Political Notes — Looking back through the returns

[private]Tuesday’s elections in Georgia — as in many states around the country — turned out to be a good day for Democrats.

Democrats poached two state House seats in the Athens area — Deborah Gonzalez in House District 117 and Jonathan Wallace in House District 119 — that had long been held by Republicans. Wallace won a House seat last held by a Democrat 20 years ago, in fact.

As the Athens Banner-Herald pointed out, “The results mean all three of the House members representing Clarke County will be Democrats for the first time in years. Two of them — Wallace and Gonzalez — will also be Oconee’s voices in the state House, since the two districts cut across county lines.”

The results in Athens demonstrate the old adage that, “if you don’t play, you can’t win.” Democrats did not field a candidate in either of these House districts in the last three general elections. Proving once again that good candidate recruitment is 80 percent of the game in politics.

Democrats will also take a previously Republican Senate seat in Senate District 6, because Democrats Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard both made it into the Dec.5 runoff, edging out five vote-splitting Republican opponents. It was Georgia’s “jungle primary” law at work.

Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter said: “Georgia Democrats are grateful for every single Democrat who stood up and challenged Republicans across the state up and down the ballot — in every corner of the state. Thanks to their courage, the Democratic values of opportunity, economic mobility, fair wages, and affordable health care were championed in voting booths across Georgia.”

Republican consultant Todd Rehm remarked: “It’s a testament to the importance of a party contesting every seat possible. Kudos to Georgia Democrats for their recruitment efforts.”

The Georgia results did catch some attention in the national media.

Matthew Iglesias said at Vox:

Superior Democratic recruiting in these kind of races is both a cause and a consequence of a national political environment that is now Democratic leaning. It’s much easier to get people excited about running for office when the climate is favorable, so the uptick in recruiting is itself a result of Donald Trump’s unpopularity. But it’s also the case that no matter how unpopular Trump is, you can’t win elections without fielding candidates. In 2016, Democrats didn’t have candidates in these races. In 2017 they did, and they both won.

The result in HD-117 should be particularly alarming for Republicans. Mitt Romney won it by a crushing 54-44 margin back in 2012. Donald Trump fared much worse than that, winning by just 49-46, but nonetheless winning. That’s a broadly similar pattern to what Jon Ossoff faced earlier this year in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. But while Ossoff failed to improve on Hillary Clinton’s narrow loss, Gonzales ran 7 points stronger than Clinton and flipped what had been an overwhelmingly Republican district as recently as five years ago.

In national races

The most closely watched contest outside of Georgia was the governor’s race in Virginia, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam thumped Republican Party insider Ed Gillespie by a nine-point margin.

Gillespie appeared to be gaining ground in the polls late in the campaign as he adopted pro-Donald Trump stands on issues like immigration and Confederate monuments, but that turned out to be a mirage. Northam carried Virginia by a larger margin than Hillary Clinton’s five-point win a year ago.

There were similar results in New Jersey, where Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, won by 14 points over Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and ushered out the Gov. Chris Christie administration.

Trump strategist Steve Bannon misplayed his Virginia prediction when he said of Gillespie last weekend: “He’s closed an enthusiasm gap by rallying around the Trump agenda. And I think the big lesson for Tuesday is that, in Gillespie’s case, Trumpism without Trump can show the way forward. If that’s the case, Democrats better be very, very worried.”

Virginia Democrats came close to taking control of the House of Delegates, where Republicans held a 66-34 advantage prior to Tuesday. Several recounts will determine the ultimate outcome.

One of the most well-publicized outcomes there was the election of the nation’s first transgender candidate, Danica Roem, who defeated a Republican, Rob Marshall, who described himself as “Virginia’s chief homophobe.”

In Washington state, Democrats regained control of the state Senate when Democrat Manka Dhingra won a special legislative election that attracted tons of out-of-state money on both sides of the race.

One bright spot for Republicans was the Atlanta mayor’s race, where Keisha Lance Bottoms will face off with Mary Norwood in a Dec. 5 runoff.

Although Norwood says she is an “independent,” Bottoms and the Georgia Democratic Party have both hammered her in recent weeks as an alleged Republican.

If Norwood wins the runoff, she will be the first white mayor in more than 44 years and the first “Republican” mayor in much longer than that.

And around Georgia

Gwinnett County voters elected their first non-white mayors ever: Greg Newton in Norcross is the first black mayor and Rey Martinez in Loganville is thought to be the first Latino mayor.

Peachtree Corners rejected the candidacy of Luke Crawford (no relation to this correspondent), who posted quite a few inflammatory comments over the past year on Facebook:

“I bet the liberals would turn and run if they received a few rounds of 9mm to the face instead of a weak punch”

“Violence is always the final answer, remember that before you go around supporting the increase of taxes on your fellow citizens.”

“Most liberals tend to be bullies and I won’t cave to them.”

“Proud to represent Georgia as the 13th most heavily armed state in the United States. However, that’s weak sauce. Let’s step it up ya’ll.”

“Islam is an evil religion. To believe otherwise is ignorant.”

Crawford finished third in a three-person city council race with 18 percent of the vote.

Cagle goes after the City of Decatur

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, attempting to polish his anti-immigrant bona fides in the GOP primary for governor, filed an official complaint with the state’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB) this week claiming that the DeKalb County municipality is a “sanctuary city.”

Cagle is challenging a recent change in the city’s police employee manual that states:

In particular, the Decatur Police Department shall not arrest, hold, extend the detention of, transfer custody of, or transport anyone solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or an administrative immigration warrant.

“I’m simply asking the city of Decatur to behave like you and me – and follow state law! Criminal illegal immigrants who have committed atrocious crimes are issued immigration detainers by the federal government,” Cagle said in a Facebook post.

“The federal government requires local law enforcement to turn over these detained individuals to immigration officials, and state law reinforces that ALL local governments must follow this procedure,” Cagle contended. “Decatur knows that state law calls for defunding a city that does not cooperate with this law. They have been operating knowing the consequences, and if they don’t change they will have to pay them.”

Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss disagrees, telling Decaturish:

“We will present our case before the IERB in response to the complaint with the hope that they provide a non-biased non-partisan forum and make a decision based on facts,” Merriss said. “We believe our position would prevail in that environment.”

The sanctuary cities law was enacted in 2013, according to Cagle’s complaint. Merriss said the city has never received a request from ICE, known as a detainer, since the law was enacted. The city doesn’t have a jail.

The city has said it did not put its longstanding policy into law because of pressure from a local activist group, Hate Free Decatur, which has been involved in efforts to remove a Confederate monument from the city’s square. The city said its attorney reviewed the policy to make sure it complied with state law before putting in writing.

When asked why the city decided to put a decade-old policy in writing this year, Merriss said, “In early 2017 based on news reporting I had seen, I asked Chief Booker 1) about our experience with ICE detainers; and, 2) our process for handling persons who had outstanding warrants issued by any other law enforcement agencies. That was the beginning of the discussion.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia offyear elections