By WALTER C. JONESMORRIS NEWS SERVICE – updated Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 9:58pm
ATLANTA | Beyond the headlines and campaign rhetoric, the state’s investigation into possible irregularities by a Democratic-leaning group’s efforts to register blacks, Asians and Hispanics to vote has many facets, and not all are yet known.
The investigation into the New Georgia Project began in early May, when local registrars started reporting to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division that voters had complained of intimidation and that documents turned in by the group appeared suspicious. In all, officials in 13 counties so far — from Effingham and Toombs in the southeast to Coweta and Gwinnett in the northwest — have submitted suspicious documents to state investigators.
Since Secretary of State Brian Kemp is a Republican, Democrats and officials of the New Georgia Project have alleged in the media that the investigation is a GOP attempt at minority voter suppression. But many of the complaints that triggered the probe originated in Democrat-controlled counties like Muscogee, DeKalb and Fulton. ...
Because one of New Georgia’s leaders is state Rep. Stacey Abrams, an advisor to Michelle Nunn’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and the state House Democratic leader, at least one GOP operative has said repeatedly that Nunn is tied to the scandal.
“Michelle Nunn’s direct ties to the state voter registration fraud investigation run deep,” said Leslie Shedd, spokeswoman for the Georgia Republican Party’s Georgia Victory initiative.
But no direct evidence of Nunn’s involvement has surfaced other than her association with Abrams. Nunn’s campaign has its own voter-registration effort in conjunction with the Democratic Party of Georgia and Jason Carter’s campaign for governor.
Neither side is not above political gamesmanship, according to Kerwin Swint, a former political operative who is now a political science professor at Kennesaw State University.
“Both parties are trying to position themselves to win the turnout game,” he said.
Kemp, like other Republicans, is trying to counter registration gains Democrats have made in recent years, Swint said.
“Stacey Abrams claims her efforts are nonpartisan, though they are clearly partisan. They are trying to register as many Democrats as possible,” he said. “Brian Kemp claims he is simply trying to uphold the law, yet there is no doubt his efforts also have a partisan intent.” ...
Michelle Nunn can come across as a “lightweight,” “too liberal,” not a “real Georgian.” While she served as CEO for the Points of Light Foundation, the organization gave grants to “inmates” and “terrorists.” And her Senate campaign must feature images of her and her family “in rural settings with rural-oriented imagery” because the Atlanta-based candidate will struggle to connect with rural voters.
These may sound like attacks from the Senate candidate’s Republican rival, but in fact, those are a few of the concerns expressed in her own campaign plan, which sources say was posted online briefly in December and appears to have been drafted earlier that month. Drawing on the insights of Democratic pollsters, strategists, fundraisers, and consultants, the document contains a series of memos addressed to Nunn and her senior advisers.
From all appearances, the document was intended to remain confidential. It outlines the challenges inherent in getting Nunn, who grew up mostly in Bethesda, Md., elected to the Senate in a state with a large rural population. Her father, Sam Nunn, was elected to the Senate when she was six, and Michelle Nunn attended Washington’s prestigious National Cathedral School and then the University of Virginia and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before returning to Georgia to do nonprofit work and, now, to seek higher office.
The documents reveal the campaign’s most sensitive calculations. Much of the strategizing in the Georgia contest, as is typical in southern politics, revolves around race. ...
To compensate for her difficulties with rural white voters, Nunn’s strategists emphasize the need to turn out blacks and Hispanics. “They know that in order to have a chance of winning, they’ve got to change the turnout from what it would ordinarily be in a midterm election,” Kerwin Swint, a professor of politics at Atlanta’s Kennesaw State University, said, when asked about the document’s conclusions. ...
Georgia’s campaign for governor shifted into litigious territory Friday as boosters of Gov. Nathan Deal and his Democratic challenger, Jason Carter, traded complaints over timely fundraisers and politicized tweets in an effort to tar their opponent as unethical.
Republicans have socked Carter, an Atlanta state senator, and his supporters with a range of complaints in recent days as the governor vows to reinvigorate his last bid for public office. It’s ground Carter’s camp is happy to fight over, offering a fresh chance to revive ethics questions swirling around the governor’s 2010 campaign.
