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Oct. 25 - PHELPS on POLITICS: Is Chatham County and Coastal Georgia About to Get a BIG DOSE of the Women in Politics Movement?

Category: Columnists

By Lou Phelps, Publisher, Coastal Empire News

October 25, 2018 – When members of the media are surprised by statements from political leaders, we typically try to type or write furiously to hide our shock. At last night's forum between two-term Congressman Buddy Carter (R) and his opponent, Bryan County's Lisa Ring (D), there were moments when a local member of the media slapped their forehead in shock at statements by Carter they about knocked themselves out, then quickly looking down or away to hide their reaction.

Perhaps the most shocking of Carter’s statements was when he said that he didn’t know who had contributed to his $1.3 million campaign. It was in response to a question on whether PAC, NRA and big corporate money influences elections, and his voting.  When I spoke to him after the event, he acknowledged, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that. I should have said, ‘Contributions don’t influence how I vote."

Adam Brimmer, Editorial Page editor of the Savannah Morning News, blogged this morning that Carter was “Angry, defensive and out of touch,” last night.

Yep. Pretty much.

The Congressman is human, and he was clearly nervous throughout the event. Sources state that polling this week out of the Brunswick area has come back “not in his favor,” an area that any Republican can generally count on. He was booed at a forum earlier this week at Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, based on his answers on abortion, public education funding, and being against gay marriage. And, at a forum before the NAACP last week, Carter stated that even after a felon has served their time, they still should not ever have the right to vote, “that that should be a part of their punishment.” Loud boos followed.   

Ms. Ring, whose views parallel those of the current Democratic Party of Georgia and the U.S., had her facts ready Wednesday night, remained composed, and hit Carter hard on his support for exploration and drilling off the Georgia coast, an issue that has pulled many Republicans and moderates into her camp as Carter faces his strongest challenger to date in his political career.

She also drummed the need for Georgia to expand Medicare “immediately,” to help all Georgians, but particularly rural hospitals and Georgia’s struggling rural counties. It’s a theme that Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is also riding to neck-and-neck polling results with Brian Kemp. 

Ring also talked about equal pay for women and a general “lack of respect” for women on many fronts.

In a question about the infant mortality rate in Georgia – the highest in the United States – Carter admitted that he was surprised and embarrassed during recent Congressional hearings on the topic when he learned how serious the problem was, “and Georgia was the worst in the U.S.,” but he seemed to be unable to make the connection between poverty, lack of adequate health care, and these sad statistics. There are a lot of poor, rural folks both black and white, in the Georgia 1st.

Perhaps his lowest moment was when he was asked whether he felt it was appropriate for the federal government to be involved in the issue of ensuring equal pay for women.  “I’m for equal pay for all, and those people,” he said, referring to women, but felt the supply and demand of workers should determine what anyone earns. Whew. So, 1919. 

It was one of several moments from Wednesday night when the almost 400 in attendance laughed at his statements, including when he asserted that gerrymandering was not a problem in Georgia politics.

Carter was his ‘authentic self’ last night, but as he faces his first strong challenger since being elected to Congress in 2014, and as the world, the #MeToo movement, and Trumpism has evolved — she is clearly rattling the cage.

Women are mad. Women are concerned about healthcare for their families. And, women are upset about the threat to Roe and other issues, including equal pay. But how mad, versus the strong economy and the trend for voters to vote with their pocketbook, is the question across all of Georgia's elections this year. Is Ring too liberal for the 1st District?  We will see on Nov. 6.

A window into the minds of the Chatham County voters may be in the State Rep. Ron Stephens (R) race for Georgia House District 164. His challenger Alicia Scott has been endorsed by Stacey Abrams, and internal polling has Stephens only a few points ahead and working hard. He revealed at a Bryan County Republican Party event that he was only at 50.3% against Scott. For the many-term State Rep., and Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, that’s a disaster and a shock.   

Wednesday night, Stephens acknowledged he, “should be more ahead,” was and waiting on new tracking results that evening. In the May primary, neither Stephens or Scott had a challenger. He got 1,721 votes from Republicans who had turned out for the five-man GOP primary for Governor. Scott pulled 1,888 votes from Democrats, who had little reason to go vote in May. 

Her campaign, which is running on three primary themes: Government transparency, Economic Development and Environmental Justice, is very encouraged. She has dropped multiple direct mailing pieces and door knockers, and is running a door-to-door effort, meeting voters.

District 164 encompasses Georgetown, Southwest Chatham, Richmond Hill and western Bryan County. The population has grown by 15,000 since Stephens last had a challenger in 2012 – and women outnumber men as registered voters there. 

Add to the fact that Bryan County has three Democratic women candidates – Ring, who is Chairman of the Bryan County Democratic Party; Sandra Workman, the business exec who is running hard against State Sen. Ben Watson (R); and Bryan County Democrat Otha Thornton, Jr. running for State School Superintendent. Bryan County voters, who typically vote heavily Republican, have seldom seen this level of political activity, and certainly not this number of female candidates for the General Assembly or Congress. With all of the Democratic women campaigning hard on protecting Georgia’s coast – an issue that crosses party lines – there could be serious impact from that county on all three of these races.

Current State Sen. Ben Watson has never had a serious opponent for Senate District (1). Workman is well funded, and getting strong support from party Democrats and moderate GOP women, she states.  Members of the all-Republican Bryan County Commission have also joined her campaign. 

While Congressman Carter is expected to prevail over Ring, hold onto your pillbox hats in that race, and the other two, as well. 

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