Tom Baxter

Two twists in the struggle over energy production

Last week there were a couple of stories from around the region that veered far enough from the conventional story line to bear watching as possible signs of things to come.

For six years, the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club has waged a legal battle against Mississippi Power’s plans for a massive coal-gasification plant in Kemper County, which runs along the Alabama state line north of Meridian. As discussed before, it has been a fight which drew the environmentalists into alliance with conservative libertarians who view the plant as a boondoggle.

The Sierra Club announced last week that it had reached a settlement with Mississippi Power and would be dropping its suit in exchange for a number of concessions on the part of the utility.
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Prayer meeting fervor obscures the difficult questions about coal

If you sensed a sanctified aura emanating from the Omni Hotel last week, it’s because a very sacred subject was being discussed inside.

Coal.

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” Alabama Public Service Commission chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said at a press conference in Birmingham, before heading to Atlanta for an EPA field hearing Tuesday.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” asked Alabama Public Service Commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.
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African-American women candidates could be big part of ground game

We’re in the year of the ground game. Campaigns still spend tons of money flailing at each other on television, but it was the ground game that ambushed Eric Cantor in Virginia, and saved the day for Thad Cochran in Mississippi.

And in Georgia, it was the strength of David Perdue’s ground game which gave him the winning edge in the U.S. Senate primary runoff.

With the ground game’s importance in mind, perhaps the biggest story that didn’t get a lot of attention last week was the consolidation of a Democratic ticket which is a first in the nation’s history.

The names of Connie Stokes, Valarie Wilson, Doreen Carter, Liz Johnson and Robbin Shipp haven’t generated as many headlines, combined, as the sixth Democratic woman on the ticket, Michelle Nunn. But these five African-American women candidates could potentially have a big impact on Nunn’s race, as well as Jason Carter’s bid for governor.
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Steady drip of bad news prompts Deal to circle the wagons

Polls are like drops in a bucket. A single poll, like the one last week which showed challenger Jason Carter leading Gov. Nathan Deal by eight percentage points, is only a solitary ker-plunk. It’s what accumulates in the bucket that can reveal where a race is headed.

The Real Clear Politics chart on this race shows 13 publicly released polls so far this year, and Deal has led in 10 of them. Interestingly, the three polls in which Carter has led — an InsiderAdvantage poll in early March, a Rasmussen poll in late May, and the Landmark Communications poll last week — all were conducted by polling firms which are Republican in their leanings.
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Senate debate hints at a steamy finish

For a few minutes during Sunday night’s U.S. Senate primary runoff debate between David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, the air got about as thick as it has in this entire, long and nasty contest. This was their only televised face-to-face encounter, but it’s possible that in these last humid July days before the vote, things could get hotter still.

“I would have expected a little bit more of you,” Kingston said after Perdue had declared that stories about a problem donor showed the congressman was “open for business.”

But Kingston then proceeded to give as good as he got, accusing his opponent of a “sweetheart deal” when Perdue’s cousin, the governor, named him to the Georgia Ports Authority board while a trucking company he co-owned did business at the facility.
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The recovery, and the president, struggle against a skeptical tide

A few minutes before the June jobs report was released last Thursday morning, the wise guys on “Squawk Box” went around the table predicting what job growth would be. Even the optimist on this panel was far short of the 288,000 new jobs reported by the Labor Department. Later that day, as the nation prepared for Independence Day, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average passed 17,000 for the first time in history.

Also last week, a Quinnipiac University poll showed a plurality of Americans thought Barack Obama was the worst president since World War II.

What is wrong with this picture?
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Putting MARTA on Clayton ballot could help Democrats this fall

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.
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Black votes count in “stunning” Mississippi runoff

We have come to a place in American politics where, when a six-term U.S. senator from Mississippi wins his primary, it can be called “stunning,”  with at least a small amount of justification.

Fifty years after Fannie Lou Hamer and other members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fought to be counted at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, black votes spoke loudly Tuesday in Mississippi, although not as Ms. Hamer might have imagined they would speak.
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Lightning in Virginia, and the low thunder of a court settlement

Political lightning can be tricky to judge. You can’t always tell from the following thunder how close it has struck.

Last Tuesday evening there was a bright flash over Virginia, and the thunder that followed it reverberated across the country. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat at the hands of an unheralded college economics professor, David Brat, was quickly pronounced the greatest political upset, ever. By many standards — the difference in money spent, polls, the fact that a majority leader had never been defeated in a primary — there was justification for that claim.
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Rural hospital panel attempts ‘magic act’ with no help from feds

New challenges produce new terminology, and there was plenty of it being thrown around Monday at the first meeting of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, the latest blue-ribbon panel tasked with solving a problem no one else has been able to tackle.

The committee members were briefed on the details of the newly-created Rural Freestanding Emergency Departments — RFEDs. The result of a relaxation of state licensing rules, these are emergency facilities designed for rural counties where full-service hospitals have closed. They’re intended to work with larger facilities within a 35-mile radius, treating patients on site for no more than 24 hours.
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