Morning Reads — October 24

Happy Monday, everyone! Yesterday, the Young Democrats of Atlanta beat the Atlanta Young Republicans in a game of kickball at Piedmont Park. I encouraged my teammates to invoke the spirit of Reagan to win, but we still lost. There’s so much symbolism in there.




Priorities USA SuperPAC Will Spend $2 Million on Ads Supporting Hillary Clinton

Democratic SuperPAC Priorities USA will be spending $2 million on advertising in the Peach State on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the runup to the November election. According to a story by Mother Jones, the group chose a commercial called “Our Daughter Grace,” which includes video of Donald Trump mocking the disability of a New York Times reporter.

“I think it’s one of our most powerful ads,” says [Justin Barasky, communications director for Priorities USA Action]. “There was nothing that brought the vitriol and disapproval [more] than a 70-year-old billionaire mocking a disabled person did. So that really does—I don’t know if appeal is even the right word—but it certainly turns off virtually everyone.”

The spots have run in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah.

A Word On Polling

As we enter into the season where people start arguing about polls being “skewed” and elections being “rigged,” it worth hearing from an actual pollster who’s been doing actual polls for more than a few years. John Garst, the President of Rosetta Stone Communications, posted a note on his Facebook page to explain the challenges facing pollsters today, and how the industry is evolving. While any information or opinion on any poll should be taken with a large grain of salt, it’s worth noting that Rosetta Stone has have accurately predicted the outcome of the primaries and general elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016 in Georgia.

By John Garst, President – Rosetta Stone Communications

As many of you know – Rosetta Stone Communications has been a leader in public opinion polling in Georgia for many years. In the last several years we have used a blend of interactive voice response (IVR, the acronym for recorded calls) and hand-dialed cellphone calls to collect data. All our surveys have been weighted to ensure an accurate mix of demographic groups. Our record is public, and we have worked very hard to be accurate.

Starting in the 2016 election cycle it became obvious that we could no longer reach voters under 40 and our surveys were at risk of dangerously under-representing younger voters. To adapt, we pioneered the process of geo-fencing – delivering surveys directly into the homes of voters under 40 and displaying them on their handheld electronic devices. The publicly released surveys and the polling for our political clients have included this new method of digitally collected data for our surveys. Continue reading

Isakson Is Running – And I’m Supporting Him

This post was originally a column of mine from June 15, 2015.  It was written the day after I learned Senator Isakson was battling Parkinson’s Disease. I was reminded of it earlier today having a Facebook conversation with a high school friend, who recently lost his dad after a long battle with Parkinson’s. I think it’s worth sharing again.

We’re almost a year and a half past that announcement, and three weeks away from the election.  Senator Isakson still has my full support. He earned it long ago, and has never made me question why he had it in the first place.

Last Wednesday, Senator Johnny Isakson announced that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He simultaneously released a statement from his doctor, and a detailed Q&A about the illness and his specific condition and prognosis. He made it clear that he intends to win re-election next fall and remain Georgia’s Senior Senator. I believe him, and continue to fully support him.

To be blunt, questions about Isakson’s health have followed him throughout his second term, as he suffered from a blood clot and a serious bacterial infection during his 2010 campaign. Some have been asking those questions out of genuine concern. Others, candidly, appear to have been motivated by not so thinly veiled political ambition.

My answer to those that have asked about his condition and whether he’s “really” running for re-election have been the same for years. This is Johnny Isakson we’re talking about. As long as he says is, he is.

That’s not being cute. Republicans are supposed to be the party that doesn’t question the meaning of the word “is”.

I believe Isakson is running without reservation or second thought because I’ve known him since the 80’s when I was in college. I’ve supported him for Governor, for Congress, and for Senator. I’ve held a fundraiser for him in my home. In political parlance, “We’ve met.”

