White clout buoyed Georgia's Republican wave

The Georgia Secretary of State's office just released a racial breakdown of November's voters, and the numbers tell how whites came out in disproportionate numbers to fuel the Republicans' statewide sweep.

Compare that with the white turnout. White voters made up 58 percent of the registered electorate, with roughly 3 million voters. Of those, 1.65 million voted, for about 63.5 percent of the vote. White males made up 27 percent of the electorate but surged to 31 percent of voters.

That's still about 110,000 fewer ballots than white voters cast in 2010, giving Democrats hope in the long-term. But Democrats are concerned that the black vote total has stayed steady over the last two mid-term elections. In both contests, blacks totaled about 740,000. And for Democrats, who hoped changing demographics and new voter registration efforts aimed at minorities would lead to an election upheaval, that's clearly a disappointment.

Just 47,803 voters identified themselves as Asian, Hispanic or Native American. Another 135,422 voters were listed as unknown. Analysts say many tend to be minorities.

Turnout was right at about 50 percent, as roughly 2.6 million of the 5.17 registered voters cast a ballot in November.

The Democratic stronghold of DeKalb County offers a glimpse of the complex racial dynamic. Democratic candidates need to drive up big margins to offset conservative support in rural and exurban parts of the state.

Overall turnout in DeKalb was at 53 percent, slightly higher than the state average. But turnout among white voters soared to 62 percent, perhaps to support native son Jason Carter. That surge helped whites, who make up about 34 percent of the county's registered voters, play an outsized role. They cast about 40 percent of the ballots in November.

The minority population, on the other hand, saw a slight decline. Blacks make up at least 54 percent of the electorate in DeKalb, but only about half of them voted, which meant they had a 52 percent share of the ballots cast -- evidence of an enthusiasm gap.

You can crunch the numbers for yourself here.

***

"Money is green. It's not red or blue."

That truism helps explain why former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, took on a case brought by his one-time adversary, ex-Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican.

Those words were spoken by John Salter, a Barnes law partner, who explained the genesis of the deal. His late uncle, Jeff Davis, was a Republican stalwart and close friends with Perdue. When he died a few years ago, Salter met Perdue at a the funeral. And Perdue was among the first consoling the family of another Salter cousin after a car crash in Macon.

So when Perdue needed legal help to try to force a defunct North Carolina wheat mill and its creditors to pony up at least $2.2 million, he turned to Salter and Barnes.

It's not the first unlikely pairing for Barnes. He teamed with former GOP House Speaker Glenn Richardson in 2012 to challenge a controversial financing law that passed on Richardson's watch. That case is still pending.

Salter said the two governors maintained a positive relationship after the sting of the 2002 election wore off. That's when Perdue upset Barnes to become Georgia's first Republican governor in generations.

"No one would ever think of the two together, but they've known each other for years and they've always got along in the General Assembly," said Salter. "It's about mutually respecting each other. It says a lot about them."

***

The Kennesaw city council formally reversed itself Monday night to approve a mosque in town. From Dan Klepal's rundown in today's AJC:

About a dozen protesters stood outside city hall Monday, holding signs that read: “Ban Islam;” “No Mosque;” and “Cults Have No Rights.”

Samir Malik, who will worship at the center, said all the protesters are invited to the new facility.

“We invite them to come out, peacefully,” Malik said “Put those signs down and we’d love to address any questions they have. Talk to us, one on one, in a peaceful setting." ...

The re-vote was placed on the meeting’s consent agenda, which means none of the council members explained their change of vote. Mathews said each of the four asked that the issue be placed on consent. He called it an “efficiency” issue.

***

Embattled Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran could be getting some backup.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for one month without pay after he authored a religious book in which he describes homosexuality as a “sexual perversion” without first notifying the mayor's administration.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is now sponsoring a petition urging supporters to “stand up for biblical principles and fellow believers who are punished or marginalized for their faith.”

You can find the petition here.

***

Former Superior Court Judge Watson White, who spent parts of six decades as a judge in Cobb County, has died. He was 93.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that White was the son of a tenant farmer who served as a howitzer driver in World War II. He served in a unit known as the "Iron Men of Metz" after freeing a fort in the French town.

The Journal picks up the story from there:

Watson was honorably discharged from the Army in December 1945, and after law school, he moved to Marietta to work at Lockheed-Martin as a manager, saving enough money to open his own law practice on the Marietta Square in 1955. He was first elected to Cobb County State Court in 1968 and sat as a judge in that court for 10 years. He was elected to Cobb County Superior Court in 1978 and was the chief judge of that court from 1985 until he stepped down in 1994.

“He was never appointed,” [Former U.S. Rep. Buddy] Darden said. “He was very proud of the fact that he was elected by the voters for both of his judgeships that he held.”

White was a State Court judge when former Cobb Superior Court judge and legislator Tom Cauthorn was sworn in as a member of the bar in 1972 and began trying cases in his courtroom.

