Politically Georgia

The Jolt: Georgia’s runoff for secretary of state gets nasty 


In the months before the general election, there was hardly a negative ad in the race for secretary of state. In the weeks before the Dec. 4 runoff, the airwaves are filled with them.

Democrat John Barrow and his allies launched a biting 30-second spot highlighting Republican Brad Raffensperger’s tax liens, which state records showed total as much as $130,000. It ends with a plea not to let him “anywhere near your tax dollars.” 

A pro-Raffensperger ad, meanwhile, opens with a warning that “our elections are at risk if liberal John Barrow wins” the head-to-head matchup, then asserts the Democrat’s policies would lead to “more illegal voting than ever.”

Both the attacks leave explanatory details on the cutting room floor.

Raffensperger has said he paid off roughly $5,000 of that debt in July and that he verified with government agencies he doesn’t owe any money for the rest of them.

And the attacks on Barrow focus on his opposition to Brian Kemp’s controversial use of strict “use it or lose it” voting laws to cancel the registrations of hundreds of thousands of voters when he was secretary of state. 

The race has taken on more importance after Kemp’s narrow defeat of Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor, a contest that put voting rights front-and-center throughout the campaign.

Kemp resigned from the job - which oversees Georgia’s elections - two days after the vote. That prompted Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint Robyn Crittenden to the office through early January. 

Democrats are eager to seize their first foothold in statewide office since the 2010 election, while Republicans hope to tighten their grip on power after a razor-tight general election. 

Early voting is available for one week from Monday to Nov. 30. 

It will also settle another race where neither Democrat nor Republican candidate won a majority of the vote. The other is a contest for Public Service Commission between GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton and Democrat Lindy Miller.

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The Libertarian runners-up in both runoff contests have each backed the Democrat. We earlier told you that Smythe DuVal backed John Barrow. Ryan Graham, who finished in third-place in the PSC contest, said over the weekend that he would vote for Lindy Miller.

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More federal money is heading down to Savannah. Word came hours before the Thanksgiving holiday that the harbor deepening project would receive another $52 million from the Army Corps of Engineers in the months ahead, a major infusion that boosters say will help keep the nearly $1 billion venture on track.

Georgia lawmakers have already started looking ahead to the 2020 budget year, penning a letter to White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney earlier this month calling for more money in the administration’s February budget request to Congress.

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Brian Kemp is getting some conservative backup.

Many national media outlets drenched Democrat Stacey Abrams with praise before and after the election. Over the last few days, a handful of national Republican figures are providing Kemp some cover of their own.

Bernie Marcus, the Atlanta-based businessman and GOP mega-donor, warned of Democratic “sour grapes” and branded Abrams’ non-concession a part of a broader strategy to de-legitimize Republican officeholders. 

Erick Erickson, the WSB radio host and conservative figure, blasted lazy national reporters who “build narrative arches with protagonists and villains instead of just giving people the facts.”

And Byron York wrote in the Washington Examiner that the aftermath of the Georgia vote is a “low point” in Democratic efforts to undermine faith in the electoral process. 

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The Perdue network may score another big appointment. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Austin Chambers, once the top campaign consultant to former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, is seeking to take over as head of the Republican Governors Association. 

Chambers, a Georgian, cut his teeth working on David Perdue’s Senate campaign and was also an adviser to Brian Kemp. He’d succeed another Georgian: Paul Bennecke, a Sonny Perdue veteran, is now the group’s executive director. 

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A recent tweet from Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got us looking into a suspect number we’ve seen floating around social media in recent days: that Lucy McBath defeated Karen Handel in the 6th Congressional District despite being outspent 5:1.

Plain and simple, the figure is wrong.

We suspect the number is culled from the money-in-politics website Open Secrets, which compiles and analyzes federal campaign finance filings in a user-friendly format. The site’s 6th District 2018 page shows Handel with $8.39 million raised, compared with McBath’s $1.79 million – a difference of roughly five to one.

Handel’s total, however, is misleading. Open Secrets’ algorithm pulls in money raised during last year’s record-breaking special election – an entirely separate race – which is why Handel’s number is so high. It also doesn’t include outside spending, which heavily favored McBath.

For her reelection battle this year, Handel spent $2.18 million through Oct. 17 (the most recent data available), nearly twice as much as the $1.24 million McBath spent in that same period. The Democrat, however, was buttressed by outside groups, which spent roughly $5 million in her favor, compared to the $1.6 million in help Handel had.

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President Donald Trump tapped former Georgia U.S. Saxby Chambliss for a spot on his Intelligence Advisory Board. The Republican was one of five people Trump appointed to the panel, which has existed for more than six decades and advises presidents about confidential intelligence matters.

Chambliss was a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring in 2014 and has since stayed involved in intelligence and cybersecurity matters while working for the law firm DLA Piper

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Welcome back to Jen Talaber Ryan, the former top spokeswoman to Gov. Nathan Deal who starts a job with the University System of Georgia on Monday after a few months of maternity leave. 

Ryan helped shape the governor’s message during his re-election campaign and his second term,including navigating national attention with Deal’s veto of the “religious liberty” measure and campus gun bill.

She also played a key role in formulating Deal’s policies and setting a tone for an administration that’s earned praise from even some of the governor’s harshest one-time critics. 

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