In all of his races, and in all the positions he’s been elected or appointed to serve, he’s never given the easy answer. He’s always given his answer, and left it to the voters to decide if it is the right one. Even when his answer was unpopular. Especially when his answer was unpopular. Continue reading

Corks and Forks

Second Harvest and the Friends of Jimmy Carter are joining together in the “Corks and Forks” fundraiser on Saturday, November 19th. Guests will join President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter for an evening of wine tasting and a gourmet dinner by the Wisteria Restaurant.

The event will take place at the Windsor Hotel in Americus, Georgia.

Funds raised by the event will go towards both Second Harvest and Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Both organizations exist to serve South Georgia:

Second Harvest is a regional hunger relief organization based in Valdosta, with branches in Albany, Douglas, and Thomasville. They partner with more than 400 programs to feed those in need.

The Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic site operates under a vision “to inspire global audiences through the Carter legacy,” supporting the various programs and projects of the Site. “This particular fundraiser will help us to do just that.” says Director Kim Fuller.

Guests may choose from one of three packages, one of which includes an overnight stay in the historic Windsor Hotel. The event will begin with wine tasting, along with a silent auction, followed by dinner.

More information and registration is available here.

AJC Poll Shows Opposition to Opportunity School District

Just over two weeks away from Election Day, the Atlanta Journal Constitution released new polling that for the first time measures approval of the proposed Opportunity School District that voters will decide on in Amendment 1. The AJC poll does not test the ballot question itself. Instead, the poll question attempted to provide additional context on what the measure would do:

The Georgia ballot includes a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to take control of persistently low performing schools. Supporters say the state will improve student performance in these schools and will be more flexible than local districts. Opponents say the amendment would eliminate local decision-making and create more bureaucracy. If the election was being held today, how would you vote, yes in favor of this amendment, or no against the amendment?

On the ballot, voters will see this question:

Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.[

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

34% of those polled said they would vote in favor of the amendment, while 59% would vote no. 8% remain undecided. The measure drew the least support from Republicans and those in metro Atlanta. Relative support was stronger among men, independents, those without college degrees, and those living in the southwest part of the state, however the story notes that support in these groups never went above 50%. The poll was taken earlier this week of likely voters and the margin of error is 4.26%.

In addition to polling the Opportunity School District, the AJC found Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton 44% to 42%, within the poll’s margin of error. (crosstabs) In the Senate race, Johnny Isakson leads Jim Barksdale by a 47% to 32% margin among likely voters. Libertarian Allen Buckley receives 11% support. (crosstabs)

I’m Voting For The Opportunity School District

It’s a time for choosing for Georgia voters.  Four constitutional amendments are on the ballot awaiting the popular consent of Georgia’s governed.  One of those constitutional amendments seeks to help alleviate struggling students in some of Georgia’s failing schools.  There is a lot of opposition to it from school teachers, to Democrats and Republicans, to teachers unions, and other organizations.  Frankly, the big reason to oppose it is because of a supposed removal of local control.  Okay, but as Kyle Wingfield pointed out, the state charter school system amendment was opposed by similar reasons: lack of local control, taking money away from schools, a huge state bureaucracy.  Overall, the gloom-and-doom predictions by detractors of charter schools largely didn’t come true.

Over the course of the past few months, opposition to the Opportunity School District amendment has been growing with arguments playing on people’s fears rather than facts.  Those arguments are playing on people’s fears of ceding authority to a state entity.  That’s understandable since we Republicans generally believe that a government that governs the closest governs the best.  Unfortunately, sometimes those local school districts are unable to sustain successful schools and need help in order to fulfill the constitutional mandate that children in Georgia receive a quality education.  I believe this amendment will help with that.

The good news is that the intervention by the state OSD isn’t forever, in fact, the OSD is limited to the number of schools that it can intervene.  The purpose is to rehabilitate the school and then turn the school back over to the local school board for (hopefully better) management.  Plus, the OSD doesn’t exclude local teachers and parents from consulting on how to get the school back to a path of success.  It’s not a system where people from an ivory tower come to dictate on how things will be and to hell with what teachers and parents think.  It’s a partnership (similar to what should be occurring now at the local level) rather than a radical government takeover of local public schools as some Facebook scholars and pundits pontificate.

