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Jim GallowayGreg BluesteinTamar Hallerman

Georgia GOP to re-open qualifying for two state House seats

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State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R - Atlanta, confers with Rep. Beth Beskin, R - Atlanta, early in this year’s session. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R – Atlanta, one of two incumbents who withdrew after signing up for re-election this month. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Updated at 2:10 p.m. Friday: A spokesman for the Georgia GOP has confirmed the action reported below, which was taken at a state executive committee meeting last night. Qualifying dates should be issued by the end of the day. Qualifying will be at state GOP headquarters next Wednesday and Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Original: We haven’t gotten the official word yet, but we’re told that the Georgia Republican party will reopen qualifying for two state House seats – both involving incumbents who withdrew their candidacies after signing up for re-election.logo-all

In House District 3, the withdrawal of Republican incumbent Tom Weldon, R-Ringold, left DeWayne Hill as the only candidate in the contest. There is no Democrat in the race.

In House District 52, Republican incumbent Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, withdrew after facing unexpected opposition from former Sandy Springs city councilman Graham McDonald – who was supported by former allies of Wilkinson, Mayor Rusty Paul and state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.

In each case, other potential candidates said they would have signed up for the May 24 primary – had they known there would be no incumbent in the contest.

No qualifying dates have been announced.

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“Sounds like a perfect issue to plan a governor’s race in 2018 to me, but what do I know?”

That was the response of Chris Riley, chief of staff Gov. Nathan Deal, to news of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s vow to keep up the fight over “religious liberty” legislation through next year. You can read it here.

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Meanwhile, reaction to Governor Deal’s veto of HB 757 has taken a harsh theological turn — well across state lines. Here’s what Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert posted on his Facebook page:

Now is the time for Christians to stand up for the Word of God, not roll over for the spirit of anti-Christ. Gov. Deal should never have abandoned his faith in the face of intimidation.”

We will have more on this later, but the Rev. Bill Coates, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gainesville — the church attended by both Deal and his chief of staff, Chris Riley, expressed his support for the governor via an email sent last night:

“[M]y perception is that the great majority of our congregants are very supportive of Governor Deal’s veto of this bill — primarily for two reasons. First, we hold to the strong historical Baptist principle of separation of church and state.

“The second is personal: We know Nathan Deal the man, the strong Christian who has held numerous positions of leadership and influence in this church and who worships faithfully, a man who takes his faith seriously and lives it, who believes strongly in prayer and who asks for prayer as he leads our state. My belief about him is that he, a conservative Christian who I’m sure prayed earnestly as he made his decision, must do what he thinks is right for all Georgians, not just those whose faith and sentiments might even be closer to his own”

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With the “religious liberty” veto out of the way, the next-biggest item on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk is the measure legalizing firearms on college campuses. And opponents are ratcheting up their efforts to convince him to reject the measure as well.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control group, spent $25,000 on ad buys for this 30-second TV ad urging Deal to veto House Bill 859:

The same group also purchased a minor ad buy before the Senate cleared the bill.

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allenbuckleyHe doesn’t always get his proper mention, but Allen Buckley is the Libertarian party’s nominee for U.S. Senate, running against Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson. Buckley is a CPA who also puts out a newsletter he calls the Bull Sheet. His most recent edition takes on Donald Trump and his refusal to show his tax returns.

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Over the weekend, you’ll hear a lot of cable news talk about how much Tuesday’s Wisconsin primaries will matter in the Democratic and Republican presidential contests. Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz urges you to consume a few grains of salt with that diet:

In my opinion, media commentators and pundits are attaching way too much importance to next Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin. Like the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s getting a lot of attention because it’s the only game in town. But the number of delegates at stake there for both parties is not that large.

[On the Republican side,] I assume that Cruz will win and get all the delegates there. That’s not trivial, but it’s not a game changer either. Trump is still way ahead in N.Y. which has a lot more delegates and is leading in most if not all of the Northeastern states that vote on April 26. His only serious rival, Ted Cruz, is not the kind of Republican who does will in the Northeast. By the end of the month it’s possible that Trump will have won more than 50 percent of the delegates that have been chosen which would put him on a path to clinch the GOP nomination before the convention.

On the Democratic side, with proportional allocation, Sanders will probably narrow his delegate deficit to Clinton by about 10-20 delegates. But there is no reason to expect the results in Wisconsin to influence what happens two weeks later in New York where far more delegates will be at stake and Clinton appears to hold a substantial lead. And Clinton is also likely to add to her delegate lead in the April 26 primaries. By the end of this month, her delegate advantage over Sanders is likely to be larger than it is today, regardless of what happens in Wisconsin. So chill people! Wisconsin is just not all that important.

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The challenger to state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, is facing an ethics complaint contending that she failed to file proper disclosures.

Conda Goodson filed her initial paperwork to start raising campaign cash for the Dalton-based district in September, the complaint said, but then failed to file the required campaign disclosure reports. The complaint urges that she be assessed more than $1,000 in fines for the lapses and as well as “additional criminal action” if she’s found to have intentionally avoided the disclosures.

Goodson could not immediately be reached for comment.