It’s also a sign that the ethics commission, vilified by both campaigns, will play an outsized role in this campaign as it vets this volley of complaints, as well as later rounds that are almost assured to come through November.
“Both campaigns are trying to get an upper hand on the ethics issue,” said Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist. ...
MARIETTA — The dust has settled, and the winners of the runoff elections have been crowned. So why did the elections shake out the way they did?
Political experts in Cobb pointed to a variety of factors, including name recognition, endorsements and a strong ground game, as the reason some candidates succeed while others did not.
Some pundits predicted the results of the race for a seat on the Cobb Board of Education, but were surprised by how one-sided the election was as Susan Thayer defeated incumbent Tim Stultz by a significant margin; Thayer received 3,030 votes, or 70 percent, while Stultz took home only 1,271, or 30 percent. ...
Thayer goes on to face Democrat Kenya Pierre in November for the District 2 seat on the board
Loudermilk’s ground game puts him over the top
Meanwhile, in the race to be one of Georgia’s representatives in the other chamber of the U.S. Congress, former state Rep. Barry Loudermilk defeated former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr to become the presumptive 11th District Repres-entative for the state of Georgia.
Loud-ermilk received 34,641 votes statewide, or about 66 percent, compared to 17,794 votes, or about 34 percent, for Barr. In Cobb County, Loudermilk took 59 percent of the vote, good for 13,591 votes, compared to only 9,314, or 41 percent, for Barr.
Kerwin Swint, a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University, argued Loudermilk’s endorsements from religious and conservative organizations, such as FreedomWorks, resonated with the types of voters in District 11.
“He’s a conservative, family-based candidate in a conservative district, and so his issue concerns and policies lined up very, very closely to where a majority of voters in the district are,” Swint said. ...
MARIETTA — In the two months since a number of primary contests were whittled down to two contenders, candidates for seats from the local school board to the U.S. House have not pulled punches in their efforts to emerge victorious Tuesday.
The runoff season — which began for some races when no one primary candidate managed to capture 50 percent of the electorate May 20 — has seen several competitive races take a negative turn as the July 22 election approaches.
Former commission Chairman Bill Byrne and former Acworth Alderman Bob Weatherford have been locked in a tight contest for outgoing Commissioner Helen Goreham’s seat representing northwest Cobb, a race that has seemingly pitted grassroots support against the influence of Cobb Chamber leaders.
Among the most contentious contests to be decided is the runoff between Barry Loudermilk, a former state senator from Bartow County, and Bob Barr, a former congressman and presidential candidate, for U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s seat representing the 11th District. Gingrey vacated his seat to launch an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
Both candidates have dug up unflattering pieces of each other’s history in their attempts to prove themselves the more worthy choice.
Also in a runoff are Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman and prosecutor Ann Harris, who are vying for retiring Judge Jim Bodiford’s seat on the Cobb Superior Court bench, and Cobb school board member Tim Stultz, who is defending his post against education consultant Susan Thayer.
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said there’s always “a bit of a risk involved” when runoff opponents decide to launch attacks on each other.
“There’s always a calculation,” Swint said. “When you’re going to attack your opponent, you’re going to take some heat yourself. So you better make sure, if you’re going to go after your opponent, the attack hurts him more than it hurts you.” ...
MARIETTA — Prepare for an all-out assault of campaign ads in your mailbox, over your phone and on your television.
With July 22’s runoff elections a week away, candidates for several high profile positions will be emptying their war chests to buy direct mail advertisements, employ callers and purchase commercials in an attempt to drive supporters to the polls. And some candidates have large war chests.
For example, there is about $2 million cash on hand between Republican U.S. Senate candidates Jack Kingston and David Perdue.
“I’m sure both of those candidates are going to … continue to raise money right up to the last possible minute,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University.
According to disclosure filings on the Federal Election Commission’s website, Kingston, an 11-term congressman, has received more than $7 million in contributions over the course of his candidacy, including about $2 million in the last three months alone. Kingston had about $1.2 million cash on hand as of June 30. ...
By WALTER C. JONESMORRIS NEWS SERVICE – updated Monday, June 30, 2014 - 1:11pm
ATLANTA | Voters in the Republican Senate runoff who want an experienced hand who came up through the party ranks have that option in Jack Kingston.
