Most of Georgia was stunned to see the results of a new poll released last week that stated Democratic challenger Jason Carter could potentially beat Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal this November.
A Democratic governor in a majority Republican state would be surprising for sure. But a Carter to boot?
The poll, conducted by Landmark Communications on July 15 found Carter with a seven-point lead over Deal.
Carter received 48.7 percent in the poll and Deal received 41.3 percent, according to Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta.
Few folks in Georgia would have ever thought that the Peach State would reelect another Carter.
To say former Governor (and, obviously, President) Jimmy Carter had a controversial time in office is putting it mildly.
First off, as governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter shocked many voters in January 1971 when he declared in his inaugural speech that “the time of racial segregation was over.”
The South was still struggling with segregationists who were determined to keep the civil rights movement under wraps.
But Jimmy Carter was about to shake things up.
“No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever again have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity for an education, a job, or simple justice,” he said during his 1971 speech.
The peanut farmer from Plains stood his ground and even placed a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in the capitol building as the Ku Klux Klan picketed the unveiling ceremony outside.
By the time that Jimmy Carter was elected to the White House, he found himself in the middle of a major recession, an energy crisis and neck deep in conflicts around the world including the Iran hostage crisis.
The truth is, most Americans consider Carter a failure as president.
In fact, just last week former Vice President Dick Cheney made news after telling CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that he was shocked to admit it, but former President Carter is no longer the worst president in his eyes.
“Jimmy Carter might have been a better president than Barack Obama,” Cheney told Tapper last week. “And I didn’t think I would ever say that.”
As the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, it was inevitable that Jason Carter, 38, would take some serious heat from long-time critics of the Carter family.
But guess who is taking even more heat these days?
Gov. Nathan Deal, that’s who.
Deal is getting slammed in the press — well, the Atlanta press, that is, particularly The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — for alleged unethical behavior and perhaps even illegal conduct by his staff.
And Jason Carter appears to be capitalizing on the controversy.
Last week, Jason Carter again called for a state investigation into allegations against Deal and appealed to Attorney General Sam Olens to appoint an independent investigator.
“We have no one who is willing to apparently investigate the governor’s office and what is clear misconduct at a minimum and probably illegal conduct on the part of his staff,” Jason Carter told reporters last week.
For those of you who haven’t been following the scandal encircling Deal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides a handy “interactive timeline” of Deal’s ethics case, which can be found at myajc.com/news/nathan-deal-ethics-case-timeline.
It basically describes how the state ethics commission began investigating Deal’s campaign months after he was elected governor in 2010.
In January 2011, two staff members of the state ethics commission, Executive Director Stacey Kalberman and her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, opened an investigation into the Deal campaign. They met with federal prosecutors and the FBI concerning their inquiry.
As the two women prepared to serve Deal and staff members with subpoenas, they were forced out of their jobs.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Streicker’s job was eliminated and Kalberman was forced to resign because her salary was cut by $35,000.
That resulted in both women filing whistleblower lawsuits with the state in 2012.
Meanwhile, Deal was cleared by any major violations by the state ethics commission by July 2012.
But Deal’s troubles were far from over.
Just this past April, a Fulton County jury awarded $700,000 to Kalberman claiming “she was forced out as executive director of the commission for investigating Deal’s campaign too vigorously,” the Atlanta newspaper reported.
In May, the state was forced to pay a total of $1.15 million in the Kalberman case. Less than one month later, the state also agreed to settle the remaining ethics cases for the hefty price tag of $1.8 million, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That’s not chump change, especially in state with a dwindling budget.
So, as a result, Jason Carter appears to be enjoying a decent bump in the polls.
The only question is: Can he maintain that lead until November?
Some insiders predict if serious legal questions pop up regarding Deal’s actions, Jason Carter may be the one celebrating on election night, this Nov. 4.
But others aren’t so sure, especially considering the way Deal seemed to be able to brush off any controversy during his 2010 race.
If you recall, Deal was in a race against former Gov. Roy Barnes and he had some serious flaws exposed during that campaign.
Deal reportedly lost about $2 million in a failed business owned by his daughter and son-in-law. While Deal’s daughter and her husband tried to wash their hands of the matter by declaring bankruptcy, the Republican candidate was left holding the $2.1 million debt.
It appeared “Daddy Dearest” needed to teach his daughter how to balance a checkbook.
As a result, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered that Nathan Deal put his primary residence in Gainesville up for sale and that he planned to liquidate his and his wife’s retirement accounts to pay for the debts.
Despite all of that, Deal still defeated Barnes by a margin of 53 percent to 43 percent to become governor of the Peach State.
But, can a younger, less controversial Democratic candidate like Jason Carter change voters’ minds this election season?
If so, Georgia may see another Carter in office.