Journos and political observers are still wrapping their heads around last night's primary elections, which saw the failure of the regional transportation tax in metro Atlanta (but not everywhere in Georgia) and several pink slips being handed to incumbents. Here's a brief rundown of what we're noticing as the dust settles.
* Yes, metro Atlanta's T-SPLOST failed in a spectacular fashion. But voters in three districts — Central Savannah River Area District, River Valley District, Heart of Georgia Altamaha District — passed their selected packages of transportation fixes. According to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the three regions will raise nearly $2 billion to fund transportation projects in those areas.
* There are lots of questions about what happens to these areas when (or if) Gov. Nathan Deal rolls out his own transportation funding solution for regions where the T-SPLOST failed. In addition, will tea party activists in those areas try to challenge the tax in court, as metro Atlanta opponents had threatened?
* Expect the national news stories that business leaders and elected officials warned about if the T-SPLOST failed to start popping up. Here's the Associated Press report that's appearing on the wires. Expect a write-up in The Economist. The Atlanta correspondent for the "newspaper," a charming fellow whom we won't identify by name to respect the publication's no-byline policy, was at the business community's shindig last night.
The net effect of the referenda beyond very bad publicity for Atlanta will be to give Gov. Deal a lot of centralized control over transportation projects in the state. But more generally, it showed the continuing price Republican pols in many parts of the country are paying for their relationship with the Tea Folk, whom they alternately pander to and then ignore. You can’t endlessly demagogue about taxes and Big Government and the urban “looters” seeking to despoil virtuous middle-class suburbanites and then turn around and expect said suburbanites to support sensible regional transportation policies. The TSPLOST vote gave Georgia Tea Folk the opportunity to simultaneously stick it to cowardly GOP leaders, the minority-dominated City of Atlanta, and untrustworthy business leaders (who should have been out there creating jobs instead of asking for tax dollars), and they took it with both hands.
* Elected officials involved with selecting projects for the metro Atlanta T-SPLOST, including Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee and Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell, have been forced into a runoff.
* As my soul sister Gwynedd Stuart noted earlier, we should all say hello to the City of Brookhaven.
* Down in Clayton County, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough has been forced into a runoff with Victor Hill, the controversial former sheriff who's facing a 37-count felony indictment for alleged corruption during his previous stint in office. (He says he's not guilty.)
* Jim Galloway provides a solid list of the state lawmakers who were defeated or drawn into runoffs. Some notable results for intowners and Gold Dome observers: State Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, triumphed over state Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta, in their fight for a redrawn district; State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, defeated state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, in another contest for a new district; and "Able" Mable Thomas, an English Avenue community organizer who previously served in the state House of Representatives and on the Atlanta City Council, defeated Ken Britt, a former law firm executive director with strong ties to the LGBT community.
* Some of the Gold Dome's more far-right Republican state lawmakers were shown the door. Charlice Byrd of Woodstock lost a primary challenge to Michael Caldwell. Judy Manning, the state rep from Cobb County who, when endorsing Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign, said she was "afraid" of Mormons, was bested by Charles Gregory of Kennesaw. Steve Davis of McDonough, who was almost cartoonishly anti-transit, was crushed by Dale Rutledge, also from McDonough. Mark Hatfield, a former state representative from Waycross who questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship and was ultimately drawn out of his district, lost his state Senate bid against Tyler Harper of Ocilla. And Athens' Doug McKillip, a former rising Democrat who switched parties and immediately began introducing anti-abortion legislation, was defeated by Regina Quick, also from Athens.
* And some familiar faces might return to the Gold Dome. In addition to the aforementioned "Able" Mable Thomas of Atlanta, it appears we could see former state Reps. Barry Fleming, R-Rome, and Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, among others, settle back in at the Capitol.
* As expected, Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta, defeated his primary challenger, former Fulton County Judge Michael Johnson.
* After the jump, a quick look at the results of Republicans and Democrats' nonbinding ballot questions, which one reporter last night accurately described as "government-sponsored polls."
Mo gibs muh 'dat.
One step forward, two steps back.
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