Georgia is holding state and local elections on Tuesday, as well as primaries for congressional seats. While all eyes will be on the fate of the controversial transportation referendum known as T-SPLOST, which would raise sales taxes by 1 cent in order to raise $8.5 billion in traffic improvements, there are a number of hot state contests.
One House race in North Georgia pits a conservative talk radio host who — has received endorsements from Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich — against a retired school principal. A congressional primary will have four Republicans battling to take the GOP spot to face Congress’ last white Democrat in the Deep South come November.
PolicyMic will be covering the primary live. Bookmark and refresh this page for updated analysis and news.
UPDATES: 10 PM: TSPLOST Shot Down Throughout Georgia:
9:10 PM Game Over, TSPLOST
8:50 PM Quick T SPLOST update: This is on its final breath:
8:45 PM Here are updates from all the districts that you need to watch:
District 1: Messinger with 54.81% compared to Russo's 45.19%. The total vote count stands at 2,774 vs. 2,287.
District 9: Collins and Zoller still close. Collins 43.49% vs. Zoller 39.23%. Vote totals: 16,155 vs 14,573.
District 12: Anderson with 7,704 votes, 35.38%.
8:35 PM Time for a districts numbers update:
District 1: Messinger has begun to pull away slightly, with 52.34% compared to Russo's 47.66%. The total vote count stands at 437 vs. 398.
District 9: Collins and Zoller are getting closer. Collins 43.92% vs. Zoller 39.92%. Vote totals: 8,743 vs 7,826,
District 12: Anderson looks set to take the election, with 1,241 votes, 35.49%.
8:08 PM New numbers show it's likely a done deal for the transportation tax.
8:02 PM Numbers are now coming in, and it is not looking good for T SPLOST. Here's the latest:
7:50 PM Now results in major Districts have begun to come in at a more regular pace. 31 counties have reported, and 30,232 ballots have been cast and counted.
District 1: Russo and Messinger are in a dead heat: Messinger 49.93% of the vote (357 votes) vs. Russo 50.07% of the vote (358 votes).
District 9: Collins leads with 44.51% (1,573 votes), Zoller in 2nd with 34.58% and 1,222 votes.
District 12: Lee Anderson leads with 43.96% (364 votes) to challenge John Barrow in November.
7:40 PM Rumors have begun circulating over that T SPLOST has been defeated. This is unconfirmed.
First results from— MDJ Online (@mdjonline) July 31, 2012
#VoteCherokee say 75% no 24% yes on T-SPLOST
7:35 PM Numbers have begun to come in for District 1. See below.
7:30 PM In District 1, still no numbers to report. In the 9th District, also no numbers yet. In the much-watched 12th District, Lee Anderson is leading with 46.97% of the vote, with Rick Allen trailing with 25.35% of the vote. Still less than 1,000 votes counted.
7:22 PM Results have begun to trickle in. 1 county has reported, along with 118 ballots counted. Sample size still way to small for real results. No numbers on T SPLOST have come in yet.
7:12 PM Young Republican voter Robert Lee describes his reasons for voting against T SPLOST: "First, I don’t see any factual support that congestion will be reduced by pouring $8 billion into construction projects, and congestion should be a top priority to public transportation infrastructure projects.
Second, I don’t believe that the TSPLOST is the best road to economic development. The easiest way to build locally grown small businesses and to invite large corporate organizations is to reduce regulatory burdens, eliminate the state income tax, and improve education opportunities.
Third, the investments in public transit that the TSPLOST will make will only serve to institutionalize the tax in perpetuity. Atlanta does not have the density to ever make public transit a viable option, so we'll need to continue throwing money at the problem.
Finally, I moved to Georgia from Illinois just over 15 months ago, and the problematic policies I saw put in place there firmly convinced me that taxing does not solve issues, does not reduce budgetary constraints, and certainly doesn’t hold politicians accountable to solution-oriented leadership. Illinois is tanking fast, and I don’t want to see Georgia make the same mistakes."
7:00 PM Let the games begin. Awaiting the returns of the Georgia primary, still 0% reporting, but polls are now officially closed.
T-SPLOST: The 10-county project list would fund 157 transportation projects across the state and funnel 52% of the money to transit and 48% to improve the state's roads, but it has not come without its critics. The tax seeks to end Georgia gridlock and boost quality of life in the state. But the tax has faced a slew of opposition — everyone from the Tea Party, to the Sierra Club, and the NAACP — who say the tax would hurt minority groups, the environment, and small business.
The metropolitan area has some of the worst traffic in the U.S. The region's political and business leaders are pushing for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for billions of dollars in highway improvements and other transportation projects. A dozen regions across Georgia will vote independently on the tax increase, which could generate more than $18 billion statewide for transportation projects over the next decade. Gov. Nathan Deal and other pro-business Republicans supporting the tax increase are at odds with Tea Party leaders.
Here’s a look at some of the big races in Georgia:
1st District: the Democratic side will feature two candidates. Nathan Russo is a 68-year-old retiree from St. Simons Island. Russo was held in 2006 for a misdemeanor arrestduring a prostitution sting on Nov. 16, 2006 at a Springdale, S.C. motel. Russo was arrested for objecting to tactics used by officers during the sting, and knocking on doors to warn patrons and/or johns of the sting operation.
He is facing Lesli Rae Messinger, a 56-year-old small business owner who has already made public her wishes for Russo to leave the race.
There is no contested Republican primary. Rep. Jack Kingston (R) has been the representative of the first district for 20 years, and is heavily favored to win re-election despite redistricting.
9th District: In north Georgia, three Republicans are competing for the GOP nomination for a new seat gained from population growth tracked by the 2010 Census. The race pits conservative talk radio host Martha Zoller against veteran state Rep. Doug Collins and retired school Principal Roger Fitzpatrick.
Zoller has been endorsed by conservative stars Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.
Collins served as a legislative point man for GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, whose hometown of Gainesville is in the district.
12th District: Four Republicans in east Georgia are running for the GOP nomination to oppose Rep. John Barrow, Congress' last white Democrat from the Deep South.
His 12th District was redrawn last year to remove his political base of Savannah, improving the seat's odds for Republicans and forcing the four-term congressman to move to Augusta. State Rep. Lee Anderson, a farmer, faces construction firm owner Rick W. Allen, attorney and retired Navy pilot Wright McLeod and attorney Maria Sheffield. Their primary race is almost certain to end in a runoff Aug. 21.