By Tom Baxter
Maria Saporta’s column gives a good sense of what’s at stake for transportation policy in Tuesday night’s Clayton County Commission vote on putting a full-penny MARTA sales tax on the the ballot in November.
The commission’s vote could mean a lot to statewide Democratic candidates on the ballot this fall, as well.
In 2010, when Gov. Nathan Deal was elected, voter turnout in Clayton County totaled 61,339. In the presidential election year of 2012, turnout in the county was 92,748. So that’s about 31,000 votes that spell the difference between voter enthusiasm in Clayton and the lack of it. In a close statewide race that could also spell the difference between victory and defeat.
That’s not to say that putting a MARTA question on the ballot compares to Barack Obama as a driver of turnout in this 66-percent African-American county. But the comparison does give a rough idea how much more the county could matter in this set of statewide races than it did four years ago.
If last week’s Republican primary in Mississippi taught any larger lessons, it may be that the ground game, always critical, is even more important this year. With four African-American Democrats running for statewide office (in addition to attorney general candidate Greg Hecht, who represented portions of the county when he was in the state Senate) Clayton should be ground zero for the Democratic turnout effort this fall.
Putting the MARTA question on the ballot would give Clayton voters another, very tangible reason to turn out, which in a tight race could help Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter, Connie Stokes and other Democrats. A tax increase is always certain to draw voters more likely to vote the other way in the statewide races, but given that Obama drew 85 percent of the vote in Clayton in 2012, odds are that an increase in turnout is very good news for Democrats.
Here’s another story that could make a difference in November: the news that 33 nursing homes, which works out to almost 10 percent of the Medicaid-eligible nursing homes in the state, have been notified that under the new collections policy which goes into effect this week, they are in jeopardy of being cut off from the Medicaid and PeachCare programs, which would effectively mean a shutdown in many, if not most cases.
Along with the woes of rural hospitals, this emerging story will be part of the narrative over which health care is debated this fall.