His career is the life’s dream of teenaged political junkies. The volunteering he and his wife were doing at a fundraiser as members of the Savannah Young Republicans led to the chance to meet one of his heroes, Ronald Reagan, then a former governor running for president.
Kingston’s hard work and connections led to winning a seat in the state House of Representatives for Savannah in 1984. Six years later he became the first Republican to hold the First District congressional seat since Reconstruction, and he’s been in Washington ever since, rising in seniority and power over those 22 years.
Although he never had serious opposition after his first legislative race, he says he still likes campaigning. Yet, these days, he frequently runs into questions about his years in Congress spawned by negative television ads from runoff opponent David Perdue attacking him primarily for his votes on spending.
“One of the constant concerns you have is that people are too polite when they come up to you,” he said. “I’d rather have them ask me head on.”
So, here they are, head-on.
He’s being called “king of the earmarks” because he used them more in a three-year period than all other Republican members of the Georgia legislative delegation combined. ...
The biggest difference between Kingston and Perdue is that one had a career in Congress while the other held a career as a senior executive in private enterprise. Perdue is appealing to voters who want a change while Kingston’s support comes from those who appreciate his conservative voting record.
Kingston has won the endorsements of the National Rifle Association, National Right to Life, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as many tea party leaders who generally oppose the chamber.
He has a lifetime voting record of 100 percent in accord with the National Conservative Union and 96 percent with the National Federation of Independent Business.
“When he goes around saying that Jack Kingston is a liberal, it just doesn’t have credibility,” Kingston said of his opponent’s attacks.
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said while primary voters may be more attuned to attack ads than general-election voters, he said they are not ploughing new ground.
“The content of the ads is pretty well known,” he said. “There is nothing striking or new in them, but I guess it’s about repetition.” ...
ATLANTA-- The emptiness of political discourse is measurable by the commercials. Exhibit A this year would be the series of commercials for U.S. Senate candidates that featured babies depicting politicians. It is theater that can starkly contrast with the importance of the office sought.
"it's just a very different type of activity, governing and politicking," said Kerwin Swint, Kennesaw State University political science professor.
It's demonstrated with the issue of Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army sergeant freed by the Taliban -- and the controversy that has stirred. Central to it has been Saxby Chambliss, the retiring U.S. Senator from Georgia whose seat is sought by the men behind the baby commercials.
As Intelligence Committee chairman, Sen. Chambliss arguably follows the lineage of other national figures who occupied Senate seats from Georgia -- including Senators Sam Nunn, Carl Vinson and Richard Russell.
"Saxby Chambliss currently has a heightened role on the intelligence committee. And he's able to play a role in substantive foreign policy issues that Kingston or Perdue (or Michelle Nunn) would have to perform once they're in office," Swint said. ...
Georgia may be dominated by Republicans in virtually every top political office, but Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter of Decatur believes 200,000 previously uncounted votes will be crucial to winning back the governor’s mansion.
The prevailing theory among political analysts is that as red as the Peach State is today, it’s ripe for Democratic victories in the next two to three election cycles, when demographics changes favoring the party will make it a true swing state.
Carter isn’t buying it.
The numbers he and his campaign staff have been crunching offer the gubernatorial candidate, who two weeks ago secured the Democratic nomination, hope he can defeat Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
In 2012, President Barack Obama garnered more than 1.7 million or 45.5 percent of votes. Carter said he will likely need to capture 1.3 million of those votes to win the off-year election.
However, last month’s primary turnout of just under 20 percent doesn’t bode well for Democrats. Carter received 304,243 votes to the Republicans’ 596,218 votes, of which Deal captured 72.2 percent. And nearly 60,000 more Republicans than Democrats participated in early voting.
Carter’s campaign believes upward of 600,000 Democrats who aren’t registered to vote are in the state. Registering and getting just 200,000 of them to vote in November, campaign officials calculate, will give them the win.
Getting potential supporters not only motivated, but also physically to the polls will be crucial to the Carter campaign. ...
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, says Carter will need not just Democratic support but independent voters this year.
“It’s a midterm election year and could be a tough one for Democrats nationally,” he said in an email. “If it was a presidential year then maybe he could rely more on Democratic voters. But considering the hurdles a Democratic candidate in Georgia faces this year, he’s doing quite well.”