Tight political races signal long, hot political summer in Georgia
by Don McKee
July 17, 2014 01:12 AM | 1702 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
The two biggest political prizes in this year’s elections seem to be very much up for grabs and the campaign heavy artillery is firing away.

New polls show U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston leading businessman David Perdue by a fairly slim margin in the U.S. Senate race, while Republican Gov. Nathan Deal was caught in a statistical dead heat with Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter.

The poll by Public Policy Polling, taken July 9-12, showed that of 516 Republicans “definitely” planning to vote, Kingston had 47 percent to Perdue’s 41 percent, with the remaining voters undecided (margin of error 4 percent).

In a separate PPP survey of 664 Georgia voters (4 percent margin of error), Deal led Carter 41 percent to 40 percent, a virtual tie. That poll also tested Democrat Michelle Nunn against Republicans Kingston and Perdue. The results: Nunn led Kingston 44 percent to 41 percent and she led Perdue 48-41. It should be noted that Public Policy Polling is a liberal-tilted firm based in North Carolina, and the polling was commissioned by Better Georgia which advocates “progressive solutions to the problems facing Georgia.”

Still, even if the margin of error tended in favor of the Republicans, there’s certainly no cause for complacency. And the Kingston-Perdue battle of ads confirms that neither candidate is taking anything for granted — firing barrages of accusations against each other, some of them off the wall if not over the edge.

Deal has run into another blast on the ethics front in the wake of four former ethics commission staffers settling for millions after losing their jobs while investigating complaints against Deal. Now a media investigation poses potentially damaging effects in Deal’s tight race against Jason Carter. The long-simmering ethics issue clings to Deal like Georgia clay, resurfacing this week in reports by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They cited a previously undisclosed 2012 memo from Holly LaBerge, executive director of the state ethics commission.

LaBerge asserted that in 2012 Deal’s chief counsel Ryan Teague and chief of staff Chris Riley urged her to agree to a settlement before a public hearing in the case against Deal, subsequently settled for $3,350 in fines for alleged 2010 campaign violations — down from the proposed $70,000 in fines. LaBerge said that while she was on vacation at the beach in July 2012, Riley messaged that “Ryan said of two issues, legal fees and aircraft are not even on the table for discussion.” LaBerge also said she felt threatened after Teague informed her “it was not in the agency’s (ethics commission’s) best interest for these cases to go to a hearing on Monday, nor was it in their best political interest either.”

Responding to the latest revelations, Deal told a WSB reporter: “I know of no communications along those lines. I haven’t seen anything that would evidence that.” Regardless, Deal is going to see plenty of attacks on the ethics front from now until November. And things are going to get a lot hotter this summer in Georgia politics.


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