published Sunday, March 4th, 2012

10 states to cast ballots in Republican presidential primary


by Chris Carroll
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks to the crowd Saturday morning at a Romney campaign event at Country Place Restaurant in Chattanooga.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks to the crowd Saturday morning at a Romney campaign event at Country Place Restaurant in Chattanooga.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
Hamilton County Sample Ballots
Hamilton County Sample Ballots

DEFINING DELEGATES

In the GOP primaries, a delegate is one of 2,286 people who can vote at the Republican National Convention, where a presidential candidate is officially chosen.

GOP DELEGATE BREAKDOWN

Tennessee

• 27 are elected from the nine congressional districts, 14 are elected at-large, and 14 are selected by the party’s state executive committee. Delegates from each group are allocated proportionally to candidates who reach a threshold of 20 percent of the vote; any candidate who reaches 66 percent of the vote gets all the delegates.

• 3 are selected by the state party chairman, the Republican National Committeeman and the Republican National Committeewoman; those delegates aren’t bound to a particular candidate.

Georgia

• 42 are elected from 14 congressional districts. Candidates who receive a majority of the vote in the primary receive all three delegates from a particular district. If a candidate doesn’t receive a majority, the candidate with the most votes receives two delegates and the one with the next highest number of votes gets one.

• 31 are elected at-large and vote proportionally based on the statewide vote for each candidate in the primary, but a candidate must reach 20 percent of the vote to get delegates.

• 3 are selected by the state party chairman, the Republican National Committeeman and the Republican National Committeewoman; those delegates are bound to the statewide vote.

Source: Tennessee Republican Party; Georgia Republican Party


FAST FACT

Tennessee and Georgia have open primaries, meaning voters of either party can vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.


TENNESSEE POLL

If the Tennessee Republican Presidential Primary were held today, who would you vote for? (Registered Likely Voters)

• Candidate Percentage

Santorum 33 percent

Romney 17 percent

Paul 13 percent

Gingrich 10 percent

None of the above 10 percent

Don’t know 14 percent

Source: Vanderbilt Poll, taken Feb. 16-22


GEORGIA POLL

If the Georgia Republican Presidential Primary were held today, who would you vote for?

Candidate Percentage

Gingrich 39 percent

Santorum 24 percent

Romney 23 percent

Paul 9 percent

Undecided 4 percent

Source: SurveyUSA Poll, taken Feb. 23-26


PRIMARY WINNERS

Tennessee began selecting political party delegates at presidential primary elections in 1972 and Georgia added its primaries four years later.

TENNESSEE

1972 Democrat: Georgia Wallace; Republican: Richard Nixon

1976 Democrat: Jimmy Carter; Republican: Gerald Ford

1980 Democrat: Jimmy Carter; Republican: Ronald Reagan

1984 Democrat: Walter Mondale; Republican: Ronald Reagan

1988 Democrat: Al Gore; Republican: George H.W. Bush

1992 Democrat: Bill Clinton; Republican: George H. W. Bush

1996 Democrat: Bill Clinton; Republican: Bob Dole

2000 Democrat: Al Gore; Republican: George W. Bush

2004 Democrat: John Kerry; Republican: George W. Bush

2008 Democrat: Hillary Clinton; Republican: Mike Huckabee

GEORGIA

1976 Democrat: Jimmy Carter Republican: Ronald Reagan

1980 Democrat: Jimmy Carter; Republican: Ronald Reagan

1984 Democrat: Walter Mondale; Republican: Ronald Reagan

1988 Democrat: Jesse Jackson; Republican: George H.W. Bush

1992 Democrat: Bill Clinton; Republican: George H.W. Bush

1996 Democrat: Bill Clinton; Republican: Bob Dole

2000 Democrat: Al Gore; Republican: George W. Bush

2004 Democrat: John Kerry; Republican: George W. Bush

2008 Democrat: Barack Obama; Republican: Mike Huckabee

Source: Newspaper archives


IF YOU GO

Tuesday’s primary is the first test of Tennessee’s new Voter ID law. Voters must have a qualified photo ID issued by state or federal government. Registered voters who show up without a qualified ID may cast a provisional ballot and have 48 hours to return to the county election commission with proper ID.

Georgia: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tennessee: Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


WHO’S ON THE BALLOT?

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

Newt Gingrich

Ron Paul

Mitt Romney

Rick Santorum

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

Barack Obama

ASSESSOR OF PROPERTY

Republican — Bill Bennett

Democrat — Jelena Butler

COUNTY MAYOR

Republican — Jim Coppinger, Basil Marceaux Sr., William Turner

Democrat — Richard “Rick” Wilson

COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 3

Republican — Marty Haynes, Mitch McClure

Democrat — Mitzi Leigh Yates

Tennessee and Georgia voters head to the polls Tuesday with a real chance to make a difference in choosing a Republican nominee for president.

Eleven states already have hosted presidential primaries, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the GOP pack.

At the Republican National Convention, it takes 1,144 delegate votes to land the GOP nomination.

That’s why Tennessee, Georgia and eight other states matter on “Super Tuesday.” The states hosting caucuses and primaries Tuesday have 437 delegates, the biggest single-day delegate jackpot of the entire campaign.

