A pair of felled Georgia Republican congressional hopefuls have hung a local shingle for a national nonpartisan group pressing lawmakers to eliminate the ballooning federal debt.
Martha Zoller and Rick Allen, the first runners-up in the state’s two most competitive primary contests this cycle, launched this week the Georgia chapter of Fix the Debt, a group co-founded by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson.
“It is the number one national security issue, fiscal issue and economic issue,” Zoller, a popular north Georgia conservative radio talker, said. Allen warned the “economy could collapse” if policymakers fail to alter the nation’s fiscal trajectory.
In addition to the Georgia operation, Fix the Debt laid state roots throughout the country this week as it mobilizes for an aggressive lame-duck lobbying effort.
If the Republican congressional runoff in north Georgia was to be a measure of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s influence in the state, returns from the Tuesday contest found her celebrity once again came up short.
Palin catapulted Martha Zoller into contention with an endorsement last month, fomenting support for the conservative radio talker other national pols like former GOP White House hopeful Rick Santorum.
But even as only 700-some votes separated the tallies of Zoller and rival Doug Collins in the July primary, she ultimately fell short in Tuesday’s runoff.
Collins, a state lawmaker with the backing of Governors Nathan Deal and Zell Miller, had 55 percent, just under 37,000 votes, in preliminary returns. He is expected to sail to victory in the fall, facing only negligible Democratic opposition in the tremendously conservative district.
Palin previously endorsed another conservative female in the Peach State, boosting former Secretary of State Karen Handel in the 2010 Republican race for the governor’s mansion. But Handle, too, lost in a runoff.
With Tuesday’s showdown in Georgia’s ninth congressional district looming, House Speaker David Ralston used Saturday as a time to ramp up his public support for state Rep. Doug Collins.
Before a packed house, somewhere in the range of 130, Ralston defended Collins from opponent Martha Zoller’s efforts to brand him as a “desperate politician”.
“I’ve heard Doug Collins called a ‘political insider’ about one too many times now,” Ralston stated. Citing Collins’s role in the initial insurrection against former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, which consisted of but 5 House members, he likened Collins to possessing the political courage of former Governor and Senator Zell Miller.
Though he did not speak, Miller was the event’s guest of honor and received a thunderous standing ovation from the Lavonia crowd.
In a speech highlighting his military background and local policy chops, Collins did not mention Zoller by name, but the implications of his vow to “work, not talk” in Washington were clear.
The event came hours after it was announced that Governor Nathan Deal was endorsing Collins and taping a robocall on his behalf. Heading into Tuesday, Collins now carries the weight of support from three of the ninth district’s most prominent political figures, while Zoller counters with the backing of Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.
Governor Nathan Deal on Saturday endorsed Doug Collins in the Republican runoff contest for an open north Georgia congressional district, saying in a new robocall the Gainesville state lawmaker was a conservative man of faith who would wrangle the nation’s debt and deficit while lowering taxes.
“Doug has served as my floor leader in the state House, and he’s helped me enact laws that protect life, crack down on illegal immigration and cut taxes to promote jobs,” Deal says in the 42-second tape that began hitting phones today. “A Christian conservative, Doug Collins will stand up to Barack Obama, eliminate wasteful spending and cut the debt as well as our taxes.”
The support comes at a critical juncture for Collins, just four days from the runoff, and after a series of prominent endorsements for rival Martha Zoller.
But some have taken Deal’s reticence to have previously endorsed Collins, an important ally of the governor’s under the Dome, as an indication of his interest in not further chafing relations with conservative tea party activists, still miffed over his support for a failed transportation tax.
“Deal’s a keen political operator,” one GOP operative told Tipsheet. “It’s clear the governor hasn’t wanted to upset the apple cart, especially after the TSPLOST flop, but Collins must have leaned hard to lock this down.”
Zoller, a longtime conservative radio talker, had campaigned for months as an outsider, tea party candidate. The message reached a fever pitch last month when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin endorsed her.
Collins said his rival was compensating for a lack of substance, campaigning much in the same way the president had four years earlier with an entourage of celebrities, and that the race would be decided in the mountains of north Georgia, not Alaska.
“We cannot let Martha’s Hollywood friends and Washington insiders come into this race and influence our electorate,” Collins wrote in an email this week to supporters. “They are not the 9th district, and they clearly don’t represent our conservative northeast Georgia values.”
While the political celebrity of Palin, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have drawn conservative voters to Zoller, Deal’s endorsement carries special hometown weight in the ninth.
He previously represented the district before resigning in 2010 to focus exclusively on his gubernatorial bid, though the recent process of reapportionment made the district anew.
“Governor Deal is a dear friend and most importantly he is a resident of the 9th district,” Collins said in a statement. “Nobody knows the values, hearts, and minds of northeast Georgia voters better than Governor Deal, and I am honored that he would do this for me and our campaign.”
