The Democrats and the Governorship in 2018

In the not so distant past, Democrats held an iron grip on the governor’s office in Georgia. There was an unbroken string of Democratic governors in Georgia from Benjamin Conley in 1872 to Roy Barnes in 2002. Sure, these weren’t the types of Democrats you see now. Most were very conservative, although some statewide Democrats started moving to the ideological center after black voters joined the Democratic Party post-1964. But still, they weren’t Republicans and, despite GOP gains after 1994, it seemed unlikely that a Republican would sit in the governor’s mansion prior to the 2002 election.

In 2002, Republican State Senator Sonny Perdue challenged sitting Democratic Governor Roy Barnes in a longshot bid. Although the south had generally been trending toward the GOP in prior gubernatorial elections (Georgia included) and white voters were now giving over 60 percent of their votes to Republican candidates (up from just 33 percent in 1986), Barnes had tremendous spending and name recognition advantages over Perdue.  Moreover, he had defeated his Republican opponent in 1998 by over 8 percentage points and his moderate “New Democrat” policy positions sat well with Georgia voters who were conservative by nature, but had strong ties to the Democratic Party.

Perdue’s victory was shocking, as he won 118 of Georgia’s 159 counties and 53 percent of the two-party vote. Public polling strongly underestimated his chances of winning. His support was particularly strong in rural Georgia, where the average share of the Republican vote went from 38 percent in 1998 to 56 percent in 2002. Rural white voters were the game changers in 2002. These voters had not lent the same level of support to Republican gubernatorial candidates in 1990, 1994, or 1998. They finally turned to the GOP in 2002 though— maybe to support Perry-native Perdue, maybe because of Governor Barnes’ position on the Georgia state flag. Whatever their reasons, their party-switching handed the governor’s mansion to the GOP in 2002, and it has not let go since.

15 years and three elections later, the Georgia Democratic Party is in bad shape. It has little influence outside of Atlanta and hub cities, and it has a tough path ahead in 2018. Yes, Georgia’s demographics are changing. But, it is still 60 percent white and gave over 2 million votes to Donald Trump in 2016. Hillary Clinton won just 32 of 159 counties, and most of these were in the Atlanta area or near a hub city. Democrats’ white voter problem (they are taking around 25 percent in statewide contests) is not going away by 2018, making it difficult for them to win a statewide race.

It is possible that Democrats can recapture their pre-2002 mojo, but a few key things must fall in place next year. Continue reading “The Democrats and the Governorship in 2018”

One Georgia, But With Many Parts

This week’s Courier Herald column:

I began writing this column in early 2011. It began after a lunch conversation with DuBose and Carol Porter. Both had just run for statewide office. They were rural Georgia Democrats. They were in the traditional print media business, running almost a dozen papers serving the greater I-16 corridor out of their offices in downtown Dublin.

I was a new media blogger sending random opinions onto the internet. I was a Republican. And I lived in Atlanta. My audience was primarily those in Atlanta that make policy and law for the state.

We knew each had different readers. We knew the state was changing. Politics itself was changing. We were concerned that social media was driving us farther apart. Politics not only was unable to bring people together for common purposes but seemed to be cementing the division and driving new wedges.

What was originally scheduled as a lunch to catch up after the November 2010 elections turned into a discussion of how to bridge the gap between rural Georgia and “Atlanta”. South Georgia, long fearing being left behind, seemed to understand that with the election of a Governor and Lieutenant Governor from Hall County and a Speaker from Blue Ridge, their distance from power was growing literally and figuratively. Continue reading “One Georgia, But With Many Parts”

GAGOP District Convention 2017 Wrap Up

Once the final gavel fell on the 14th District Republican Convention, I said to a few friends “Thank God and Greyhound” (quoting the Roy Clark song).  I didn’t run for re-election for district chairman.  I have my reasons, the most important one being my wife Samantha and I welcoming our first child, Lucas Todd Smith, into the world this August.  You can read my chairman’s report to my district Convention at the end of this post.  I still have final paperwork to do to wrap up my term as chairman, including sending a copy of the resolution our district passed honoring the life of Jon Richards to his family, but it’s nice to have a weight lifted and focus on other important things….like building baby registries which we did yesterday.

There were a few district chairmen who decided not to run for another term, so there will be a lot of new faces on the GAGOP Executive Committee.  I believe they earn an appreciation for the process.  You tend to see things in a different light, so if you’re a new chairman or officer in the Georgia Republican Party structure, just remember to listen more than you speak.

