Capitol Recap: In Georgia GOP governor’s race, the tough talk flows


The expert judge that the U.S. Supreme Court appointed to oversee Florida’s water wars suit against Georgia often pressed for compromise.

Ralph Lancaster Jr. often warned that it would be better for the two states, plus Alabama, to work out an agreement sharing the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin because they would probably find his solution less than desirable.

Maybe it’s because tough talk on the campaign soapbox tends to prove pleasing to the hard-core voters who turn out for primaries and runoffs, but Georgia’s Republican candidates for governor show little evidence that they would heed the judge’s advice.

Based on what they’re saying, the odds that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp would compromise with Florida seem less likely than the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party running out of rum.

Kemp refuses to make a deal with Georgia’s neighbors to the south and west that will leave “hardworking Georgians high and dry.”

“I won’t back down, blink or sacrifice our state’s future on the altar of expediency,” Kemp said.

Cagle, talking to The LaGrange Daily News, appeared ready to bring the feud with Florida to a boil.

“I am going to be a governor who is going to protect our water supply at every cost,” Cagle said. “That’s the bottom line. We have a statewide water management plan, and we are being good stewards of that resource and will continue to be, but Alabama and Florida need to understand we will take it to every level we can in order to make sure Georgia’s economic prosperity continues to be strong.”

The water war will be waiting for whoever wins the governorship.

The Supreme Court last month decided to send the case back to an expert judge, a “special master” in the parlance of the court, to re-examine Florida’s suit against Georgia. It won’t necessarily be Lancaster.

Florida claims it has suffered ecological and economic damage, especially to its oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay, because it says Georgia is consuming too much water from the basin. The high court’s 5-4 ruling means the tide of Georgia’s legal expenses, already at nearly $50 million, will only continue to rise.

While Cagle and Kemp are taking a hard line against compromise ahead of the July 24 GOP runoff, the man who had to deal with the issue for the past seven-plus years, Gov. Nathan Deal, lamented the lost opportunity for an agreement.

“We got very close at one point in time,” Deal said, “and I regret that it didn’t happen.”

Picking at scabs: Cagle and Kemp used a new state law about freezing credit to poke at each other's wounds.

The law restricts credit monitoring agencies from charging residents who lock their credit, which consumers often do following a breach of delicate financial information and other data that might lead to identity theft.

Cagle campaign manager Scott Binkley saw that as an opportunity to bring up a mishap in the Secretary of State’s Office while it was under Kemp’s watch that exposed millions of records of confidential voting data to media outlets and political parties.

“The people of our state shouldn’t have to worry that registering to vote will leave them vulnerable to identity theft,” Binkley said, “but under Brian Kemp’s incompetent command, that’s exactly what happened.”

Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney pointed out that no identity theft has been reported and no Social Security numbers were exposed in the errant release.

He then fired the Kemp campaign’s salvo of choice these days, bringing up the secretly recorded conversation in which Cagle said he backed what he described as “bad public policy” to harm the chances of another political rival.

“Casey Cagle did confess to committing a felony — on tape,” Mahoney said. “Guess they forgot to mention that undeniable fact on their rambling press release.”

Modeling off Trump: The two Republican candidates for governor have each expended a lot of energy trying to Trump his rival, with a capital “T.”

Both have worked hard to align themselves with President Donald Trump’s policies, and they have even tailored their messages and slogans to sound more like the commander in chief.

Cagle scored a recent coup by signing Trump’s former state campaign director, Brandon Phillips, to advise his own campaign.

He also has won endorsements from Rayna Casey, a huge GOP fundraiser who was a co-chairwoman of Trump’s Georgia campaign, and state Sen. Burt Jones, one of the first state elected officials to back Trump before the 2016 election.

Kemp also can claim a number of early Trump supporters, including the initial state elected official to endorse the president, state Sen. Michael Williams.

Williams used that bit of prescience as a keystone in his own Trump-like campaign for governor, which ended with a fifth-place finish in the May GOP primary.

Perdue boosts Scott effort: Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue succeeded in adding $19 million in the Senate version of the farm bill for a scholarship program for 19 historically black colleges and universities.

That falls short of the $95 million over five years that Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta sought for the program, a pet project of his.

But it does put the scholarship program on the agenda when a House-Senate conference committee hammers out a final farm bill.

Ferguson on ICE: U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, is standing by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, amid calls from some Democrats to eliminate the agency that enforces the country’s immigration laws.

He doesn’t see such proposals as good for the long-term prospects of Democrats, calling the idea the “political last gasp of a dying national party.”

Ferguson was the only Georgia Republican to reject both of the GOP-authored immigration plans that came before the U.S. House last month.

He suggested that Democrats were backing less-restrictive immigration laws in order to “import new voters.”

“The Democrats have failed, their policies have been repudiated and they are slowly being forced from national political relevance,” Ferguson said in a campaign statement. “As American voters reject them, they are seeking to import new voters from countries with a weaker tradition of Democratic principles to replenish their ranks.”

Digging deeper into the wallet: Maybe it costs more to put such a long name on a campaign sign, but state Rep. Brad Raffensperger just kicked an additional $400,000 into his effort to become secretary of state.

That brings the Republican’s personal investment in his bid to $1.2 million, and there’s more where that came from: Financial disclosures put his worth at more than $26 million.

Raffensperger faces former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle in the July 24 GOP runoff.


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