Category: politics

An interesting coincidence

My last post laid out reasons why Rep. John Barrow ( D-GA12 ) may have difficulty getting reelected in 2014. I didn’t mention a local race that may have helped elect Rep. Barrow in 2012.

By local race, I mean Augusta, Georgia. When the Georgia 12th Congressional District was redrawn after the 2010 Census, Savannah was excluded from it leaving Augusta-Richmond County ( the two governments consolidated in 1995 ) as the largest city in the district. Because the population of Augusta is large in comparison to the rest of the district, local elections in Augusta can have a bigger effect on turn out than those in Dublin or Milledgeville ( the next larger cities in the 12th District ).

What was the local election which may have made a difference? It was the Democrat primary for the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff race to pick the successor to long time Sheriff Ronnie Strength. At first glance, there wasn’t much here to entice voters to pick the Democrat ballot over the Republican one. The four candidates in the Democrat primary were more alike than different. All four of them were local law enforcement veterans. Three of them were serving members of the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s Department and the fourth served in the Sheriff’s Department previously. One of the candidates was the protégé of the serving Sheriff and another was his brother-in-law.

Looking a little deeper, one candidate stood out from the others. Richard Roundtree was disciplined for some ethical lapses at the Sheriff’s department in 2008 and later left. Some voters who might normally have voted in the Republican primary were worried that he hadn’t changed and may have voted the Democrat ballot this time.

Here’s where it gets interesting: under Georgia law, primaries are “open” meaning that you don’t have to be a registered party member to vote in either party’s primary. Once you commit, however, you can only vote in the run-offs for that same party. What most of these voters switching to the Democrat ballot didn’t consider is that in a four person race with no incumbents, it’s likely that a run-off will be required. Even if a candidate in a hypothetical Republican run-off gave you heartburn, there’s no way to switch party ballots in the run-off and vote against him.

As it turned out, that’s what did happen. In a four way race in the 12th Congressional District Republican primary, the choices reduced to Rick Allen, an Augusta businessman, and Lee Anderson, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Allen would probably have been the choice of voters wanting to switch as Anderson didn’t come across well in the televised debates. His down home demeanor was a little too unsophisticated for voters looking forward to the general election and imagining how he would fare against Barrow.

With many of the more motivated, nominally Republican voters stuck with a Democrat run-off ballot, both Allen and Anderson lost votes in the run-off. The two had collected nearly 36,000 votes in the primary but at least one in five of those voters failed to return for the run-off. The final outcome was extremely close with the worrisome Anderson winning by less than 170 votes.

As a result, Rep. Barrow lucked out with an opponent he could easily frame as a hayseed out of his depth. Even Anderson may have bought into this characterization as he dodged all opportunities to debate Barrow. With this advantage and an NRA endorsement, Barrow managed a 7 point win. It’s doubtful he’ll be so lucky again.

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John Barrow may need a little luck next year

Rep. John Barrow ( D – GA 12 ) is in better shape than most Democrats up for reelection in 2014 but he still has the albatross of the Affordable Care Act to contend with.

Even though Rep. Barrow is a Democrat in a majority Republican district, he managed to defeat his opponent by 7 points in the 2012 election. He has the endorsement of the NRA and, even better, he can say that he voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009. More recently he also co-sponsored Rep. Upton’s Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.

All of this may not be enough. Rep. Upton’s bill is unlikely to be voted on by the Senate and would certainly be vetoed by President Obama if it were. As more provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect, more voters nationally are going to be looking to blame someone for the health care problems they begin to have. The 12th District voters won’t be any different.

Rick Allen, the businessman who lost in the 2012 Georgia 12th House District Republican primary ( by 159 votes ) already has signs up locally. I have not heard him quoted yet but his best strategy would be to say, “If elected, I will vote to scrap Obamacare” and to say it often.

Rep. Barrow has two poor choices for responses if he faces Mr. Allen in November. The first would be to try to defend the Affordable Care Act. Good luck with reasoning with voters who’ve lost their health care or can’t see their doctor any more. The second choice, preemptively voting for repeal of the Affordable Care Act before the election, would run the risk of prompting a primary challenge from Rep. Barrow’s left. He would probably defeat such a challenge but any movement to the left during the primary would give his Republican challenger opportunities during the election.

Several reasons not to like the Marketplace Fairness Act

If there was a requirement for the Senate to accurately name their bills, the “Marketplace Fairness Act” would be called the “Start Taxing the Internet to Raise More Taxes Act”.

In case the chatter from other problems ( a US Ambassador dying at Benghazi, IRS harassing the Tea Party, NSA spying on Verizon customers, etc. ) has obscured this one, here’s a short list of reasons to hate this Act:

1) Taxes the internet in an attempt to level the playing field for brick and mortar retailers that are having trouble competing. The Senate is concerned that internet businesses have an unfair advantage over brick and mortar retailers and feel compelled to do something about it. I’m not sure which amendment to the Constitution compells them to right this wrong but I’m sure that the world’s greatest deliberative body has given it a great deal of thought.
2) Taxes the internet to give municipalites and states more money to waste. Don’t get me started.
3) Confusing to the Stupid Party – you know, the one that’s all for personal freedom and against statist control. Vote breakdown was 21 yes, 22 no, and 2 MIA. I recommend using smaller words in the future.
4) Drastically decreases the size of a “small” business from a generally accepted definition of at least $30 million ( SBA – SIC code 454111 ) all the way down to $1 million. Wouldn’t want to let anything go to waste, would we?
5) Puts a new, additional burden on internet businesses to figure out how much tax to collect in the thousands of tax regions in the US.
6) And my personal favorite – has a really fuzzy definition of “remote sellers” and “sales” that could allow states to begin taxing all of your financial transactions.

About the only thing to like here is that it makes it real easy to decide how to vote in the next two Senate races.

Chess playing middle school teachers are hard to find

If you’ve been following the news, you may realize that our President has painted himself into a couple of corners. The foreign policy corner was his claim that Syria mustn’t use chemical weapons – or else – and then having to clarify what he meant by “or else” after credible sources turned up proof of use of chemical weapons in Syria. The domestic policy corner was his dire prediction that the sky would fall if the sequester was allowed to take effect. There’s been some bother from the sequester but nothing that Congress can’t fix for him.

Ruth Marcus wrote a delightful column full of advice for the President wherein she points out that successful Presidents must have the skills of a chess master and a middle school teacher. She thinks that he’s missing at least one of these two. Guess which one:

“Obama, on Syria and sequester, risks becoming instead the hapless substitute, pelted by spitballs.”

I almost feel sorry for him.