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.”
Voters from both parties showed up in fewer numbers for Tuesday’s primary election, and some say that’s far more significant for Democrats than Republicans.
Georgia Democrats have high expectations for the 2014 ticket led by gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter and U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.
“It’s been years since we’ve seen this kind of excitement and energy," said Georgia Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson in November. "We’ve got such good candidates that are announcing for office and we’ve got so many important issues to talk about. This excitement level is just off the scale."
Republicans had a similar drop-off this year, but it didn’t stop Brian Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, from boasting on Twitter that even with opposition, the governor received more votes than the total number of Democrats that showed up to the polls.
Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint said a number of factors were at play, including an earlier primary than past years. Still, Swint says the writing appears to be on the wall - he says any anticipated demographic shift favoring Democrats is still several years away.
“Obama’s not on the ballot. It’s not a presidential year. Turnout is deflated. And so Democrats – even those with famous names like Carter and Nunn – are swimming upstream,” said Swint. ...
Stacey Kalberman’s claim that she was forced from her job as head of the state ethics commission will cost the state a total of $1.15 million, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A Fulton County jury in April ruled that Kalberman was pushed out for investigating Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign for governor and ordered the state to pay her $700,000 plus court costs and legal fees. The agreement signed Wednesday shows the total cost for the first time.
The final amount is nearly equal to the commission’s $1.35 million annual budget and will be paid by the Department of Administrative Services through its self-funded insurance program.
Under the terms, Kalberman is to receive $725,111.79, and the law firm Thrasher Liss & Smith will be paid $424,881.21.
Kalberman and her top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were investigating a series of complaints against Deal’s campaign and in May 2011 presented draft subpoenas for records from Deal’s campaign and others. Just weeks later, the subpoenas remained unsigned and Kalberman was told her salary would be cut deeply and Streicker’s job eliminated. ...
The Kalberman case is one of three involving the commission and its Deal investigation that could be decided in the next several months — all before November’s election when Deal will next face voters.
Streicker’s whistleblower lawsuit is scheduled for trial in Fulton County in June. Former commission media specialist John Hair’s whistleblower case is tentatively scheduled for October.
Hair was hired by current commission director Holly LaBerge, who took over after Kalberman’s departure. Hair claims LaBerge ordered him to alter and remove documents from the Deal investigative file and that he was fired when he refused.
LaBerge has denied the allegations.
Steve Anthony, who lectures on state politics at Georgia State University and served as chief of staff to longtime House Speaker Tom Murphy, said these cases will continue to give Deal heartburn if the results are similar.
“It will cause problems on a variety of fronts,” Anthony said. “It will make him have to respond to that and, space and time being what it is, it means he can’t respond to something else.”
It will also draw voters’ attention away from Deal’s own message and gives ammunition to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter. ...
Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint, a former GOP activist, agreed.
The cases “are like a storm cloud hanging over the Deal administration and the governor’s campaign,” Swint said. “The fact that more court action involving the state ethics commission and its gross mismanagement over the last three years is coming soon has to be unwelcome news to the governor’s re-election team.”
David Perdue has advanced to a runoff in the Georgia Republican Senate primary, and he’ll have to get back to campaigning soon.
Perdue will likely face Rep. Jack Kingston or former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in a runoff July 22. Kingston is currently in second place, six points ahead of former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. The second place finisher has not yet been declared.
Georgia election law requires that a candidate get at least 50 percent plus one vote in order to be elected. No one in the crowded GOP field did that Tuesday night.
So that brings us to July, when two candidates will square off to decide which of them will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. ...
Should Kingston win second place, the runoff between him and Perdue is bound to be a lively one, said Kerwin Swint, a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University.
“If it’s Perdue and Kingston that is going to be an expensive, mean runoff,” Swint said.
Political Novice Poised for Strong Showing in Senate Primary
Updated May 19, 2014 8:19 p.m. ET
ATLANTA—A multimillionaire Georgia businessman is poised for a strong showing in Tuesday's Republican Senate primary race by stressing his business acumen over a field of longtime political officeholders.
David Perdue, a 64-year-old former chief executive of Dollar General Corp.DG -1.20% , is Republican voters' leading candidate, according to a recent survey. Last week's poll by Saint Leo University in Florida showed that of 689 likely primary voters, 26% supported Mr. Perdue to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel are fighting for second place, according to the poll, with 16% for Mr. Kingston and 15% for Ms. Handel.
They appear to have edged aside U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, both doctors who dominated airwaves early on, making vocal opposition to the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act cornerstones of their campaign. Mr. Gingrey had led in earlier polling.
Mr. Perdue, by contrast, has stressed his experience as an executive working to turn around troubled companies, including Dollar General and shoe and apparel company Reebok. He said candidates who have spent years in political office don't have the business experience needed to turn around the government's finances, calling the nation's debt the biggest threat to national security. ...
Mr. Perdue, who has given his campaign nearly $2.7 million in loans and in-kind donations, was little-known when he entered the race last year. He gained support in part thanks to widely viewed television commercials featuring crying babies labeled with his opponents' names. The ads have helped him run "a great outsider's race" to take the lead, though the other candidates could get substantial support in what is expected to be a low-turnout election, said Kerwin Swint, a political-science professor at Kennesaw State University. ...
KENNESAW — State Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) and challenger Bert Reeves, a Marietta attorney, revealed stark differences between each other during a forum last week conducted by the Kennesaw Business Association.