“I came to admire his unfailing sense of fairness and his certainty,” Cauthorn said. “The wonderful thing about him is he never forgot that he was a public servant, that he worked for the people, that the court belonged to the people and not to him. Some judges don’t remember that. He did always, never forgot it.”

***

The Daily Beast reported from the Washington meeting of a new liberal group called the "State Innovation Exchange," an ideas swap on the other end of the spectrum from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

Not that its members want it seen that way. Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, was one of the state lawmakers roaming the halls:

Vincent Fort, a state senator from Georgia, saw big differences between ALEC and SIX. In his opinion, “one of the things that progressives have is good ideas but often times the infrastructure and the resources are lacking.” He added that he thought this conference would help liberals to create “not only intellectual infrastructure but the relationships” which might help them be successful in the future. ...

It would be inaccurate though to call SIX a direct antidote to ALEC. As Rathod noted, SIX is not supposed to be merely the opposite of ALEC. It’s mostly funded by non-profits, not corporations, and is a well meaning attempt by the progressive movement to engage in the states. It wasn’t about profit or pushing a strictly corporate agenda. In fact, as attendees noted to The Daily Beast, legislators go to ALEC to find ways to fund their campaigns. For better or for worse, that wasn’t possible at SIX and that was a big difference. As a good progressive like Fort earnestly noted, “I don’t want to be compared to ALEC in any shape or form.”

***

Rep. John Lewis writes of the "Other America" and his fears for the future of the country in an editorial in the Atlantic published yesterday.

In it, the Atlanta Democrat and civil rights leader asks those who don't understand the "depth of the anger and frustration" of protesters galvanized by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner to read an April 1967 speech that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered at Stanford University. King describes starkly different American experiences - one of opportunity and hope, the other of despair and "daily ugliness."

From Lewis' column:

The Brown and Garner cases themselves are not the only focus of the protestors' grievances, but they represent a glimpse of a different America most Americans have found it inconvenient to confront.

One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor, no matter that they are supposedly regulated by impartial law. In the other, children, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers, whole families, and many generations are swept up like rubbish by the hard, unforgiving hand of the law. ...

There is a growing discontent in this country. And if the fires of frustration and discontent continue to grow without redress, I fear for the future of this country. There will not be peace in America. I do not condone violence under any circumstance. It does not lead to lasting change. I do not condone either public rioting or state-sponsored terrorism. "True peace," King would tell us, "is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."

***

Washington Democrats and liberal groups have a new target of their ire: Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell. After Price told reporters last week that he will take a similar path to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in leading the House Budget Committee, the accolades rolled in.

From Americans United for Change:

"Incoming Chair Tom Price tells us to expect a copy-and-paste job of Paul Ryan’s old budget that voucherizes Medicare so big insurance companies can profit on the backs of seniors. If Price thinks he has a mandate to turn Medicare into Coupon Care, he’d be wrong. Exit polling among the 2014 electorate in battle ground states found 86-6 opposition to any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits; the polling also found the 2016 electorate is similarly unimpressed with hack and slash proposals like that of Ryan’s … err, Price’s. And like Ryan before him, Price is already looking forward to playing the debt-ceiling/government shutdown card, as if the $24 billion hole the Tea Party blew in the economy last time wasn’t enough. New House Budget Committee Chairman, Same as the Old Chairman."

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's press office:

If there is one thing to know about Rep. Tom Price is that he will double down on the Paul Ryan’s tactics and obstructive work in the House Budget Committee in the 114th Congress.  ... Middle class and low income families deserve better than another Paul Ryan budget plan. 

We're pretty sure Price will take it as a compliment.

***

Outgoing U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, sat down with Roll Call to assess his career and, as he often does, lament the hyperpartisanship, gerrymandering and big money that infect congressional politics. He also showed an awareness of his press clippings:

“I think they’ve already written the one-sentence epitaph for me in the New York Times: the last white Democrat from the Deep South,” Barrow said. “What I hope folks will remember and take some hope from is the fact that it is possible to come to this place and hang with these people for 10 years and not be turned into the kind of partisan groupthink, run with the herd thing that everybody sees from a distance, and everybody despises.”

***

In the grand tradition of year-end lists, GQ brings you "America's 20 Craziest Politicians." Wouldn't you know, two Georgians made the list:

Rep. Jody Hice [R-Ga.]

Just how crazy?

Claimed that "four blood moons" falling on "major Jewish holidays" could be a sign of "world-changing, -shaking type events." 

In his defense:

Blood moons are freaky. 

ACTUAL THING HE WROTE:

Some ask the question 'How does same-sex "marriage' threaten your marriage?' The answer is similar to asking, 'How does a trashy neighborhood affect you?' " 

Rep. Hank Johnson [D-Ga.]

Just how crazy?

In a hearing about adding military personnel on Guam, said, "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize." 

Fun fact:

One of two Buddhists in Congress. 

Think of him as:

A very fun science teacher. 

In his defense:

It would be very expensive to raise Guam from the bottom of the ocean.

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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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