Feds agree to probe Waycross cancer outbreak

Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller reports that a federal agency that specializes in hazardous material has accepted pleas from Waycross residents to investigate a local cancer outbreak:

AJC subscribers can get more of the background by clicking here.

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For Donald Trump, those early vote states can’t come soon enough. And Ben Carson may be headed toward Jeb Bush territory, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released this morning:

Six weeks before the Iowa Caucuses open the 2016 presidential race in earnest, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz lead the Republican field nationally, but Trump trails either Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and 50 percent of American voters say they would be embarrassed to have Trump as president....

Trump has 28 percent of the GOP pack, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 24 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has 12 percent and Dr. Ben Carson has 10 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. No other candidate tops 6 percent with 8 percent undecided. But 58 percent of those who name a candidate might change their mind.

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Trump isn't the first candidate to plant a flag in Georgia. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is building his candidacy around the South and its March 1 SEC primary, opened an office last week in Valdosta.

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The Wall Street Journal has a good look at the Trump phenomenon in the South, digging into its own polling:

Mr. Trump’s likely strength can be detected by looking at Republican primary voters who live in counties with large African American and Hispanic populations. ...

The idea of Mr. Trump doing well in counties with large minority populations may seem counter-intuitive, but, remember, we’re focusing on a specific set of voters that live in those places: Republican primary voters. With that group, we are focusing almost solely on white voters who live in those counties. Even in states with large minority populations, the Republican primary electorate is more than 90% white.

The broader demographic profile of those counties – places marked by lower incomes and education levels – fits well with the profile of Trump voters that has emerged over the last few weeks. Recent polls have shown the GOP front-runner does better with Republican primary voters who fall into those groups.

In other words, Trump's strength in the South is the modern-day Gene Talmadge voter.

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In polls, Lindsey Graham  barely registered a heartbeat. But as we pointed out Monday, his exit from the presidential race frees up a lot of establishment heavyweights in South Carolina. The early beneficiary is Jeb Bush. From Reuters:

Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, a veteran fundraiser who was Graham's state finance chairman, has signed on to help Bush, a campaign official said.

Nine other members of Graham's operation have also chosen to help Bush, including three co-chairs of Graham's state finance operation. These include Eddie Floyd, Anita Zucker and Bob Royall, the official said.

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USA Today has something from the "Really?" file:

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, says he's getting "a lot" of encouragement to launch another White House bid from Republicans concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump as the 2016 GOP nominee.

This time, to run as an independent.

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Whoops. The Augusta Chronicle reports that an aircraft maintenance firm is demanding a $7 million refund from the city and another $1.86 million from the Richmond County school system, citing overpayment on local sales taxes.

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It appears that Georgia’s coastal islands will be spared the blessing/scourge of games of chance. Beyond those offered by local convenience stores, anyway. From the Brunswick News:

The state legislator pushing to bring casinos to Georgia says Brunswick would be an unlikely candidate for one of the gambling halls, though somewhere else along Interstate 95 would.

“I was thinking more like Savannah or Kingsland,” said Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, chief sponsor of the casino bill. “There’s been some interest in Savannah close to the South Carolina line, and there’s some interest in being close to Jacksonville.

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A new, expanded set of clergy leaders has vowed to oppose "religious liberty" legislation next year. More than 200 pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders have signed a petition that warns the proposal could "result in discrimination and have many unintended consequences." Here's a snippet:

As faith leaders from diverse traditions, we believe freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but religious freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or exclude others.

We oppose this proposed legislation. First, it would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good. Second, it could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add burdens to both the courts and taxpayers alike. Third, our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution.

The measure's sponsors contend the legislation offers an an extra layer of protection against government intrusion into religious rights.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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