I know a lot of my Republican and (L)libertarian friends that I respect will vote no on the amendment, and that’s okay.  We’ll agree to disagree and still be friends. I just choose to stand against the status-quo.  I don’t want to stay with the status-quo while we pursue a chase for a golden unicorn and keep students in failing schools for another 2, 4, or 8 years.  A Recovery School District is implemented in Louisiana and have show some promise.  I hope that we have stellar results in turning failing schools around with the OSD.  Let’s try it and see how it works.  

Georgia Politicos React to Trump’s Refusal to Say if He Will Accept Election Results

The big headline from Wednesday’s presidential debate was Republican candidate Donald Trump’s unwillingness to say whether he would accept the results of the November 8th election. After being asked a direct question by moderator Chris Wallace, Trump answered, “I’ll keep you in suspense.” As could be expected, Trump’s response drew strong reactions from Georgia officials on both sides of the aisle. As reported by Greg Bluestein of the AJC, Atlanta Mayor and Clinton surrogate Kasim Reed said,

Donald Trump is just going through the stages of denial. He’s going to lose and he’s coming to grips with the fact he’s going to lose,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an interview. “I don’t think any of his (supporters) can predict, plan or expect what he’s going to do. But he’s already done so (much) damage to our democracy that folks view this as a very bad chapter that needs to end.

House Speaker David Ralston, via his spokesman Kaleb McMichen, said,

Free and fair elections are a defining characteristic of our country and Americans can be confident in the sanctity of the voting booth. Thousands of dedicated professionals and volunteers work to secure our electoral process each time ballots are cast. On Election Day, our country will begin yet another peaceful transfer of poser — no matter the outcome.

Trump has tweeted his suspicions that there could be outright voter fraud in the election, and has also expressed his concerns in his speeches and rallies. When he talks about the election being rigged, however, there is some confusion over whether he is referencing the possibility of fraud, or whether he is talking about what he views as media bias in favor of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp had already begun to push back on Trump’s claims of a possible rigged election, telling the AJC, “As Georgia’s chief elections official,” he added, “I have worked tirelessly to ensure Georgians have safe, accessible, and fair elections in our state.” Today, he is quoted in the AJC as saying, “At the end of the day, I believe the American people and Donald Trump will stand by the results of the election after the process has been completed and that we will have a peaceful transition of power.”

City of Cochran: Certified City of Ethics?

On October 11th, the City of Cochran Mayor Micahel Stoy announced his resignation in a letter to the residents. His reason for stepping down was because of an alleged secret meeting that was held by the City Council in July. According to the State’s Open Meeting Laws, the City’s Charter, and a city ordinance, the City Council must publicly announce the time and place of any meeting where official business will be discussed. Former-mayor Stoy contends that City Business was discussed at this meeting and is therefore illegal.

In his letter, Stoy said there is a video from July 26, 2016 displaying a meeting of the City Council in the lobby of City Hall where they allegedly considered official business concerning the city for a period of twenty minutes from 6:40 pm to 7:00 pm. The public was not made aware of this meeting and no members of the general public were present. Under The Open Meetings Act, a “meeting” is defined as “The gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon;” Stoy went on to the list the members of the City Council that were present and listed officials that were witnesses. According to Stoy, four members of the Council attended while two members and the City Clerk were witnesses to the meeting. Since there are only six members on the Chocran City Council, if four members were “in attendance” then a quorum was reached, and the only question left is whether official business was discussed.

Upon the discovery of this alleged meeting, Stoy had the choice of reporting it to the Office of the Secretary of State, requesting an investigation by the Ethics Committee, or filing a complaint in the Probate Court. Since these actions could of shutdown the city, Stoy has decided that he will present the evidence against the City Council to the public and let them decide whether the Council acted with the community’s “values of integrity and openness when dealing with the public” considering the fact that the council did unanimously pass an ordinance that established Cochran as a Certified City of Ethics. Continue reading