Moderator Pete Combs of WSB Radio asked Gregory about his critical comments on the county’s partnership with the
Atlanta Braves to builddeological purist or a mainstream Republican?
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said in some ways, the race between Gregory and Reeves is an example at the state level of the battle over who controls the Republican Party at the national level.
“It’s pretty consistent with a lot of the power plays we’re seeing between what we call ‘tea party Republicans,’ but it can be sort of a broad label,” Swint said. “Gregory is particularly rigid, and what I mean is there are some tea party Republicans who aren’t as ideological or rigid as he seems to be.”
Swint said Gregory is not popular with his colleagues in the Georgia House under the leadership of Speaker David Ralston.
“He’s considered to be by some an extremist, in it for purely ideological — almost narrow ideological — reasons without a lot of flexibility or thought into his positions, and I think he fits in pretty well with a lot of the Ron Paul, libertarian, hard-right-wing-tea-party Republicans we’re seeing these days,” Swint said. “Reeves, I know less about, but from what I can tell, he’s a pretty mainstream, conservative Republican — very much in keeping with the state house these days.”
Whether a mainstream Republican or a purist appeals to voters in District 34 will be determined May 20. Gregory ousted state Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) two years ago in a surprise upset.
“Judy Manning was certainly not a tea party Republican,” Swint said. “She was considered by many when she was in office to be more moderate if anything, representing that district. I would suspect a lot of the business types in that district — a lot of the ones concerned about economic growth and commercial enterprises — probably would fall more to Reeves. And of course the ideological purists would stay with Gregory.”
Swint said Gregory reminds him of the late state Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican who represented northeast Cobb before he died of a heart attack in 2011.
Combs reminded the audience Gregory called the use of such a public-private financing arrangement “theft, where a large corporation and some public officials have conspired to forcibly take money without consent from the electorate and then spend it on a private business venture.”
Combs asked Gregory what he intended to do to change the county’s arrangement with the Braves if re-elected.
Gregory said in a free market, everyone votes on whether a product or service is useful every time they make a purchase.
“So what I would say to the Atlanta Braves is, ‘We would love to have you. You, just like any other business, you take out your loan. You build your stadium. You buy your land. You make your investment. You take the risk, and you keep all the profits,’” Gregory said. “We don’t need to be putting or socializing the risk on the backs of taxpayers. It really is legal plunder, corporate welfare, corporatism, whatever you want to call it. The taxpayers don’t need to fund private business.” ...
As early voting gets under way this week, many will be casting their ballots early to avoid long lines on the day of the primary election.
Voters in the May 20 Primary will be asked to choose a Republican or a Democrat ballot, and on those, they can expect to see ballot questions.
“On May 20, both party primary ballots will have questions approved by each state party committee,” said Dr. Kerwin Swint, professor of political science and interim chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University. “The purpose of these primary election ballot questions is to gauge the level of party members’ support for various ideas and initiatives the party is interested in pursuing. It can also be used to build support and momentum for policies the party is pushing.” ...
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/28/225808/gubernatorial-campaign-strategy.html#storylink=cpy
ATLANTA — The actor William H. Macy has a problem. He's trying to come up with a song to play at an upcoming fundraiser for Democrat Jason Carter's campaign, and now he's learned that former President Jimmy Carter may also attend. Suddenly, that ukulele tune has become more important. "Need courage and better rhymes," he wrote on Twitter.
That hint last week about the Los Angeles fundraiser is the latest sign of the former president's growing role in his grandson's bid for governor. The elder Carter has access to a donor network and the media that few can rival. But his involvement also opens the younger Carter to attacks from conservatives who view his grandfather's one-term presidency with disdain.
Jason Carter, a state senator from Atlanta, has long tried to veer the conversation away from his famous relative in interviews on the campaign trail, saying he's proud of his grandfather's legacy but the race is "about the future and not my family." Yet as November nears, the candidate is increasingly tapping his grandfather's network.
The elder Carter has headlined fundraisers with Democratic bigwigs in New York. He's sent email blasts soliciting donations from the party faithful. And he's hosting a June weekend retreat for the campaign at his Plains compound - at a cost of $20,000 a couple.
This support helps the state senator, who otherwise wouldn't attract national press, keep pace with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal's fundraising machine. In his last campaign finance report, Carter outraised Deal by a 5-to-1 clip, thanks partly to gifts from out-of-state donors, who made up 16 percent of the total.
It's also fuel for Carter's critics, who have seized the chance to link the two. While the elder Carter may be personally popular in the state - the candidate's campaign has him polling at a 59 percent favorability rating - Republicans are confident his liberal leanings only hurt his grandson in a state that is now firmly in GOP control.
"This is a rare circumstance in politics where a candidate must embrace his most prominent supporter in order to raise the money necessary to distance himself from his most prominent supporter," said Joel McElhannon, a veteran GOP strategist.
The younger Carter often only mentions his name-brand heritage in passing at speeches and events. During a Thursday evening Democratic fundraiser, he said his family's Georgia roots date to the 1760s and noted that his two children are 10th-generation Georgians. His granddad's name was not invoked. ...
To some analysts, though, Jason Carter's pivot toward his grandfather is no surprise. Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist, said comparisons between the two are "unavoidable" and that the help is likely needed for an "all-out fundraising blitz."