Photo Credit: Blake Aued
Jason Carter (right), the Democratic candidate for governor, talks to some random voter at Hendershot's Sunday, Dec. 1.
Do you think state Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) is merely the latest sacrificial lamb Democrats are offering up in the 2014 gubernatorial race?
If so, you're not alone. But you might want to think again.
Carter (President Jimmy's grandson) managed to draw a couple hundred people to a last-minute, virtually unpublicized meet-and-greet at Hendershot's on the weekend after Thanksgiving 11 months before Election Day. No way Mark Taylor or Roy Barnes could've pulled that off.
Carter devoted much of his stump speech to convincing the Democratic activists and donors in the room who've been beaten down by a decade of defeats that he has a legitimate chance to win. He cited a poll showing that only 36 percent of voters think Gov. Nathan Deal should be re-elected, as well as President Barack Obama's performance in 2012. Obama won 46 percent of the vote without spending a dime here, making Georgia the second-least red state behind North Carolina.
"The thing I've heard the most is people are excited to have a real race," he said.
Policy-wise, Carter focused mainly on education. Sixty thousand students have dropped out of the technical college system, 140 school districts hold class fewer than 180 days out of the year, there are 9,000 fewer teachers in the state than there were four years ago, and college enrollment is down for the first time in memory because HOPE reform has put higher education out of reach for some, he said.
Carter was the public face of Democrats’ opposition to HOPE cuts, which he called an "unbelievable catastrophe." Even Deal has recognized that his reforms pushed thousands of students out of two-year schools and has moved to rectify the mistake.
At the same time that education is being cut and cut—incidentally, leading 39 cities and counties to raise property taxes, Carter said—he accused the Deal administration of trumpeting Site Selection magazine naming Georgia the No. 1 place to do business.
"You're not really building for the future," he said. "You're building for the present, and you're building for these magazine articles that don't matter."
And while the big fish like Caterpillar get all kinds of tax breaks, Deal made sure that the same incentives aren't available to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, Carter said. That's one reason why Georgia's unemployment rate is still 8 percent, he said.
Commission Races Heat Up: Finally, we're getting some candidates for local races.
Herb Gilmore, a businessman and Athens-Clarke County planning commissioner from 1996–2008, was the first to jump in on Monday, Nov. 25. The Old West Broad Street resident is running in District 3, where Commissioner George Maxwell is retiring.
Gilmore said he got involved in local politics by fighting cell towers in his neighborhood, is a big proponent of historic preservation and master planning and wants to expand Athens Transit without raising fares. "I think you have to find a happy medium between neighborhood protection and economic development," he said. "I don't think you need to have one over the other if you do it right."
Melissa Link—an outspoken progressive and a constant fixture at local government meetings who nonetheless rubs some like-minded folks the wrong way—made it official later that day. "I might bring a little punk rock behind the rail," she said.
Link, a longtime journalist and editor, said she wants to harness Athens' artists and musicians to alleviate rampant poverty and create jobs. "One of our greatest assets is our creative community," she said. "They could be a big economic driver and help lift those in poverty up."
Rachel Watkins, who does PR for Avid Bookshop and the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau and, like Link, lives in Boulevard, has been telling people she is also running but has not made a formal announcement.
Meanwhile, there could be a rematch between Commissioner Jared Bailey and Dave Hudgins, who announced last week that he'll be seeking the District 5 seat for a second time.
"As is my nature, you can count on me for fiscal responsibility, accessibility and responsiveness to the constituency, and a practical and common sense approach to the issues that face our commission," Hudgins said in a news release.
Hudgins lost to Bailey in a runoff in 2010 but District 5 is now more conservative. In precinct 5C (Chase Street School), Bailey won 78 percent of the vote, providing his margin of victory. In the district's other three precincts—Oglethorpe Avenue School, Whitehead Road School and ACC Fleet Management—Hudgins won 54–56 percent.
Republican state legislators changed the lines last year. Now, 5C isn't in District 5; it's in District 3. Without those progressive Cobbham and Boulevard voters, Bailey could have a difficult time winning re-election. But they might elect one of their own in District 3, rather than an African American from the Hancock Corridor neighborhood.
Bailey hasn't said for sure what his political future holds. After quitting his job as director of AthFest Educates, he said he has "a lot of options." Why not go for broke and run for mayor?
Broun Roundup: Things are getting a little testy between the very, very conservative Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and the merely very conservative ones.
In what could be a desperate effort to revive his flagging campaign—top staffers quit en masse last month—Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) pledged to quit and go home if the Senate did not "repeal or replace Obamacare" in his first term.
That wasn't enough for Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens), who used Gingrey's pledge as an opportunity to tout his doomed bill to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let us all buy terrible insurance plans that don't cover anything.
A couple of weeks later, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) gave an interview to WGAU 1340 AM in which he seemed to say that working to improve the Affordable Care Act is more responsible than working to ensure its failure. A spokesman backtracked, pointing out that Kingston has voted to repeal the ACA numerous times.
Broun pounced again, saying in a news release that he is "certain that allowing ObamaCare to continue is absolutely irresponsible" and he is "not trying to fix ObamaCare; he is working to fully repeal it."