Georgia a hot spot for presidential hopefuls

With polls showing former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead in the state he represented for two decades, the fight for second place has intensified.

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has rocketed into contention nationally over the past month, sent automated phone calls into Georgia homes on Sunday that accused Mitt Romney of personally funding Planned Parenthood.

The robocalls, in Santorum's voice, were delivered the same day Romney served pancakes at a Gwinnett County brunch/rally. More than 1,500 turned out to Brookwood High School to see Romney and his wife, Ann.

Romney's bid was given another boost Monday as a robocall featuring former First Lady Barbara Bush urged Georgia Republicans to support the former Massachusetts governor.

Gingrich, meanwhile, campaigned in Tennessee on Monday and will visit Alabama today before returning to his former home state for a primary night event at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel in the Cumberland-Galleria complex.

Highlighting the importance of Georgia to his campaign -- he has said he must win here -- Gingrich will be the only candidate in the state as the results come in. Santorum will be in Ohio, a Rust Belt state seen as crucial to his bid, while Romney returns home to Boston. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has focused little on Georgia, will be in North Dakota.

While Romney popped into town on Sunday before a quick turnaround back to Ohio, a Super PAC supporting his bid continues to make its presence felt here. The Restore Our Future PAC has spent more than $1.5 million in Georgia, mostly for advertisements blasting Santorum and Gingrich. Winning Our Future, aSuper PAC supporting Gingrich, has spent more than $1.12 million in the state.

Once today is over, however, attention will turn to other states still to vote. A new poll released Monday by CNN and TIME magazine indicates Georgia could receive attention once again. The organizations asked 1,775 registered Georgia voters for whom they would vote in November: President Barack Obama or the eventual GOP nominee. The response? Forty-eight percent said Obama and 48 percent said the Republican candidate.

Obama drew 47 percent of the vote in 2008 to 52 percent for Republican nominee John McCain.

Obama, perhaps sensing an opportunity in the state, or perhaps just to raise money, will be in Atlanta on March 16 for a fund raiser.

But November is a long way off. Today, while Obama runs unopposed in the state's Democratic Primary, four Republicans are fighting for their political survival.

Georgia voters do not have to register by party, making the primary vote open to all who are registered. But voters need photo ID and Georgia law requires voters to show one of six types: a Georgia driver's license, even if expired; a valid state or federal government photo ID, including a state Voter ID card; a valid U.S. passport; an employee photo ID from any federal, state or local government; a valid military ID; or a valid tribal photo ID.

To find your polling place, visit the Secretary of State's website at sos.ga.gov/mvp.

Regional issues at stake today

Many metro Atlanta voters will be deciding Sunday alcohol sales and a portion of Gwinnett County voters will be selecting local representatives in the new Peachtree Corners. City of Atlanta voters will be deciding whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax to pay for water and sewer projects. What you need to know about the local issues on the ballot.

Sunday alcohol sales

Voters in several parts of metro Atlanta will get a say on whether they want to permit Sunday alcohol sales in this second round of referendums.

Several large jurisdictions that held off on November votes — mostly because they didn’t consider the issue worth the cost of a stand-alone election — have tacked the question to Super Tuesday ballots. Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Henry and Rockdale counties could end up entirely wet on Sunday package sales, since all cities within them are either voting or have already approved.

The decision was turned over to localities through a measure Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law last year lifting the statewide ban. Voters and business owners say they’re eager to shed the blue law and catch up with the early birds.

At least 13 metro-area jurisdictions will vote Tuesday: Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale and Hall counties, and the cities of Austell, Buford, Conyers, Cumming, Lovejoy, Marietta and Powder Springs.

Peachtree Corners

Residents of Gwinnett County’s newest city will go to the polls Tuesday to sort through a slate of nearly 20 candidates. On the ballot is the mayor's office and six council seats.

Candidates for Post 1, Post 2 and Post 3 will be elected by voters from specific districts; Post 4, Post 5 and Post 6 are at-large seats and will be chosen by residents across the city.

The race for mayor has been decided. Mike Mason, a leader of the movement to incorporate and founder of the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, was the sole candidate to qualify and will run unopposed.

Peachtree Corners is poised to become the biggest of the Gwinnett’s 16 municipalities with an estimated 37,000 residents in an area between Norcross and Berkeley Lake.

Water-sewer tax

Atlanta residents will decide whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax to pay for water and sewer projects.

Voters will need to reauthorize the tax to make possible Atlanta’s plan to keep water and sewer rates steady for customers in the city. City leaders had warned that, without the tax, rates would have had to rise by as much as 30 percent over four years.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and city leaders have sold the sales tax as a way for visitors and commuters to share in the cost. The 1 percent municipal option sales tax, or MOST could raise $750 million if it is reauthorized today and again in 2016.

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