Georgia’s recorded history. A lighter turnout could benefit Rep. Paul Broun and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, two GOP Senate candidates who expect their more fervent supporters to turn out regardless. Businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston, who seek to appeal to a broader cross-section of voters in their Senate bids, both rely on bigger turnout. Ditto for Gov. Nathan Deal and Michelle Nunn, the Democratic front-runner for Senate, who both depend on a blanketing of support to overwhelm lesser-known challengers.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogTea Party: One of the biggest factors in the race is whether tea party voters will back any candidate in force or whether their voice will be fragmented between rivals at the polls. Handel has tried to rally tea party supporters behind her campaign with the message that she’s the only non-establishment type who can win. Her campaign trumpeted the Gwinnett Tea Party’s endorsement of her Monday as the latest sign that it was working. Yet Broun’s supporters are seen as passionate and driven, and Rep. Phil Gingrey’s support in Atlanta’s suburbs – he represented a northwest Atlanta district for more than a decade – can’t be counted out. In the governor’s race, former Dalton Mayor David Pennington is making a similar pitch, claiming that a silent majority of GOP voters are itching to oust Deal.

North Georgia: The northern third of the state has become the epicenter of Georgia’s political power, and the governor from Gainesville is relying on big numbers in the region to power him past two GOP opponents who also lay claim to the Republican stronghold: Pennington and Superintendent John Barge. But no Senate candidates have a lock on the vote-rich area, despite heavy campaigning in those parts by each of them. As Handel learned in her 2010 gubernatorial runoff against Deal, strong support from the region can help offset metro Atlanta votes.

Independents: Independent voters make up one of the most important blocs in Georgia, and polls show many have yet to make up their mind. Sure, the right-leaning electorate will factor more prominently in the general election, but their vote could also be a deciding factor in the top GOP races. That’s particularly true this cycle as even Democratic-leaning independents will be tempted to vote in GOP races given the high stakes involved. The AJC poll released last week shows that independents gave Nunn a lead over all but two GOP contenders: Perdue and Handel. Perdue, in particular, relies on support from swing voters who are attracted to his outsider image and business background. If they stay home, he may be in store for a long night.

Issues voters: A significant chunk of voters pick their candidates based solely on a few key issues. That AJC poll showed that most voters hold views on the healthcare law, gun rights expansion and the economy as highly important; a shade fewer than half of voters said positions on gay marriage and abortion are that important. With each of the top GOP contenders pushing to scrap Obamacare and advocating Second Amendment rights, rhetoric that sets a candidate apart – Gingrey’s vow to repeal Obamacare or ‘go home’ comes to mind – may resonate with this crowd.

***

Now to the races themselves:

U.S. Senate, Republican: Does a last-minute sprint by former secretary of state Karen Handel knock U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston out of a runoff with businessman David Perdue? If so, the story of the evening would be the failure of three sitting members of Congress to survive the first round in a statewide race. For those of you unafraid of longer odds: Does a weak GOP turnout open the way for U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens or Phil Gingrey of Marietta to pull a major upset?

Governor, Republican: In an AJC poll conducted earlier this month, 68 percent of GOP voters approved of incumbent Nathan Deal’s performance in office. Tonight’s question: With two challengers in the mix, David Penning and John Barge, will Deal come in below or above that number.

U.S. Senate, Democrat: Look for centrist Michelle Nunn to be quickly declared the winner this evening. Any share earned by Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki will be a measure of disaffection from the left, while former state senator Steen Miles’ performance could be a sign of unrest among African-Americans. Todd Robinson of Columbus is also in the race.

Governor, Democrat: Given that Jason Carter is the only candidate on the ballot, an upset is unlikely.

Congress, 11th District, Republican: Who pairs with former state senator Barry Loudermilk of Cassville in a runoff. Can either businesswoman Tricia Pridemore or state Rep. Ed Lindsey of Atlanta spoil former congressman Bob Barr’s attempt at a return?

Congress, 10th District, Republican: Preacher and radio talk show host Jody Hice appears set for the runoff, with former state lawmaker Donna Sheldon of Dacula battling Mike Collins of Jackson for the second spot.

Congress, 12th District, Republican: Businessman Rick Allen is assured of moving on, but with or without a runoff? Questions about Eugene Yu’s fundraising and a late start by state Rep. Delvis Dutton make a sweep possible.

Congress, 4th District, Democratic: Incumbent Hank Johnson avoided debates and emphasized a White House endorsement in the final days, but former DeKalb County sheriff Tom Brown is a consummate on-the-ground campaigner. If there’s an upset tonight, this may be it.

