The Jolt: On the runoff scenario that looms for Republicans

Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton (left) and Libertarian Ryan Graham  at this week's debate of three candidates in the District 3 contest for the state Public Service Commission. Not pictured is Democrat Lindy Miller. Special/Georgia Public Broadcasting
Caption
Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton (left) and Libertarian Ryan Graham at this week's debate of three candidates in the District 3 contest for the state Public Service Commission. Not pictured is Democrat Lindy Miller. Special/Georgia Public Broadcasting

The Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting recorded debates for some of the statewide, down-ticket contests this week.

One of the stranger exchanges occurred in the forum that featured the three candidates in the District Three race for state Public Service Commission: Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton, Democrat Lindy Miller and Libertarian Ryan Graham.

You can watch it here. The APC debates have a somewhat rigid format: Questions from a panel, followed by questions posed by one candidate to another, followed by more questions from the panel.

In the candidate-on-candidate portion, Miller sought to break through Eaton’s contention that Georgia has exceptionally low electric utility rates – by arguing that surcharges erased that advantage. “The average family and small business owner do not pay rates. The average family pays bills,” she said.

But when Eaton’s turn came, he didn’t strike back at Miller, a well-funded and close-running rival. The GOP incumbent drilled the Libertarian.

“I’d like for you to expand,” Eaton said to Graham, “On some of your statements in the past regarding the legalization of heroin and other drugs, and the elimination of our public school system.”

A puzzled look crossed Graham’s face. “I have never said anything about the elimination of our public school system. I don’t really understand what this has to do with the Public Service Commission at all,” the Libertarian said.

“This is important,” Eaton said. “He’s written about it on the internet, he’s written about it on liberty websites. We don’t know a whole lot about him, and it gives some insight into somebody’s mind, and how they think.”

We’ll get to the substance behind Eaton’s questions in a bit. The larger issue is why Eaton would waste his time on a third-party rival likely to draw no more than a small percentage of the Nov. 6 vote.

The answer can be found in this morning's report from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball. Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia have rejiggered their assessments of a few races for several governorships and the U.S. House.

In Georgia, the Crystal Ball shifts the Seventh District congressional race, which features GOP incumbent Rob Woodall and Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, from “likely” to “leans” Republican.

The political website also moved Georgia governor’s race from “leans Republican” to “toss-up/leans runoff.” People forget that, because we require our winners to receive more than 50 percent of the vote, we have a purgatory that sits between winning and losing.

If the Georgia race for governor might be headed for a runoff, then races at the bottom of the statewide ticket – like Georgia’s two PSC races – might be headed there as well. Consider Eaton’s question of Graham to be evidence of that concern.

After the debate, the Eaton campaign sent us a pair links to explain what the Republican was driving at. We'll let you be the judge. On the question of public schools, Graham wrote this as part of a critique of the 2017 "campus carry" law – emphasis ours:

"In a truly free society, there would be no public education facilities. These would be privately managed institutions and they would be allowed to make rules for themselves on whether firearms are permitted on their campus or not. A bill in Georgia should allow these institutions, public or private, to make these decisions for themselves."

And in an analysis of medical marijuana legislation:

"While the libertarian answer is to legalize all drugs as the state has no business regulating what individuals put in their own bodies, this is clearly a step in the right direction."

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Republican Brian Kemp has pivoted to a new TV attack against his Democratic opponent for governor, with a 30-second spot that assails her support for allowing students in the country illegally to be eligible for the HOPE scholarship.

Abrams' stance on the HOPE scholarship has long been a favorite Kemp talking point on the campaign trail, but this direct-to-camera ad sharpens the attack. Watch it here. Says the Republican:

"Stacey Abrams wants to give HOPE scholarships to illegal immigrants, even if it bankrupts the system for everyone else. She says it's their right. I say it's just wrong. I'm Brian Kemp. As governor I'll reward those who pay their taxes - not those who don't."

Abrams has promised to appoint members to the Board of Regents who would reverse a 2010 policy that blocked immigrants without legal status from attending the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and other top schools. Said the Democrat at a recent event:

"The reality is you don't have to be documented to be smart. You don't have to have documentation to be productive. Everybody contributes to the economy and vibrancy of our state, and I have never understood the decision-making that said it was worth it to take away that opportunity from the best and the brightest."

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Associates of Republican incumbent Chris Carr have launched an ominous TV attack ad aimed at Charlie Bailey, his Democratic rival in the race for attorney general. The ad is the work of the Republican Attorneys General Association, and is intended to knock down Bailey's credentials as a former member of the Fulton County district attorney's office.

ExploreWatch it here:

A bit of the language:

"Atlanta's gang problem is larger than ever and growing. And it was Charlie Bailey's job to put them away. He called himself the gang prosecutor. But he wasn't. Under his watch at Fulton County, assault rose 7 percent. Murder up nearly 17 percent. And rapes up 30 percent. And Charlie Bailey watched it happen."

The only documentation cited in the ad is a 2016 report from Channel 2 Action News.

At a Tuesday press conference held a block from the state Capitol, the Bailey campaign sought to turn Carr’s criticism (he’s on the RAGA executive committee and raised money for the organization) into a general attack on both cops and prosecutors.

The event was peopled by members of the local Police Benevolent Association, which has endorsed Bailey. Also there was Bibb County District Attorney David Cook, who said:

"It's an insult to law enforcement and to anyone who has ever stood before a judge and jury…I find it shameful that someone that was appointed as chief prosecutor of this state, without ever prosecuting a case or arguing a motion in court, would attack law enforcement and prosecutors who are working to fight gangs and organized crime."

Bailey himself accused Carr of neglecting the gang issue during his two years as attorney general:

"My opponent has had his chance. He's sat over there, and he hasn't asked for one dime for law enforcement. He hasn't asked the Legislature for one dime to build an organized crime and gang division."

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On Wednesday, the Marietta Daily Journal reported that Republican DeAnna Harris had received the endorsement of Jeriene Bonner-Grives, president of the Cobb County chapter of the NAACP, in her race against state Rep. Michael Smith, D-Marietta. That was followed today by this:

Bonner-Grimes rang to say she had never endorsed Harris and never given her a quote saying she did.

"I am pretty upset, quite stunned. Quite stunned," Bonner-Grimes said.

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A former Atlanta city council president is moving closer to the center of the #MeToo movement.

The WNBA announced Tuesday that its president, Lisa Borders, would be leaving her post to become the first president and CEO of “Time’s Up,” a group created only last January in the wake of Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein scandal. It provides assistance to victims of sexual harassment.

Borders made an unsuccessful 2009 run for mayor of Atlanta. Trivia fodder: Her campaign manager was an unknown state legislator named Stacey Abrams.

Borders was Coke’s vice president of global community affairs before moving to the WNBA.

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