Straw polls are rarely useful, except as a measure of a candidate’s infrastructure – his or her ability to move a certain number of volunteers to a certain location at a certain time.
But the larger the event, and the closer to election day, the more meaning that kind of balloting has. On Saturday, the Cobb County Republican party had one of the largest straw polls in the state.
Roughly 1,200 people paid a $10 fee for entry into an auditorium at Jim Miller Park in Marietta, attended by virtually every statewide candidate on the July 20 GOP ballot.
Five candidates for governor were there: Jeff Chapman, Nathan Deal, Karen Handel, Eric Johnson and John Oxendine.
When asked who they want to see as the Republican nominee for governor, here’s what attendees said:
– Handel, 199;
– Deal, 140;
– Oxendine, 130;
– Chapman, 31;
– McBerry, 3;
Though they could barely be heard among the din of the crowd, a theme developed in short addresses from the gubernatorial candidates, one likely to be fleshed out in the final two weeks of the campaign:
Chapman: “There’s probably one thing I need to say that I think will help define why you want to vote for Jeff Chapman. There’s no right way to do the wrong thing.”
Deal: “I’m the only candidate who has put forth a proposal on tax reform that has actually been scored by somebody that knows what they’re doing. The National Tax Foundation currently ranks Georgia 29 in terms of tax law….They scored my proposal – they said it would take us to No. 16.”
Handel: “You deserve real, meaningful tax relief – not for the sake of passing down to your local government officials.”
Johnson: If you want a governor that’s going to reform our tax code – that will reward our work and rewards profit and making money and doesn’t discourage it….I’m just the guy to do it.”
Oxendine: “The [National] Tax Foundation says that we’ve got the second worst tax climate in the region. If you want to bring jobs to Georgia – government doesn’t create jobs. That’s what Barack Obama and Roy Barnes talk about. Did you see Roy Barnes’ commercial? He says he going to create 10,000 jobs – he’s going to take money out of your pocket give it to someone else. that’s not creating jobs. That’s redistributing the wealth. We’re going to create jobs by changing the tax climate.”
Not by coincidence, the Associated Press tackles the topic in its weekend piece:
Two candidates have staked out a more extreme position than most: John Oxendine and Karen Handel want to eliminate Georgia’s individual income tax – the state’s single largest chunk of revenue. Nathan Deal and Eric Johnson have expressed skepticism about the idea, which is popular with tea party activists and fair tax supporters, who may be a powerful voting bloc in a GOP primary.
Tossing out individual income tax collections would rip a giant hole in the state’s tattered balance sheet. Individual income taxes brought in about $7.8 billion to Georgia coffers in fiscal year 2009 – roughly 50 percent of the state’s total tax collections.
Neither Oxendine nor Handel has said specifically how they would fill that hole, arguing it would take study. But it would almost certainly require higher sales taxes and perhaps taxing services – like haircuts and lawn work – that are currently exempt.
Oxendine, in particular, has been out front about halting Georgia’s income tax. He’s featuring the proposal prominently in his television advertisements as part of his “Contract With Georgia.”
But pressed on the specifics, Oxendine said the changes wouldn’t happen overnight.
Oxendine said he favored a consumption-based tax because it’s based on choice.
“You choose whether to engage in commerce,” Oxendine said. “A tax on direct income punishes you for success.”
Oxendine said some of the money could come from removing sales tax exemptions or possibly broadening the sales tax base. Some, but possibly not all, of the lost income tax revenue would need to be replaced, he said.
Handel also said she supports eliminating the state income tax but is also short on the details of how such a plan would work.
Following are the other results in Saturday’s straw poll of Cobb County Republicans:
Secretary of state:
– Brian Kemp, 345;
– Doug MacGinnitie, 331;
– Sam Olens, 341;
– Max Wood, 203;
– Preston Smith, 128;
State insurance commissioner:
– Gerry Purcell, 235;
– Maria Sheffield, 103;
– Seth Harp, 98;
– Ralph Hudgens, 47;
– Stephen Dale Northington, 39;
– Tom Knox, 13;
– Dennis Caine, 5;
– John Mamalakis, 5;
– Rick Collum, 3
– Gary Black, 544;
– Darwin Carter, 115;
– Melvin Everson, 425;
– Mark Butler, 152;
– Richard Woods, 278;
– John Barge, 221;
Public Service Commission:
– Jeff May, 235;
– John Douglas, 154;
– Tim Echols,122;
– Joey Brush, 73.