Tennessee has 58 delegates in play, while Georgia’s 76 are the most of any Super Tuesday contest. Both states award their delegates on a proportional basis, not winner-take-all.

“We’re happy we have a big voice in this primary — we like that we’re not just leaving it up to Iowa and New Hampshire to decide the nominee,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said. “All the campaigns are working here, and they’re taking Tennessee seriously.”

Earlier in the presidential race, Tennesseans showed enthusiasm for businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but both men dropped out after their campaigns fizzled. The four remaining candidates are Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Though the presidential primary is at the top of the ticket, three Hamilton County primaries also are on the ballot, most notably a heated contest for the District 3 seat on the County Commission. The fundraising numbers are close and each candidate has garnered strong support.

In Hamilton County, 9,432 voters cast ballots during early voting, 6,774 of them Republican. The total number of early votes is down from 15,012 in the 2008 primary.


Polls indicate Tennessee GOP voters favor Santorum by a 2-to-1 margin over Romney, although Gingrich and Paul enjoy pockets of loyal support.

In Georgia, polls show likely Republican voters may give a much-needed win to Gingrich, who represented the Peach State in Congress for 20 years. Gingrich’s only primary win occurred more than a month ago in South Carolina.

“Gingrich’s chances are very strong in Georgia. The folks down there know him best of all since he was a congressman there for many, many years,” said Chris Lanier, a Chattanooga attorney involved in Gingrich’s campaign. “I feel like in Tennessee he’ll do better than these polls are showing. The whole primary season, the situation changes daily.”

Santorum has gained in Georgia since he picked up steam with single-day wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but last week’s losses in Arizona and Michigan may stall his momentum.

Gingrich and Santorum have attempted to make their own luck locally, including one Dalton rally apiece within the last week — Gingrich on Feb. 28, Santorum on March 1.

On Feb. 25, Santorum headlined a Chattanooga Tea Party event at Abba’s House, a Southern Baptist megachurch in Hixson, and Gingrich is expected to host a Scenic City campaign rally Monday evening at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.

Gingrich also was in town the same day as his Dalton rally, but that was a $1,000-a-head, invitation-only breakfast fundraiser at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Romney has sent surrogates, including ex-presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, to campaign in Chattanooga. The candidate himself planned appearances today in Snellville, Ga., and Knoxville.

Paul has yet to schedule a local campaign event.

President Barack Obama also must win the Democratic primary to run for re-election, but as an incumbent chief executive, that race essentially is a foregone conclusion.


Romney is the establishment favorite in Tennessee, landing endorsements from Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, of South Pittsburg. The endorsements came after Romney donated money to their campaigns.

But social conservatives and tea party supporters appear to be backing Santorum. At the Abba’s House event, a straw poll showed 85 percent favored Santorum, with the remaining 15 percent split among the three other candidates, according to Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West.

Santorum’s appearance at Abba’s House “obviously played a role” in his strong straw poll showing, but “the numbers speak for themselves,” West said.

“There’s no perfect candidate, but we want someone who reflects our views and values,” said West, who stopped short of giving an official endorsement from the local tea party.

Tennesseans favored a similar social conservative in 2008 when Baptist preacher and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Volunteer State primary.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona later secured the GOP nod to run against Obama, the only time since 1972 that Tennessee failed to select the eventual Republican nominee, newspaper archives show.

Santorum’s Tennessee strength is all the more remarkable considering he’s the only candidate with no committed delegates on the ballot here.

That may not matter. If Santorum wins Tennessee, the state Republican Party will assign delegates to him, GOP state executives have said.

But a lot could change before Tuesday. Santorum’s national poll numbers dropped a bit after he lost last week’s Arizona and Michigan primaries to Romney.

“Tennessee is competitive, and that’s why you’re seeing the major candidates here, whether it’s Gingrich and Santorum or ads from Romney,” Devaney said. “I think we’ll have a real healthy turnout on March 6.”


Two special elections are adding local intrigue to this year’s presidential primary ballot.

Though the Hamilton County property assessor’s primary is the only one that historically lines up with the presidential preference primary, special elections for County Commission District 3 and county mayor also will be on Tuesday’s ballot.

The most heated of the two is the contest for District 3 where interim County Commissioner Mitch McClure is facing off against local Republican activist Marty Haynes.

McClure’s appointment came after former County Mayor Claude Ramsey accepted the job of deputy governor. In a controversial appointment process, county commissioners named District 3’s Jim Coppinger to the county mayor post in January 2011. Commissioners then named McClure to Coppinger’s commission seat.

Special elections were called for the two positions.

“The appointment process has been an issue,” Haynes said. “Nothing against Mitch, but folks didn’t like the appointment process. Folks want to be able to vote on their county commissioner.”

McClure said he’s running on his record while Haynes, a native of Hixson, said he wants more transparency in county government. Both candidates said they want to fight annexation and work in area schools.

McClure said he plans to work through the weekend to convince more voters to support him.

“District 3 is really the only race that matters,” he said.

The Republican primary for county mayor is the only other contested race. Property assessor is also on the ballot, but there is no primary contest for either Republican Bill Bennett or Democrat Jelena Butler.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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