Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: That ‘darn good political trick’ that helped Deal’s first big win 


In the waning days of Gov. Nathan Deal’s political career, it’s time to look back at his earliest days in office. And 11Alive’s Doug Richards has one of the most interesting tales we’ve read of Deal’s political genesis.

He focuses on Deal’s bid for U.S. Congress in 1992 back when he was a Democratic state legislator – he switched to the GOP a few years later - and running against a fellow Democratic state legislator with more experience under the Gold Dome.

His opponent, Tom Ramsey, snapped up 30 minutes of airtime two days from the primary on a Chattanooga station whose airwaves blanketed the north Georgia district. It was to be a layup for Ramsey, who was to field friendly questions from a studio audience. 

But Deal’s advisers came up with a gutsy idea. We’ll let Richards take it from here:

With an audience tuned in to see Tom Ramsey’s infomercial, what they saw beforehand is what may be the greatest single thirty-second political commercial ever. The actual commercial is lost to history.

But it was 30 seconds of what TV folks call “bars and tone.” Mostly vertical bars of color, followed by a 1000 hertz tone -- the equivalent of what used to be called a “test pattern.” Ramsey, who was in the studio preparing for his infomercial, didn't see it on-air. But he heard about it shortly after his 30-minute program went off the air.

“It was just the tone and bars and that was it,” Ramsey said. “That just simply looked as if the TV station was off the air. And I had people tell me, ‘Well I tuned in to watch you. But the station was off.’ And no, it wasn't. It was just a commercial.”

Ramsey told Richards that at the time it infuriated him, even though he acknowledged it was a “pretty darn good political trick.” As for Deal, he still chuckles at the memory.

“In hindsight at least, I thought it was a rather easy way to divert attention without being mean,” Deal said. “It was a unique approach.”

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Republican Brad Raffensperger is set to be a no-show at the sole televised debate for Georgia secretary of state.

On the eve of the Atlanta Press Club event, the Johns Creek state legislator cited a scheduling conflict for skipping the showdown. 

That means Democrat John Barrow will have the stage to himself for the 11:30 a.m. debate. 

It evoked memories of Brian Kemp’s late decision to pull out of the Channel 2 debate with Stacey Abrams - except Raffensperger doesn’t have Donald Trump’s visit as an excuse. 

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Well, stranger things have happened. But we’re not quite sure what. 

Debbie Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party and a staunch conservative, announced her endorsement of a Democrat running for statewide office.

That would be Lindy Miller, who faces Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton on Dec. 4 for a seat on the Public Service Commission. 

Dooley has become an outspoken advocate for embracing alternative energy - and a vocal critic of the five-member panel and its support for the costly Plant Vogtle nuclear project. 

She supported Libertarian candidates for the post before the November vote, but she said the $750,000 independent expenditure funded by the nuclear industry to support Eaton put her over the top. 

“The PSC race is about ethics and good government representing consumers,” she said. “It’s not about party - it’s about policy.”

Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. Dooley orchestrated another independent group that spent $35,000 during the general election to target both Eaton and Tricia Pridemore.

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They haven’t named a dollar amount yet, but Georgia lawmakers are ramping up a push on Capitol Hill for their colleagues to approve emergency funding for Hurricane Michael relief. All 14 House lawmakers signed onto a letter to GOP and Democratic leaders yesterday urging them to make emergency funding available to farmers before Dec. 7. 

They cited a University of Georgia Study that estimated the loss to Georgia agriculture to be upwards of $2.5 billion. “This storm hit farmers at their most vulnerable hour during harvest and it is critical that we assist these producers immediately to ensure there can be a crop in 2019,” the letter states.

Their push comes on the heels of the Legislature passing a nearly $500 million plan to help clean up and rebuild southwest Georgia after the storm. 

Lawmakers are hoping to attach the Michael money to a government spending package that must pass by Dec. 7. But that legislation is at the center of what could be a protracted standoff over President Trump’s border wall.

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We told you yesterday about how Georgia Democrats were approaching Wednesday’s closely-watched vote on Nancy Pelosi’s bid for House speaker. But that isn’t the only internal party contest we’ll be tracking this week.

A secretive group of House Republicans will huddle on Thursday to hash out who will become the top GOP lawmaker on most of the chamber’s 21 committees. We’re watching the races for the Judiciary and Appropriations panels, both competitive races featuring Georgia candidates.

Doug Collins has the inside track to become the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, which oversees issues like gun control, voting rights and impeachments. 

But the Gainesville Republican ran into a speed bump earlier this month when President Donald Trump meddled on behalf of ally Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. 

Collins is well-liked among GOP leaders, something that can’t exactly be said about Jordan. But the president’s influence among House Republicans is hard to overstate.

Then there’s the contest for the House Appropriations Committee, which holds the federal government’s purse strings. 

Tom Graves, Georgia’s senior-most House Republican, announced his dark horse bid for the position earlier this year. He’ll have to leap-frog several more senior Republicans for the position, but his vow to be a committee disruptor who would stand up for rank-and-file lawmakers could be an appealing one for a party reeling from a disappointing midterm election.

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Another wild card is Rob Woodall. The Lawrenceville Republican narrowly escaped defeat at the ballot box last week, besting Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in his suburban Atlanta district by 433 votes.

Now his dream position has opened up on Capitol Hill: the top Republican slot on the Rules Committee, the panel that readies legislation for the House floor. 

Woodall hasn’t commented on whether he’s pursuing the position, which is an appointed one by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but he’s previously expressed interest in it.

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It may as well be called the boot ban.

Prompted by reports that an employee of a booting company shot an Atlanta man whose car had been shackled with one of the devices, some lawmakers are considering new restrictions on the industry.

State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, a Smyrna Democrat, said Monday she plans to introduce legislation that takes aim at “predatory booting” across the state. 

Her native Cobb County has already outlawed the practice, but many other jurisdictions – including much of metro Atlanta – have not. Some cities even have specific ordinances allowing booting, including Atlanta and Decatur. 

One interesting quirk: As our AJC colleague Chris Joyner points out, there’s no specific law allowing booting in Georgia. Two state lawmakers tried to change that in 2011, but they failed to get traction. 

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Congrats to Stacey Evans, the former Democratic candidate for governor who landed a new gig as a partner with the Wargo & French firm in Atlanta. 

Evans, a former state lawmaker, moves to Wargo & French from her law firm, S.G. Evans Law. She specializes in complex commercial cases, but occasionally dabbles in, ahem, some high-profile libel law

The Daily Report has a full write up here.

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