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The Jolt: Georgia GOP’s runoff luck holds, but the margin for error shrinks


Georgia Republicans can breathe easier this morning. Their lock on statewide constitutional offices remains in place.

Some absentee and other ballots have yet to be tallied, but in the race for secretary of state, state Rep. Brad Raffensperger appears to have beaten former Georgia congressman John Barrow, 51.97 to 48.03 percent.

In the much-watched race for a seat on the state Public Service Commission, GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton looks to have held off Democrat Lindy Miller by a similar margin, 51.83 to 48.17 percent.

Which means that for the fourth time since 1992, Republican candidates dominated general election runoffs. Yet any GOP celebration of this unbroken string should include a large dose of sobriety. 

The last statewide runoff in Georgia came in 2008. That’s when U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss was drawn into a runoff against Democrat Jim Martin. Despite the fact – or perhaps, because – the runoff occurred in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s first presidential victory, Chambliss secured a hefty 57.4 percent of the runoff vote, compared to Marshall’s 42.6 percent.

In fact, Tuesday’s results resemble the returns of the 1992 runoff for U.S. Senate, when the Republican party in Georgia was still in the process of becoming. GOP challenger Paul Coverdell stunned Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler, 50.6 to 49.4 percent.

So 2020 could be a harrowing year for the Georgia GOP, with or without runoffs. Today’s Marietta Daily Journal takes on the topic of the Democratic surge in Cobb County, where major local offices – such as sheriff and district attorney – are tied to the presidential cycle. The MDJ analysis has this word of advice from Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications, the Republican consultant:

If Republicans hope to reverse the tide, Rountree advised, they have to start doing better with black voters, receiving 15 to 20 percent of the black vote rather than the statistical 5 percent.

This is not news. In fact, you could call it rather ancient counsel that has been repeatedly ignored or resisted in GOP circles. But even as the final votes were being cast on Tuesday, there were signs that the implications of November are being absorbed in some Republican quarters.

There was the press release from U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who is up for re-election in 2020, which that the senator had hosted “a breakfast and roundtable discussion with Dr. David A. Thomas, President of Morehouse College, and Georgia business leaders.” The breakfast had been planned for months. From the press release:

Roundtable attendees included Klaus Zellmer, CEO of Porsche North America, Steve Hennessey of Hennessey Auto, presidents of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and senior leadership from UPS, Aflac, and 1908 Capital.

Then there was the invitation to a Jan. 10 fundraiser for 15 members of the state Senate Republican caucus. All are white. Only two are women. Nonetheless, the affair will be held at Paschal’s restaurant on Northside Drive in Atlanta, just a few days before the start of the 2019 session of the Legislature.

Among African-Americans, the restaurant has near-iconic status. Though it has shifted its location since then, Paschal’s served as an informal meeting place for Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Here’s the invite:

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Shortly after Chuck Eaton declare victory in his bid for re-election to the state Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols, his GOP colleague on the utility board, had some unsolicited advice for Debbie Dooley, the tea party activist who had endorsed Democrat Lindy Miller in the race.

“Why don't you bury the hatchet and take a break in 2019,” Echols said via Twitter.

Dooley had backed Miller in part because of her criticism of the costly Plant Vogtle nuclear project. Moreover, she promised early Wednesday to find a Republican primary opponent to challenge Jason Shaw, who was tapped this month to replace retiring Commissioner Doug Everett. 

Don’t expect Dooley to heed Echols’ advice. She responded that she thinks “voters should be educated on what the PSC does and the decisions they make, much the way they keep up with their legislator and how they vote on legislation.”

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The Washington Post has identified Jason Velazquez, an Atlanta-based digital marketing director, as the nerdy prankster who took advantage of a typo in a Twitter message sent by Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and counsel to President Donald Trump. It all revolves around a dropped space between “G-20.” and “In.”

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We told you yesterday that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he’ll encourage President Donald Trump to sign a new compromise farm bill, even though it doesn’t tighten work requirements for food stamp recipients. Now Politico reports that Perdue has a plan for persuading unhappy conservatives to back the legislation, which provides his department with new, desperately-needed policy plans for the next five years. The former Georgia governor wants to propose new rules to tighten work requirement waivers, according to the D.C. news site:

USDA has been looking at ways to crack down on some 36 states that currently waive at least part of their (food stamp) populations from the existing three-month limit for able-bodied adults without dependents to receive benefits within a three-year period if they’re not working at least 80 hours a month.

“Through regulation we’ll be able to please those conservatives who expected more work requirements in the farm bill, as I did, as President Trump did,” Perdue said after an Illinois Farm Bureau event in Chicago.

Perdue is expected to help sell the new farm bill on Capitol Hill in the days ahead.

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Attention Sandy Springs: Executives from Mercedes-Benz and two other German auto companies met with President Trump and members of his economic team at the White House yesterday, where tariffs were high on everyone’s minds.

A White House spokeswoman said the president “shared his vision of all automakers producing in the United States and creating a more friendly business environment.” But the post-meeting statement did not say whether Trump raised the issue of new tariffs.

Luxury carmakers this year have been on edge ever since Trump, citing trade deficits, threatened to impose import taxes on imported luxury automobiles and auto parts. The U.S. and European Union quickly stood down after the latter warned of retaliation, but the threat of new duties has never been far from the surface.

After Tuesday’s meeting, executives from BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes parent Daimler AG said they were considering new U.S. investments, but only if Trump didn’t impose any new tariffs. Sandy Springs is home to Mercedes’ new U.S. headquarters.

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Qualifying begins today for the special election for the north Georgia seat held by John Meadows, the House Rules Committee chairman who died last month at the age of 74.The election will be held Jan. 8 and a runoff, if needed, would be Feb. 5. 

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