State School Superintendent, Republican: Will two well-funded African-American candidates, Ashley Bell of Gainesville and Fitz Johnson of Marietta, survive a first round of voting? And will a non-partisan sheriff’s race DeKalb County, to fill the unexpired term of Tom Brown, prompt a surge of GOP balloting that gives former DeKalb school board member and tea partyer Nancy Jester a runoff berth?

State School Superintendent, Democrat: It’s a case of old school versus new school. Valarie Wilson, former head of the state school superintendent’s organization, has the support of the traditional public school network. State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell is a champion of the charter school crowd.

State House, District 7: House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has spent the last several weeks at home, dealing with a GOP primary challenge from high school wrestling coach Sam Snider – who has been aided by tea party groups and Georgia Right to Life. As with Gov. Nathan Deal, it’s not a question of whether Ralston wins, but by how much.

House Republican incumbents: A dozen or so state legislative races have been targeted by a new, well-funded business group known as Georgia Coalition for Job Growth. But only three House Republican incumbents have been singled out for defeat by the group: State Reps. Sam Moore of Ball Ground, Charles Gregory of Kennesaw, and Jason Spencer of Woodbine. The outcome of this trio of races could determine the tone for next year’s session of the Legislature.

***

In response to Monday’s post about federal judicial nominee Michael Boggs, who now sits on the state court of appeals, and his attendance at certain campaign events, former House speaker Terry Coleman, a Democrat from Eastman, Ga., sent this note this morning:

Criticizing Judge Mike Boggs for attending conservative functions while his represented his constituency is like criticizing President Barrack Obama for attending Jeremiah Wright’s church when he represented his constituency. They both have and will do the right thing as required by their oaths of office.  Mike Boggs is fair and extremely capable.

***

Republicans made some hay Monday out of this Michelle Nunn interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in which she ducked and dodged on whether she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act.

Said NBC analyst Chuck Todd:

“Nothing screamed practiced politician like that answer Michelle Nunn gave on health care. You just can’t — it just doesn’t come across as credible. What’s at least more credible, saying, ‘Well, I supported it but I don’t like this, this, and this.’ At least there’s credibility when you give that answer. When you say, ‘Well, I was busy doing another job’ … it just doesn’t come across as credible.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel got the full — meatier — transcript from the Nunn campaign. His verdict:

“In short, Nunn did dodge the question. But she went into some practiced detail about the ways she wanted to change the law, and she confirmed that she wouldn’t vote for repeal. She tried to finesse Obamacare, signaling to Democratic voters that she basically supported it (come on, had she been in the Senate in 2009, she would have voted like any red-state Dem), but mentioned specific changes. Take out all the specifics and you’ve got a much worse answer. That’s not [NBC reporter Kasie] Hunt’s fault, at all. She asked better questions than I did, and dug a soundbite out of a long boilerplate answer. It’s just dishonest for Republicans to pretend Nunn had nothing more to say.”

***

In today’s AJC we look at what the turnout could be across Georgia for today’s election. A turnout closer to the 2010 primary, when 680,000 people voted in the Republican gubernatorial primary, likely helps David Perdue and, to an extent, Jack Kingston in the Senate race. The others get a boost from lower turnout.

Rep. Paul Broun’s team is expecting and hoping it’s far lower. This from Broun chief of staff David Bowser:

“We are talking about a potential GOP turnout around 350,000-400,000 GOP voters. With that, what does it take to make the runoff of a seven-candidate primary? 100,000 votes? Our people are super energized and our early voting/absentee ballot chase calls are showing  one third Broun voters or lean voters. …

“I’m not saying yet that Broun will be in the runoff, but I’d ignore the ‘likely voters’ in favor of the ‘actual voters.’ Paul Broun was counted out in 2007 and 2008 by the pundits and media alike, are they ready for strike 3?”

***

As the only candidate in the Democratic race for governor, Jason Carter has some free time on his hands. He’s cut this robocall endorsing Democratic incumbent John Eaves over Robb Pitts in the race for Fulton County Commission chairman:

***

In the GOP race to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, businesswoman Tricia Pridemore is touting the endorsement of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

***
In the race for state school superintendent, Republican Ashley Bell, a Common Core opponent, has been endorsed by former congressman J.C. Watts.

***

See that bald guy in the masthead above? Thirty-five years ago today, he walked into the AJC and began making a living with his typing skills.

 

95 comments
Huffster
Huffster

Thanks, Jim, for all your years of service.   OK, maybe this is a stupid thought/question, but I keep having it: Why is it we still allow babies born to the "undocumented" to be American citizens automatically?  Seems abolishing that law would cut down on half the illegal immigration.  Or is that waaay too simple?

