Blame federal Judge Steve Jones, who this week radically redrew the state’s election calendar.
Jones ruled on Thursday in favor of a suit brought against the state by the U.S. Department of Justice that alleged Georgia’s electoral runoff periods are too short for those in the military and for Georgians living overseas to return absentee ballots.
Jones’ solution is to move Georgia’s federal primary day from mid-July, where it typically has taken place in recent decades, to the first Tuesday in June (June 3, 2014).
So getting back to the Marietta Parade, many of the candidates and their hordes of supporters who usually hoof it down Roswell Street to Marietta Square on July Fourth just before Primary Day will be watching from the sidelines July 4, 2014. There’ll be a parade, but it might be a lot shorter than usual.
THE JUDGE also made sweeping other changes to the state’s electoral calendar. The federal primary runoff date — which is usually three weeks after the primary in Georgia — would be Aug. 5. In other words, the primary runoff period would roughly triple in length from three weeks to nine. That also likely would have a proportional impact on the cost of conducting a runoff campaign and put an even bigger premium on a candidate’s ability to raise funds on short notice.
Jones kept the federal general election date at the first Tuesday in November, but moved the date for the primary runoff election, if there is one, to January 6 — yes, January 6, meaning that in addition to enduring endless TV ads for Christmas gifts, that Georgians might be blitzed with a blizzard of mean-spirited political ads during the holiday season if such a runoff takes place.
THE NEW CALENDAR also has the potential to change the makeup of the electorate for Georgia’s primaries, which might cause some candidates to tone down their messages somewhat. The state Legislature historically has scheduled the state’s primaries in July for a reason, that reason being to protect incumbents and the party in power. Turnout is usually abysmal at the height of the vacation season in July, especially with fewer people now vacationing in August thanks to ever-earlier school calendar start-dates. Low-turnout elections are easier to manipulate, with candidates’ messages pitched primarily for the ears of party faithful and other “motivated” voters.
But an early June primary would take place when some school systems have yet to let out and families are still in town. And even in areas where schools have closed, many parents delay their vacations till July because so many summer kid-activities — swim teams, Scout camps, VBS — take place in June.
So not only might candidates find themselves making their pitch to a more-diverse-than-before electorate, they might also have to work harder to get voters’ attention — and run more toward the middle of the road.
IT’S TOO SOON to know whether the state will appeal the judge’s ruling. It’s also quite possible the Legislature will decide to shift the dates of state and local elections to conform with the federal dates in order to lessen voter confusion and save local jurisdictions the cost of mounting multiple elections. It costs Cobb taxpayers around $300,000 to mount a county-wide election, for example.
Meanwhile, what was already expected to be a battle royale for the GOP nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta (who is running instead for the Senate) is now likely to be a true intra-party bloodletting, thanks to the ruling. It has been assumed that because there are four strong candidates in the race (former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, Georgia House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey and businesswoman Tricia Pridemore), none would be able to capture more than 50 percent of votes and that a runoff would be necessary. But instead of a three-week sprint, that runoff would be an expensive two-month marathon, with lots of elbows along the way.
The same is true for the race to succeed Saxby Chambliss as U.S. Senator.
There are no Democrats in the race for Gingrey’s old seat just yet, and only one (Vinings physician Dr. Branko Radulovacki) officially in the Senate race. But should one show up, he or she is likely to enjoy the sight of the Republicans exhausting themselves and their wallets all summer.
POLITICS: Don’t forget Monday evening’s Corn Boilin’, sponsored from 5:30-7:30 p.m. by Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren at Jim Miller Park at the North Georgia Fairgrounds. Cost is just $20 for what promises to be one of the biggest non-partisan political events in the state this year. … The Cobb Republican Regional Women will meet on Tuesday to hear TV “Georgia Gang” panelist Phil Kent speak on immigration and Fayette County activist Angela Bean speak against Common Core. The event takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Cobb GOP HQ, 799 Roswell St., Marietta. … Retired Cobb District Attorney Pat Head has endorsed Cobb Solicitor Barry Morgan’s quest for another term. … The National Federation of Republican Women will host U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, GOP National Co-Chair Sharon Day and others at a conference next weekend at the Waverly Hotel at Cumberland Mall, reports NFRW President Rose Wing of Marietta. Also coming are former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, radio talk show host Martha Zoller and former Miss America Erika Harold and Gov. and Mrs. Nathan Deal. For more, go to www.gfrw.org.
THE COBB CHAMBER has announced the members of the incoming 2014 Class of Leadership Cobb. They are: Jason Anavitarte of Kaiser Permanente, Don Keller of Blue Sky Exhibits, David Birdwell of IDI, George Kleeman of Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers, Pam Brems of The Center for Family Resources, Judge Marsha Lake, Angelo Brown of DeVry University and Adriane Larson of Adriane’s Delectables.
Also Mandy Burton of WellStar, John Loud of LOUD Security, Melissa Cantrell of CDH Partners, Sayward Masselter of Atlanta West Carpets, LaBrita Cash-Baskett of Fundamental Focus, Brooke Murphy of Mopdog Creative + Strategy, Caitlyn Cooper of Garrett McNatt Hennessey Carpenter 360 LLC, Sean Murphy of B+C Studio, Randy Crider of Cobb Fire and Emergency, Leslie O’Neal of O’Dell & O’Neal, Jeremy Cronemeyer of the Cobb Chamber Jim Pehrson of Cobb government, Russ Davis of Northside Hospital and Heather Pennington of Day Three Media.
Also Jeff Daxe of Moore Ingram Johnson & Steele, Katie Peterson of the Marietta Visitors Bureau, Jeff Duckett of the City of Kennesaw, Kathy Qualey, Independent Psychotherapist, Darion Dunn of Croy Engineering, Laurie Ross of Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Adam Emrich of Georgia Power, Michelle Sams of the Bank of North Georgia, Greg Euston of McGraw Euston Associates, Megan Stambaugh of Cobb Travel & Tourism, Hope Felshaw of YWCA of Northwest Georgia, Sam Storey of WellStar, Cassy Ferrell of Vinings Bank, Tarrah Suggs of Cobb EMC, Brannon Fitch of BB&T and Andy Thomas of Lockheed Martin.
And Matt Foree of Freeman Mathis & Gary, Susan Tillery of Paraklete Financial, Shane Garrison of Puckett EMS, Jim Torres of Heidelberg USA, Mike Harders of Kennesaw State University, Michael Wall of Comcast, Angela Huff of the Cobb School District, Steve Welsh of Eaton Chiropractic, Katrina Kaiser of LGE Community Credit Union and Mark Zangari of Dollar Wise Cartridge.
PEOPLE: IT consultant Earl Stine, who died Tuesday at age 59 after a strenuous fight against brain cancer, will be fondly remembered. Stine ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the northeast Cobb seat on the county commission being vacated by Tim Lee but came up short in the GOP primary against eventual winner JoAnn Birrell and architect Steven Moon. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor the following summer. … Around Town also is saddened to learn of the death of Sybil Hannon, 69, mother of MDJ advice columnist (“Empathy With an Edge”) Lauretta Hannon. The East Dublin resident was frequently mentioned in her daughter’s autobiography, “The Cracker Queen” and affectionately nicknamed “Cracker Queen Mama.”