By Maggie Lee
This year, tens of millions of dollars will be spent trying to turn Georgia blue, or keep it red. While the governor’s office is the highest one in the state, there are many more on this year’s ballot. Here’s a pop quiz to introduce some of the issues and offices at stake.
1. The governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp is getting the most attention this midterm election year. But it’s only one of many statewide races on Georgia ballots. How many statewide offices will appear on every Georgian’s ballot this year?
It’s 10. They are:
Secretary of State
Commissioner of Agriculture
Commissioner of Insurance
State School Superintendent
Commissioner of Labor
Two posts on the Public Service Commission
2: Which one of these things does a governor not do?
A) Submit a draft budget to Georgia’s Legislature
B) Talk to major companies that are thinking of locating to Georgia
C) File bills in the state Legislature
D) Appoint leaders to state departments
The answer is “C,” but half-credit if you rolled your eyes. Governors have policy ideas, they just don’t file bills personally. They have allied state senators or representatives who file what’s called “administration” legislation.
Both Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp have published long to-do lists.
At the top of Abrams’ list is an expansion of Medicaid: making publicly subsidized health insurance available to more Georgians.
Brian Kemp often leads with a pitch for Georgia businesses, saying he would “take a chainsaw to burdensome regulations.”
3: Which one of these things is part of the lieutenant governor’s job?
A) Preside over the state Senate
B) Election oversight
C) Sets certain agency budgets
D) As part of a board, regulates Georgia Power
The answer is “A.” As the person with the gavel in the front of the chamber, a lieutenant governor has a big part in deciding what does or does not get a vote in the state Senate.
This year, both Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico and Republican Geoff Duncan make much of their histories in business rather than politics. Amico has never held elected office and Duncan’s roughly four years years in the state Legislature hardly make him a lifer.
Duncan often leads with talk of cutting government programs. He sees the four Cs — churches, charities, corporations and citizens — at the front of working on issues like foster care, hunger and health care for low-income people.
Amico often talks about covering her employees’ health care at her trucking company — a private company covering that. But she also talks about public schools being the state’s most essential institution, and, like Abrams, Amico supports Medicaid expansion.
4. True or False? State attorneys general can and do sue federal government agencies.
A) True. States and the federal government go to court often enough.
B) False. States and the federal government settle their differences in Congress.
True. This happens frequently in both red and blue states.
For example, incumbent Republican Attorney General Chris Carr joined a group of states in February suing the United States and other parties, challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, AKA, Obamacare. Carr says Congress made the law unconstitutional when it eliminated part of the law on which the court based previous rulings on constitutionality.
Carr also inherited cases from his predecessor, like the so-called “Waters of the U.S.” case, in which several states are asserting that the federal government is claiming too much power under a federal clean water rule.
Democratic challenger Charlie Bailey has often said that if elected, on his first day in office he’d get Georgia out of the Obamacare lawsuit.
Speaking at the state Democratic convention in August, Bailey praised a couple of high-profile lawsuits by some states’ Democratic AGs. One attempts to maintain the DACA program, which gives temporary legal status to some people brought illegally to the U.S. as children. And another is a suit that aims to block the publication of blueprints for 3D-printed guns. Bailey said he would get the state on the “right side” of those national debates.
5. The Republican and Democrat candidates for Secretary of State kind of agree and disagree on the most high-profile issue facing that office. What is it?
A) Funding for the office
B) Replacing Georgia’s voting machines
C) Publishing real-time videos of Georgia’s legislative sessions and other meetings
D) Creating a definitive list of state symbols
The answer is “B” — replacing Georgia’s voting machines. Georgia is one of only five states that pretty much rely statewide on voting machines that don’t generate a paper trail.
Outgoing Secretary of State Brian Kemp has set up a commission to study replacement ideas, of which there are several. Neither Democrat nominee John Barrow nor Republican nominee Brad Raffensperger defends the nearly two-decade old machines.
Barrow said at a May debate that he would decertify those old machines, which would trigger a move to paper ballots where the voter fills in a bubble next to a candidate’s name. That ballot then goes through an optical scanner for tabulation.
Raffensperger said also in May that he’s seen a system tested where the voter uses a touchscreen to fill out a ballot that is then physically printed and scanned. He didn’t commit to supporting that system, but said it would be quicker for early votes and he’s looking for a system that increases process flow.