Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens
Republican Victories: Last month’s runoff elections put Brad Raffensperger in the secretary of state’s office and kept Chuck Eaton on the Public Service Commission.
Raffensperger defeated Democrat John Barrow, a former U.S. congressman who represented Georgia’s 12th District, with 52 percent of the vote to Barrow’s 48 percent. Eaton won his election by about the same margin, defeating Democrat Lindy Miller. The runoff was characterized by a lower voter turnout than the general election in November.
Among the challenges awaiting Raffensperger are numerous lawsuits alleging voter suppression by the secretary of state’s office and concerns about the state’s 16-year-old voting machines that do not provide a paper trail.
Transitioning: Gov.-elect Brian Kemp named his campaign manager, Tim Fleming, as his chief of staff and David Dove of the Robbins Law Group as director of his 41-member transition team.
Other team members include former Georgia Congressman and former Trump Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; former state GOP Chair Alec Poitevint, a Bainbridge businessman; and former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development Craig Lesser, now with the consulting firm Pendleton Group.
Democratic Dome Gains: The state legislature will have 13 more Democratic lawmakers once the new General Assembly members are sworn in this month. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s James Salzer notes that this represents the largest legislative gain for Democrats in about 20 years. DeKalb County will have an all-Democratic delegation.
In the Senate, longtime state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) lost to Democrat and former state Rep. Sally Harrell. In a statement, Millar congratulated Harrell and noted that “the Blue Wave struck North DeKalb, the Sandy Springs panhandle and Peachtree Corners.”
The Senate seat vacated by Republican David Shafer, Duluth, who resigned to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, was won by Democrat Zahra Karinshak.
In the House, the seat held for nearly 20 years by retiring state Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) was won by Democrat Erick Allen.
Democrats also defeated Republican state Reps. Sam Teasley, Marietta, who lost to Mary Frances Williams; Betty Price, Roswell, who lost to Mary Robichaux; Beth Beskin, Atlanta, who lost to Betsy Holland; Meagan Hanson, Brookhaven, who lost to Matthew Wilson; Scott Hilton, Peachtree Corners, who lost to Beth Moore; Clay Cox, Lilburn, who lost to Jasmine Clark; and Geoff Cauble, Locust Grove, who lost to El-Mahdi Holly.
Special Session: The late-fall special session of the General Assembly called by Gov. Nathan Deal approved $270 million in spending for parts of Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael, as well as a 10-year, $200-million tax break available to farmers and landowners who replant trees in the affected areas.
House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) noted on his Facebook page, “With agricultural losses that will total $3 billion or more and replanting that will take a decade or more, the process of getting that part of the state through this disaster has only just begun.”
Legislators also halted the collection of jet fuel taxes – a move that primarily benefits Delta Air Lines – through June 30. Deal had previously signed an executive order suspending the collections. Lawmakers, led by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, had denied an expected tax break after Delta suspended a marketing arrangement with the National Rifle Association following the school shootings in Florida last spring.
Leadership Spot for Ferguson: Georgia’s Republican 3rd District Rep. Drew Ferguson has been named chief deputy whip for his party for the 116th Congress. The appointment was made by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who has been House majority whip.
“Drew has proven himself to be a tireless worker and an invaluable member of my whip team,” Scalise said. “He is a strong advocate for the conservative principles that House Republicans stand for.”
Once the new members are sworn in this month, the U.S. House will be controlled by Democrats rather than Republicans.
In Memoriam: Former U.S. Congressman Mac Collins, a Republican who represented districts south of Atlanta for 12 years, died in November. He was 74.
Collins, who started a trucking firm at a young age, was a former Butts County commissioner. He began his political career as a Democrat but changed parties and became a Republican leader. He was unsuccessful in his GOP primary bid for the U.S. Senate, losing to Sen. Johnny Isakson. An attempt to return to his old House seat in 2006 was also unsuccessful.