Here are the district chairmen for the 2017-2019 term (thanks to Joseph Brannan for the list):

Continue reading “GAGOP District Convention 2017 Wrap Up”

Morning Reads – Monday, April 24, 2017

Will is not available this morning and I’m the best replacement he could find. So here are your news links from here, there, and everywhere for Monday morning:

You Can’t Have a Hospital Because We Don’t Get to Build It

In the continuing saga that is the building of a hospital in Columbia County, The Augusta Chronicle reports today that the Georgia Court of Appeals has voted to send the case Doctors Hospital filed against the Georgia Department of Community Health back to Fulton County Superior Court. Doctors Hospital had asked for a judicial review of the GDCH’s decision to award Augusta University Medical Center a Certificate of Need (CON) through an exemption in 2014, and somehow, all the documentation for the review did not make its way to the Appeals Court. Specifically, Doctors Hospital had asked that some documents be added to the file, and they weren’t for whatever reason. Fulton County was supposed to send those documents within 10 days of the request back on November 8, 2016.

They missed the deadline by 154 days as of this morning.

Now, they have been ordered via ruling to submit the complete review to the Appeals Court, where it will be re-docketed for the next term. Yes, it’s a paperwork error, probably just an oversight from someone who earnestly made a mistake and had no ulterior motives, but Columbia County residents have been held hostage by this drama for almost four years already. Continue reading “You Can’t Have a Hospital Because We Don’t Get to Build It”

David Shafer Encouraged To Run For Lieutenant Governor

While everyone had their attention focused on the aftermath of the CD 6 special election, the world of Georgia politics kept on spinning. On Wednesday, the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce held a legislative recap luncheon where State Rep. Chuck Efstration made it clear that fellow Gwinnett Republican and Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer is being encouraged to run for lieutenant governor in 2018. The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that Efstration made the following remarks:

I’m very excited right now that as discussions about statewide races for constitutional officers takes place, I know Sen. Shafer is being encouraged by many people, including myself, to consider running for lieutenant governor. I don’t think we’ve ever had the kinds of opportunities that we do right now for additional influence in Atlanta.

Shafer did not say much in his own remarks, only that there would be an announcement shortly. The pro tem is known for keeping his cards close to his vest, so read into this what you will. His calculus might have changed with State Rep. Geoff Duncan’s entry into the race, although Duncan’s run was widely expected. Shafer is a powerful player in the state senate as is, with 15 years of experience and plenty of statewide connections. He was going to run for lieutenant governor in 2010, but he withdrew after Casey Cagle stepped away from his gubernatorial run and decided to return to stay in his position as lieutenant governor.

The other opportunity Efstration was referring to is State Rep. Buzz Brockway’s announced run for secretary of state. Brockway represents the Lawrenceville area and previously headed up the Gwinnett County GOP. He will face at least one challenger in that race as State Rep. Brad Raffensperger has also announced.

ACLU wins battle over “made up” last name for baby

Two Georgia parents are cheering after winning a dispute over the last name chosen to appear on their child’s birth certificate.  The pair chose “Allah” as the last name of their now toddler daughter, despite a state law which mandates a child’s last name must be one of the parents or a combination of the two.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a lawsuit in March on behalf of Elizabeth and Bilal Walk. The pair named their child “ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah,” but the state would not issue the birth certificate because the name was not in compliance with state law.

The family alleged the denial was a violation of the First Amendment and their civil rights while the Georgia Department of Public Health lawyer argued that the state law should supersede a choice last name. Oddly, the state previously issued birth certificates with the last name “Allah” for two older sons.

Continue reading “ACLU wins battle over “made up” last name for baby”

Morning Reads for Friday, April 21, 2017

PSA: It appears this announcement needs to be made from time to time. The Friday Morning Reads are more free-spirited than other weekday offerings. Less political, weirdly entertaining, and definitely more geeky. Your mileage may vary.

Jeremy Berry Named City Of Atlanta Attorney

Score one for the good guys.  Mayor Kasim Reed has named Jeremy Berry of Dentons to be the new City Attorney for the City of Atlanta.  Per Meridith Hobbs of the Fulton County Daily Report:

Dentons partner Jeremy Berry is the mayor’s pick for Atlanta city attorney. Mayor Kasim Reed announced today that he’s naming Berry as the new city attorney. Cathy Hampton, the current city attorney, announced April 18 that she will be stepping down on May 19. Reed said at the time that he’d name her successor by next week.

Other than that he’s an Emory grad, there’s not much wrong with this pick. While well established in Democratic political circles, Berry is also very active in the community, and I’ll state for the record he works quite well across party lines. The Mayor made a good pick.

Republicans Begin To Circle Support Around Karen Handel

Georgia Republicans are beginning to rally around #GA6 Republican candidate Karen Handel. Governor Nathan Deal’s camp didn’t waste time circling support around Handel with Deal’s Chief of Staff Chris Riley taking to Twitter yesterday.

Senator Johnny Isakson also threw his support behind the Republican candidate yesterday:

Continue reading “Republicans Begin To Circle Support Around Karen Handel”