A ‘misinformed’ Nathan Deal on an Ebola strike force

By Greg Bluestein

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog

Officially, last night’s Atlanta Press Club gubernatorial debate was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Nathan Deal couldn’t wait. At 5:39 p.m., his office sent out a press release announcing that the Republican governor would sign an executive order announcing the creation of an “Ebola response team.”

Call it the incumbent’s advantage. In doing so, the governor guaranteed himself a first question that turned the proceedings into something like a press conference.

“I believe that we do have the resources that are available, and if we need additional resources, we will try to make sure that those are available,” a well-prepped Deal said.

Only later, during candidate-to-candidate questioning, was Democrat Jason Carter able to raise the topic of his GOP rival’s recent Ebola gaffe – in which Deal said the virus could be killed by the application of water. Does that make sense? Carter asked Libertarian Andrew Hunt.

“We cannot have our leaders making such statements, and then not retracting them. I never saw a public retraction of this statement. That is bad,” Hunt said.

Deal was eventually offered an opportunity to rebut, and put the onus on the head of Georgia’s public health system:

“We have a very competent individual, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who is the head of our department of public health. She admits she misinformed me as she briefed me initially. But she is a very competent individual, unlike what we are seeing at the federal level of somebody being called an Ebola czar.”

Details of the debate, which was aired on Georgia broadcasting, can be found here. Watch the entire debate by clicking here.

***

If Democrats are relying on Sunday voting as a game-changer, they may have to ramp it up.

According to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, a total of 1,483 residents of Fulton County cast the state’s first votes on a Sunday – not exactly avalanche territory. Another 1,334 voted on Saturday.

Fulton was the only county voting yesterday. A total of nine counties, including Fulton, will allow voting on Sunday, Oct. 26.

The topic of Sunday voting was raised at last night’s debate:

The question initially went to Gov. Nathan Deal, who previously had said he’d be open to legislation in January to bar the casting of ballots on the Christian Sabbath. Maybe he changed his position, but maybe he didn’t. Said Deal:

“I think that the voting policies of our state ought to be uniform. You should not have one county having a voting pattern that is different from other counties. I think that is what the General Assembly will look at. If they decide all counties would be allowed to have Sunday voting, then that’s fine with me.”

Carter congratulated his Republican rival for a change in heart:

“I’m glad that Governor Deal has changed his position with respect to the fairness of Sunday voting. As we all know, any county in the state that wants to vote on Sunday is allowed to do so. I think it’s fantastic. I think it helps people get engaged, and it certainly helps working people get to the polls, because they don’t have to take time off jobs or find child care.”

Andrew Hunt turned the question into an opportunity to spread the word of libertarianism:

“We have to open up voting as much as we can. We’re at historically low rates of voting. And it’s real simple. The majority of people are dissatisfied with the two major parties.”
Hunt also went on to advocate for a system of electronic voting that includes a paper trail.

***

The three gubernatorial candidates also weighed in on Todd Gurley’s troubles with the NCAA over payments for autographs, giving three different answers to whether enticement of an amateur athlete should be criminalized:

From Libertarian Andrew Hunt:

“Maybe you should actually allow a little bit of money to come to these impoverished players that are suffering so much under the current ways. Let’s rethink the whole thing….Let’s have it that they can make a reasonable amount of money, where they’re not having to do things that would violate it, because they can’t even get by….

“The colleges are getting all the money, the glorious stadiums and everything else. The donors are putting a lot of money into the football programs. I’d like to see those donors put it into education.”

Republican incumbent Deal was more cautious:

“First of all, maybe we should see more enforcement of the law we currently have. That appears not to be effective. More than anything else, I think we need to see some fairness in the NCAA. We need to see players being treated equally for the same kinds of accusations. The University of Georgia is trying to play by the rules, but we’re seeing other stadiums across the country playing individuals who maybe have done the very same thing….

“This is something I think we have to be very cautious about legislating on. This has always been within the province of the private sector – those who regulate athletic activities within our colleges and universities. But I do believe that, with enough public pressure, we can change their attitude to make sure that our people, including Todd Gurley, are treated with the same degree of fairness…. “

And Carter cast his vote for criminalization:

“The short answer to your question is yes. I think that the folks that are out there, preying on these athletes and making money off of them should be punished…”

The Democrat then turned the question to the cost of college in Georgia, which he said had risen faster here than in nearly any other state.

***

Republican incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal and Democrat Jason Carter have spent the last week on an escalating war of words – and ads – hammering each other over the HOPE scholarship.

But there was nary a word about the controversy at last night’s debate. Which left some political observers – us included – wondering why Deal’s debate rhetoric doesn’t match his campaign’s talk.

To boil it down, Carter claims that the changes that Deal championed three years ago have essentially gutted the popular program. And Deal contends Carter, who no longer supports a hard-and-fast income cap on eligibility for the scholarship, wants to limit the program for thousands of middle-class families.

Against that backdrop, you could expect it to be a debate mantra for the governor. But he hardly mentioned the word HOPE. In fact, it only came up in a prominent way in an early question to Carter.

