The three-way race for Georgia secretary of state offers voters the choice of a conservative Republican, a conservative Democrat and a conservative Libertarian independent.
Republican Brad Raffensperger, the owner of a contracting and engineering design firm, is a state representative and former Johns Creek City Council member. He describes himself as “The Conservative Who Means It” on his website. He cites an A rating by the National Rifle Association and endorsements by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Georgia Right to Life and Georgia Life Alliance.
Raffensperger says he “will be a vocal supporter of eliminating the income tax and replacing it with the FairTax,” which would mean “more jobs and new businesses in Georgia.” The FairTax is a proposal to replace all federal income taxes including payroll taxes, gift and estate taxes with a national retail sales tax of an estimated 23 percent. It has been pushed for years by its supporters but has never gained traction in Congress and, other than a talking point, it’s unclear how the Georgia secretary of state can have much impact on Congress.
John Barrow, who served five terms in the U.S. House, was the last white Deep South Democrat in Congress. In 2012 he was endorsed by the NRA. Two years later he lost his re-election bid to a Republican after twice being gerrymandered out of his district by the GOP-controlled state Legislature. Barrow says he is a Blue Dog Democrat, a conservative, which might seem to be an oxymoron nowadays. But the Blue Dog Coalition, formed in 1995, is still a congressional caucus with 21 members, including two from Georgia: Reps. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Albany and David Scott of Atlanta, whose district includes south Cobb, Austell and Powder Springs.
Barrow cites his record of working with both parties in such efforts as increasing veterans’ mileage reimbursement and leading in the push for deepening the Port of Savannah and bringing the Army’s Cyber Command to Fort Gordon in Augusta. He says the secretary of state “should make it easier to do business and create jobs in Georgia, protecting retirement accounts from abuses on Wall Street and preventing professional fraud.”
Libertarian candidate Smythe DuVal, who lives in Marietta, is an Army veteran, a registered nurse and former information technology director. “I am not a professional politician, I am a citizen candidate,” says DuVal. His website is headlined: “No Dark Money. No Lobbyists. No Russian Agents.”
DuVal hits a hot button issue in the race for secretary of state. “Election security is a huge issue for Georgia and the country in 2018,” DuVal says, adding that he’s the only candidate with practical IT experience to deal with the issue.
Ballot security is also prominent in the race for governor. Republican nominee Brian Kemp, the current secretary of state, is under attack for security lapses exposing the state’s 6.7 million voters and inadvertent release of millions of voter Social Security numbers in the past several years. Democrats and voter integrity advocacy groups are calling for a paper record for the electronic voting machines in Georgia, one of a dozen states that do not have a paper ballot backup. Kemp maintains the elections system has not been compromised and his office has “enhanced cybersecurity, implemented voter ID and citizenship check laws.” He has appointed a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to the legislature next year for updating the system.
Barrow likewise has focused on the election security issue, saying Kemp “provided no leadership, none,” and that “the Russians can break into our system because good guys have done it just to show it can be done to alert us to it.”
Raffensperger wants a paper ballot verification system. “Too many Georgians question whether their votes are being tabulated correctly or manipulated,” he said. He also pledges to “continue to protect voter ID laws and require proper identification to vote.”
A recent poll on this race by nonpartisan Gravis Marketing had Barrow leading with 45 percent to Raffensperger’s 41 percent with 15 percent uncertain, which indicates the changing dynamics in this longtime Republican state. DuVal was not included in the poll.
The race is just beginning to shape up and it’s yet to be seen which issues will dominate. As usual, the outcome will most likely be determined by which candidate spends the most money on television attack ads. In politics, it always comes down to TV ads and money.