The first big test of Superintendent John Barge’s shiny new campaign for governor arrives today. After making it official on Friday in an interview with the AJC and WSB, the Republican travels to Smyrna’s City Hall this afternoon to rally supporters and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a few key allies.
The broad outlines of his bid to oust Gov. Nathan Deal have already taken shape. He wants more funding for public education and less political gamesmanship. But little of his agenda is known beyond education and today he’ll be pressed to detail his views on abortion, same-sex marriage, tax cuts and so on. He’ll also be pushed to address healthcare, perhaps the most vexing issue facing Georgia today.
Whether he’ll have clear-cut answers on any of those issues, or views that distinguish himself from Deal, remains to be seen. But he hinted at the direction he was going on Friday when he told us he’d likely gather a panel of experts to consult him on each hot-button issue.
Whether that’s viewed as resourceful or guileless, he’ll have to figure out his positions quickly and define himself to the GOP electorate before Deal’s revved-up campaign beats him to the punch.
Or here’s another twist floated by Tim Bryant this morning on WGAU-AM’s Zoller and Bryant morning show. Bryant asked Atlanta Democratic consultant Tharon Johnson whether Democrats should woo Barge, pitching that he could not win a primary against Deal but might have a shot in a general.
Johnson threw cold water on the notion: “We’ve got enough talent in our party that we don’t need to go out and recruit a Republican.”
Democrats did gain their first gubernatorial candidate on Saturday in former state Sen. Connie Stokes.
We told you over the weekend about Democrats’ mood at the meeting to select DuBose Porter as party chairman, while noting the absence of one high-profile Dem: Michelle Nunn.
This morning on Zoller & Bryant, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams explained why Nunn was not there, while other Senate hopefuls Branko Radulovacki and Steen Miles did show up and speak.
Bryant asked Abrams if that meant Nunn was trying to distance herself from the party. Abrams replied:
“Absolutely not. Michelle had plans with her family. It was Labor Day, a holiday weekend. She does not sit on the state committee and when the state committee decided that was the date, she already had prior commitments. I think Michelle and others who weren’t there recognized that was the day for state committee members to come together and cast their votes on the direction of the party. But she is very firmly committed to being a Democrat.”
Abrams also said she does not plan to run for any office other than her own next year. “My goal is to make sure we continue to build our strength in the House,” she said.
Though Congress is not formally due back for another week, members are trickling back to D.C. for briefings and hearings on the crisis in Syria, ahead of a high-stakes vote on whether to authorize military strikes there. It presents a conundrum for both parties.
The New York Times points out that the GOP’s hawkish and isolationist wings are once again brought into conflict, as the party repositions itself for the next presidential race.
“But the Syria measure also has important implications for the 2016 Republican presidential contest. White House hopefuls in Congress will be forced to choose between the wishes of Tea Party activists opposed to a strike and the wishes of more traditional Republicans, whose ranks include some major donors and Israel supporters with whom presidential candidates typically align themselves.
And as the hawks are aware, a “yea” vote on taking action in Syria would put potential opponents of [Rand] Paul, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and [Ted] Cruz, on the same side as Mr. Obama.”
Politico crystallized the “no-win” scenario for the left side of the aisle with this sentence: “Democrats will have to choose between defying public opinion — which is deeply divided over another military intervention — or their own president.”
In Sunday’s paper — for MyAJC subscribers only — we broke down the Georgia delegation’s reaction so far. The jist is that the senators are in favor of striking Syria while House members from both parties range from skeptical to solid “no” votes.
Since we published, a few more reactions have trickled in. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Lawrenceville Republican, said: “With the facts that I know now, I do not support an American attack on Syria, but if an attack is what the President wants, I welcome him to come to Capitol Hill and make his case to Congress and all of America.”
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County, said: “Until we are able to get accurate information about exactly who the rebels are and what their long-term plans are if they win out, the United States needs to be very careful about getting involved in Syria.”
Roswell Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Price told 11Alive: “While we condemn the horrific murder of innocent people within Syria, the United States must determine whether or not our national security interest is best served by military intervention.”
The office of Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis told 11Alive: “Once Congressional debate begins and the Congress has had a full briefing, we will make a statement. We do not want to do so without that preparation.”
As Republicans return to Washington this month with a push to deny funding for President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, they shouldn’t expect support from John Barrow, the conservative Augusta Democrat with a target on his back.
Barrow was among just four Dems who sided with House Republicans over the summer to gut a part of the law that puts the IRS in charge of enforcing certain mandates. But Barrow told The Associated Press that he won’t help the GOP with their defunding plan.
As he told the AP’s Russ Bynum:
“It’s a question of defunding the whole government in an attempt to get the other side to cry uncle and agree to defund Obamacare. And I think that is a reckless game that will not succeed.”
Expect the issue to be at the center of Republican efforts to depict Barrow as a fence-straddler. Says John Stone, one of two challengers in the race against Barrow:
“He very cleverly continues to vote against repeal while voting to repeal parts of it. He can sort of go both ways on this while he talks to people.”
Just in time for Rosh Hashanah (don’t expect to hear much from Bluestein on Thursday) Our friends at Peach Pundit have a column from state Sen. David Shafer on his recent trip to Israel.
With our recent coverage about lawmakers taking overseas trips funded by private organizations or lobbyists, Shafer offers a subtle defense of those journeys.
“With Israel’s vibrant economy and expanding role in the marketplace, Georgia can learn a lot from Israel – and vice versa. In 2010, our state became one of only 13 states to open an office of economic development in downtown Tel Aviv. As a result, Georgia has opened at least four companies in Israel, including Arel Communications and Software, Inc., Brand Energy and Infrastructure Services, Inc., and Travelport.
Georgia is also home to 17 Israeli-based companies that provide jobs to more than 700 hard-working Georgians. These jobs mainly employ workers in Georgia’s manufacturing sector and take advantage of our state’s highly-skilled workforce.
Even more remarkable is Israel’s bilateral trade relationship with Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia’s imports from Israel totaled $285.8 million while our exports totaled $158.8 million in 2012.
Strengthening the relationship between the State of Georgia and Israel is essential to fostering economic growth and showing companies both at home and abroad that Georgia’s doors are open for business.”