“I have fought every day of my time in the state Senate against the governor’s cuts. Those cuts were deep and they impacted the middle class,” he said. “I believe we must make sure we’re maximizing the number of students who are able to go to college.”

After the debate, Carter elaborated and said that, ultimately, some sort of means testing would have to be applied to the HOPE program.

***

Paul Broun wants you to give him money to fight Ebola, with a petition.

The exiting Republican congressman from Athens signed his name Friday to a fundraising solicitation by the Conservative Action Fund, asking recipients to sign a petition supporting an Ebola travel ban and then give the Conservative Action Fund money so it can better publicize the petition:

“Ebola travels fast- this petition has to travel faster. We need to put an end to this deadly disease, and that starts by cutting off the flights from ebola-ridden African countries.

“I am demanding President Obama act immediately to stop ebola, will you join me?

“Please sign your petition at once – and if you can… please chip in $5 or $10 to the Conservative Action Fund to help us distribute this petition to literally millions of American citizens.”

Perhaps we have a clue to Broun’s post-Congress plans.

***

Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, is not joining the travel ban stampede. In a statement Saturday, Lewis stuck with President Barack Obama in declaring that a ban might do more harm than good:

“As members of the world community, we cannot shut our doors and turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Closing our borders will not cut our connection with the rest of humanity. It does not change the fact that we live in a diverse, multicultural, international world where thousands of individuals and professionals from all over the globe cross paths regularly. It will not change the fact that a virus knows no boundaries, and the threat it presents will only be reduced when we confront the problem aggressively and stop it at its source.”

***

Libertarian Andrew Hunt is on the air with this ad, imploring supporters to “vote to take government back:”

The third-party candidate is relishing his role as a spoiler, and hoping to crack the 20 percent mark to guarantee Libertarian contenders have ballot access for down-ticket races — though no poll shows him even close to that mark.

That may be why he’s embraced Medicaid expansion – he says as long as the Affordable Care Act is in place, Georgia should let the feds pick up the tab.

Hunt is blunt about his chances of winning on his Facebook page:

“It is mathematically impossible for a vote for Hunt to cause either Carter or Deal to win. The governor’s race is not like the presidential race, and the winner must take more than 50%. I am not able to add to anyone’s percentage. The great state of Georgia was set up so that you can vote with your heart and not out of fear! … This will be a runoff, the more votes for Hunt means the more our views are important to you and the less you approve of what Deal and Carter represent.”

***

The Sierra Club environmental group is lending its hand to Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts. The group announced it will contact almost 500,000 people “with a low-to-moderate voting propensity” with mail pieces during early voting and the weekend before Election Day.

Sierra Club’s nearly $3 million overall investment also includes Colorado, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

***

The National Rifle Association revealed another $156,000 worth of Internet ads attacking Democrat Michelle Nunn in the Senate race and $3,000 worth of phone calls boosting Republican David Perdue, bringing the NRA’s investment to $584,000 in Georgia so far.

The pro-hunting Safari Club International chipped in $40,000 of its own for mailers.

***

Emily’s List, the group that supports female candidates who favor abortion rights, is planning to go back on the air in Georgia. It spent nearly $1 million hitting Republican Senate candidate David Perdue for a gender discrimination case in August and September.

Via ABC News:

“We see a race that’s incredibly close,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock said today on ABC’s “This Week” roundtable. “EMILY’s List is so excited we’re going to double down and put more TV up.”

EMILY’s List says its new ad will attack Perdue’s business record, a cornerstone of the former Dollar General CEO’s campaign, highlighting a gender-pay-discrimination suit against that company. After Perdue left the company, it settled for $19 million in a suit brought by female store managers alleging pay discrimination from 2004 to 2007, while Perdue led the company.

***

The National Republican Congressional Committee recently accused U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, of not protecting America’s seniors — that all-important voting bloc — for supporting the Simpson-Bowles commission budget outline that very gradually raises the retirement age.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles had Barrow’s back with a weekend op-ed in the Statesboro Herald:

“We need Members of Congress who have the guts to ignore these scare tactics and look at the substance of real solutions that will help get our great nation back on track. …

“John Barrow has demonstrated that he is willing to put partisanship aside and step forward to make those tough decisions our nation needs.

“He is a brave leader who deserves the thanks of everyone who really cares about our nation’s future.”

Meanwhile, the NRCC threw down another $50,000 in Georgia-12, bringing its total spending this cycle to $1.92 million.

***

The folks at Creative Loafing have picked up on another quote by all-but-certain-Congressman Jody Hice on his radio show last week. The Monroe Republican was speaking about Justice Antonin Scalia and the role of religion in public life, when he added this:

“You remove God and you remove religion and you remove the state from encouraging religious belief, and you get more secularism, you get more problems, you get more crime, you get all what fill-in-the-blank out there, and end result you get bigger government. …

“Government actually has a responsibility, at least to some extent, to encourage religious belief. Because that is, as I said, the foundation upon which limited government can exist.”

Via:: AJC Politics

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