Georgia GOP rally to defend Senate seat in runoff

Gov. Nathan Deal walks in with Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna.  JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM
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Gov. Nathan Deal walks in with Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Georgia’s top Republicans are leaving little to chance in the final major electoral fight of the 2016 election cycle.

Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republican Senate leaders will host a fund raiser on Wednesday in Atlanta for Chuck Payne, the GOP candidate in Jan. 10’s special election runoff for Senate District 54.

Payne faces Debby Peppers, who is running without party affiliation, in the runoff for what should be a reliably Republican, Dalton-based, seat. The special election was necessary after Deal named Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, to the state Court of Appeals.

In an email to supporters, Payne’s team notes that turnout is likely to be low.

“With Christmas coming in less than a week and the New Year’s Holiday to follow, voters will have plenty of distractions from this important election,” the email says. “The campaign needs your help now more than ever!  If you live in or have friends and family members in the district, please encourage them to get out and vote.”

Democrats, meanwhile, hope to pick off the seat as Peppers is seen as a Democrat despite the lack of party affiliation next to her name on the ballot.

Justin Tomczak, a Republican operative helping Payne, said the GOP blitz should come as no surprise.

“When you go on TV and say you are going to caucus with the Democrats if elected, don’t be surprised when the Republican party gets behind your opponent.”

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With the calendar still hanging on to 2016, Georgia’s next statewide elections are still like tips of mountains far on the horizon. But the shadow campaigns for 2018 are well under way.

That might explain why Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Tuesday posted this on his Facebook page:

A simple click takes on to Cagle’s campaign website, where one is invited to answer questions about immigration and to provide your name, email, phone number and address. It’s those last bits of personal information that the survey is really about. It helps Cagle build a database of potential supporters in advance of his likely bid for the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.

Cagle is not alone in the practice. Last week, we told you about a similar tactic used by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

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The positioning for Tom Price’s 6th District congressional seat continues.

Former Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel confirmed on Facebook yesterday that she’s most certainly eyeing the position:

“Steve and I want to thank you for the encouraging calls, emails, and texts as we consider the opportunity to serve the citizens of Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. We are deeply humbled and so very appreciative of your prayers, gracious thoughts, and warm friendship. Steve and I are looking forward to enjoying the holidays with our family and friends and will take some time to give further thought and prayer to this big decision.

Handel, who’s close to the Price family, said to watch out for a formal announcement “early in the new year.”

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Speaking of the Price family, state Rep. Betty Price would be a history-making member of Congress should she run for and win her husband’s congressional seat.

A report out yesterday from Smart Politics, a political analysis site run by the University of Minnesota’s Eric Ostermeier, said that if Betty Price were to secure the 6th District seat, she would become the first woman in congressional history to succeed her husband via a special election under circumstances other than his death.

Price hasn’t closed the door on a run for her husband’s seat. She recently said it was “premature” to announce a decision until the governor sets a date for qualifying. That likely won’t occur until early next year.

Catch up on the latest in the race here.

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The head of the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC that’s positioning itself at the center of the Donald Trump opposition movement said big-money Democratic groups such as his will be hanging back before making any big investments in traditionally red states such as Georgia.

Here’s what Guy Cecil, head of Priorities USA, said when asked about the millions in investments some Democrats say is needed to flip Georgia blue:

The Clinton campaign made only a modest investment in Georgia ahead of the election. (Priorities USA did sink seven-figures into the Peach State later in the game.) Clinton ended up losing Georgia to Trump by about 5 percentage points, doing only slightly better than Barack Obama did against Mitt Romney in 2012.

Read more: Georgia Democrats struggle for a path forward after election

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We now know more about the U.S. Senate tribunals, erm committees, that will be grilling Tom Price over his Cabinet nomination.

Senate Democrats announced their committee assignments for the new Congress yesterday, and it looks like Price will be facing many vocal critics as he goes before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel in particular.

Committee members in 2017 will include liberal stalwarts Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, as well as Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, one of a trio of Democrats who has already announced plans to vote against Price’s nomination.

Democrats are unhappy with Price’s selection given his past stances on health care policy and entitlement programs, but they don’t have the votes to stop his nomination if the GOP sticks together. Nevertheless, they’ve promised to make some noise over him in the new year.

 


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