VolatileVoice
VolatileVoice

Congratulations on the 35th anniversary, Jim.

Crankshaft
Crankshaft

All of this mudslinging and inaccurate campaign claims by Republican candidates is President Obama's fault - at least according to the fine conservative politicians in Cherokee County.

SmartAleck
SmartAleck

Way to go, Jim!  ...a liberal, left wing, democRat hack spokesperson for 35 years that would make Georgia's own little communist, Cynthia Tucker, proud.

CharlesHendrix
CharlesHendrix

Congratulations on 35 years Jim. Hope to be reading your commentary for another 35.. 

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

Happy Anniversary Jim.

Do something fun, post your original by-line photo.

Let's see if the rest of us have aged as well as you.

khatcher23
khatcher23

Congratulations on thirty-five years of hard work. I enjoy your column and respect your work. 

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

Isn't there something particularly sad about a candidate who hopes for low voter turn-out because he knows that the majority of voters will reject him?

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

For those who oppose amnesty for illegal aliens, please don't forget, when you vote today: once the primary is over, the Republican winner will turn towards the center.  While Ms. Nunn won't say whether she would have supported Obamacare, she does support amnesty. Allowing illegal aliens to stay in this country while they get "legal" is amnesty, and a pathway to citizenship. If you don't want your sovereignty sold out for a few additional votes, please support Dr. Paul Broun, whose anti-amnesty stand is will known and unalterable.


ex animo

davidfarrar

BrennanMancil
BrennanMancil

Does Michelle Nunn have a constituency, as she shared a "constituent's" story?

Crankshaft
Crankshaft

I'm just waiting to see which bridge will be closed after the election.

DontTread
DontTread

When you say, ‘Well, I was busy doing another job’ … it just doesn’t come across as credible.”


It also says "I'll just be another rubber-stamp vote per the direction given by Democrat leadership".

Tom_Jones
Tom_Jones

@Huffster That's way too simple, because "abolishing that law" won't cut it. It would take a constitutional amendment overturning Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

SMC618
SMC618

@Crankshaft  It's a shame that Republicans hate President Obama MORE than they love their country.  They'll cut off their noses to spite their faces and gladly vote against their best interests and their hatred for their fellow citizens is just disgusting.  Whatever "HURTS" someone else is what they will vote for. It never fails.  They are an immoral people. I'm an Independent and I wouldn't vote for a Conservative EVER. 

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

@Kamchak  


My new home state of Oregon just had it's same-sex marriage ban stuck down by the courts. Georgia's will be struck down soon, too.


It is so exciting.  Once again, progressives succeed at expanding liberties denied by conservatives.

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

@Kamchak  

I wonder how many children who have lost a parent to war or disease or an accident appreciate being used  as political hay?

Derwin0
Derwin0

@DavidFarrar  "once the primary is over, the Republican winner will turn towards the center."


Not in Georgia.  If anything, they go more to the right for the General election, Republican & Democrat both.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

@DavidFarrar  


"the Republican winner will turn towards the center".


Since 2000 the GOP has actually not held to that strategy.  The party, and their candidates in turn, have stuck to a strategy of turning out the base rather than persuading 'swing' voters.

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

@DavidFarrar  

If illegal immigration is such threat, why did the GOP not do anything about it a decade ago when they had control and the country was still in the grip of 9/11 fever?

MoFaux
MoFaux

@DavidFarrar  And his solution is what exactly?  Self-deportation?  Spending upwards of $1 trillion to build a fence along both the north and south borders AND keeping them secure (while still not keeping illegals out completely)?  The only logical solution that will actually change anything (and NOT cost untold billions) is to create a pathway to citizenship.  Anything else is political smoke and mirrors designed to get votes from gullible people.  They ain't going anywhere, so we might as well have them paying all of their taxes.  The notion that "these people" are "bad, evil terrorists that need to be deported" is wearing thin.  "These people" are picking the fruit that you are stuffing your face with, and just like the rest of us, the vast majority of them are good folks.  Quit making it seem like all illegal aliens are evil.  And yes, that is how your agenda plays to the rest of us.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@DavidFarrar  

Allowing illegal aliens to stay in this country while they get "legal" is amnesty, and a pathway to citizenship.

1986 Ronoldo Reganendez says, "What?"

SMC618
SMC618

Baumer_1  Soon enough Conservatives will go the way of the Dodo bird. There is no place for Regressives and Magical thinkers in today's world. They've made us the laughing stock of the industrialized world.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@LookbeforeIleap @DavidFarrar  


A member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights advised the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday to oppose amnesty legislation backed by President Barack Obama and Democrats because it threatens to further devastate the employment opportunities for black Americans.


"Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, in his individual capacity as a member of the eight-member commission, wrote to Rep. Marcia Fudge (R-OH), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and said that amnesty would "disproportionately harm lower-skilled African-Americans" whose economic conditions have already gotten worse under America's first black president. "*

ex animo

davidfarrar

JamesLemonjello
JamesLemonjello

@LookbeforeIleap @DavidFarrar are you retarded?  The left has been accusing the right of Mexican genocide since 1993 (clinton)  and a decade agoBush proposed the immigration bill that allowed all current illegals to register and gain citizenship in 7 years, but the democrats called it an 'amnesty bill to gain votes' so they opposed it.  but you probably didn't get that memo at the last Obama luv fest.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@MoFaux @DavidFarrar  


People who cross our borders illegally, are illegal aliens, not undocumented immigrants. If we stop creating incentives, and with the Mexican economy picking up, most of these 20 million illegal aliens will return home since it has now been amply proven they are here for the work and social benefits, not to gain US citizenship.


ex animo

davidfarrar

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@MoFaux @DavidFarrar  


Again, look at the history, if you think I am incorrect. All this will do is create even more incentives for those would would cross of borders illegally, but next time instead of 20 million it will be 60 million.


Even as we speak, the evidence is right in front of your eyes;  hundreds of young Mexican children are being thrown across the desert and crossing our borders illegally in the mistaken belief that the Dream Act has, or will, soon pass. 


ex animo

davidfarrar

JamesLemonjello
JamesLemonjello

@MoFaux @DavidFarrar again---  Bush proposed a pathway to citizenship (amnesty bill) but the left opposed it.  voted it down three times - ask pelosi why it never passed the democrat controlled house in 2007and again in 2008.

DontTread
DontTread

@Baumer_1 @DontTread  Really?  I'm pretty sure I don't hold public office, so I can't be a rubber stamp for anything.


context: the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@JamesLemonjello @Kamchak  


That, my friend, is amnesty, pure and simple, and it isn't fair to millions of others who respect our laws and become US citizens legally.


Again, we will never be able to secure our borders, or make them safe, as long as Congress insists on creating incentives for those would would cross our borders illegally.


ex animo

davidfarrar 

MoFaux
MoFaux

@JamesLemonjello @MoFaux @DavidFarrar  If that is true (I honestly do not recall this), and Republicans were so for amnesty under Bush, then why are Republicans so vehemently against amnesty now?  For the same reasons you cite?  Does everything come down to spite now?  I find your claim quite difficult to believe.  Then again, the NRA sometimes is for universal background checks, other times not, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Kamchak
Kamchak

it started as S. 2611

That bill and the corresponding bill in the house were voted on in 2006 under the auspices of the 109th congress when Dennis Hastert was speaker and not Pelosi.

Perhaps you should quit while you're not too far behind.

Just suggestin'.

Kamchak
Kamchak

keep reading - wiki will tell you

Very well.

From wiki:  The bill was introduced in the United States Senate on May 9, 2007, but was never voted on, though a series of votes on amendments and cloture took place

Wiki says the bill was never voted on.

Now, as we used to say in my day ain't your face tight.

Kamchak
Kamchak

- ask pelosi why it never passed the democrat controlled house in 2007and again in 2008.

As I understand it, the bill was only introduced in the senate.

Why would Nancy Pelosi have anything to do with it?

JamesLemonjello
JamesLemonjello

@Kamchak the "Z visa", that would be given to everyone who was living without a valid visa in the United States on Jan. 1, 2010; this visa would give its holder the legal right to remain in the United States for the rest of their lives, and access to a Social Security number. After eight years, the holder of a Z visa would be eligible for a United States Permanent Resident Card (a "green card") if they wanted to have one; they would first have to pay a $2000 fine, and back taxes for some of the period in which they worked. By the normal rules of green cards, five years after that the illegal immigrant could begin the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Kamchak
Kamchak

voted it down three times

Got proof?

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@pb @DavidFarrar  


Certainly, all of the 20 million illegal aliens presently living in this country here can become legal, US citizens, if they observe the Immigration and Naturalization laws of this country already on the books, as millions of their fellow law-abiding countrymen and women do every year.


ex animo

davidfarrar


pb
pb

@DavidFarrar sooner or later,  some of the "illegals" will get citizenship. It's only a matter of time. And for the ones that been here a long time, the right thing to do.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@Kamchak @DavidFarrar  


Hopefully the voters of Georgia will learn from Reagan's mistake.


ex animo

davidfarrar



Kamchak
Kamchak

@DavidFarrar

Reagan said amnesty was his biggest mistake...

He still signed it.

Just sayin'.

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