A senior aide to Republican congressional hopeful Martha Zoller said Thursday rival Doug Collins was trafficking in “lies and lunacy” after teasing a television advertising extension said to mirror his campaign’s earlier reservation of sizable proportions but one that was later reveled to total less than $300.
Collins circulated word last week that he would “continue his same ad buy purchased during the primary” not long after the conservative radio talker debuted her bid’s introductory television spot.
But Ryan Mahoney, Zoller’s campaign manager, said in an email today to supporters that Collins’ announcement was a transparent attempt to leverage earned media for a campaign on its last leg.
“The truth? Collins made a $280 buy on cable – nothing close to ‘same ad buy purchased during the primary,’” Mahoney wrote in the Thursday evening memo. “Not only is his attack ad false but so is the amount of money he claimed to spend on it. … It’s clear that Doug Collins [sic] weakest issue in this campaign is not taxes, debt, or spending … but the truth.”
Collins was the first to go on television in the north Georgia contest, making an original reservation of $3,375 and a pair supplemental buys totaling a combined $12,901 in the two weeks preceding the July primary.
But his campaign’s runoff reservation was just $258, according to purchase receipts provided to Tipsheet by a third party.
Even for rural media market standards, the purchase represented a statistically insignificant blip in the advertising stream.
Asked for clarification, Collins press secretary Loree Anne Thompson did not directly dispute the figure, saying only that the campaign’s earlier “report is accurate.”
UPDATE: Collins’ operation belatedly provided a more forceful defense of the post-primary buy, saying Zoller memo was a reflection of her campaign’s interest in avoiding discussions of the conservative radio talker’s time behind the microphone.
“Our press release was correct. We extended our ad buy,” Thompson said in a second email to Tipsheet. “The fact that Martha Zoller is discussing our ad buy rather than her past statements on civil unions and abortions isn’t shocking, if I had said what Martha said I wouldn’t want to talk about it either.”
Fireworks were unnecessary in last night’s Gainesville forum as the runoff candidates for Georgia’s ninth district provided plenty of their own.
Locked in a race that has seen both sides lob attacks at the other, state Rep. Doug Collins and radio host Martha Zoller pulled no punches in an hour-long debate in the Hall County Civic Center.
While Zoller touted endorsements from prominent conservatives such as Rick Santorum, Collins countered with his experience ‘fighting for you in Atlanta’ in citing that the state has maintained a AAA bond rating, a feat not shared by Washington.
Each candidate listed reigning in spending as the number one priority, followed by variations on jobs, ‘Obamacare’ and reforming the tax code.
But things got interesting when the bell rang for round 2, allowing the candidates to question one another. Collins opened up a line of attack unseen in the television ad currently blanketing markets in the ninth district: pointing to a 2010 statement in which Zoller said something along the lines of the ever maligned T-SPLOST being a good piece of legislation. The Gainesville radio host has frequently tweaked Collins for voting to place it on the ballot during the past legislative session of the General Assembly.
Asked if the change in opinion was because she is now a candidate, Zoller retorted in saying that she had been a political analyst who hosted supporters of all sides of the issue.
The remainder of the candidate Q&A moved forward in similar fashion, with Zoller keeping up the T-SPLOST and ‘professional politician’ refrain against Collins, while being countered with past quotes designed to question the radio host’s authenticity.
Round 2 largely set the tone for the evening, as the final round of moderator-based questions had each candidate countering the other in some form or fashion.
Both Collins and Zoller pitched supporters of vanquished primary foe Roger Fitzpatrick, who was himself in attendance and gave the opening invocation. With two debates remaining, including a final round at the Atlanta Press Club, it can only be expected that the debates will remain just as fireworks-filled.
Martha Zoller has leapfrogged rival Republican Doug Collins in a new survey of Georgia’s ninth congressional district runoff contest.
Zoller leads Collins four points, 43 percent to 39 percent, according to a new Wenzel Strategies poll for Citizens United. Despite a spate of prominent endorsements–Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are all campaign boosters–she had not yet managed to extend her lead beyond the marring of error, measured at an equal four points.
It is the most recent snapshot of the heated contest in the two weeks since the July primary in which neither candidate cleared the majority threshold, though it was Collins who claimed the greatest margin in the final balloting.
For Collins, the most distressing element of the poll is not his diminished measure of support, rather the diverging favorability rates and soft allegiances revealed in the poll.
Eighty-six percent of voters have an impression of Zoller, while just 76 have formed an impression of Collins, a state lawmaker and once the prohibitive favorite for the open seat.
Cumulatively 66 percent had a favorable opinion of the conservative radio talker, while Collins registered ten points lower.
Yet even as voters expressed more familiarity with Zoller, whose radio show served the extremely conservative district for years, both candidates have largely identical unfavorability ratings. (A mere half point separates the two, with Collins slightly leading in this regard.)
Eighteen percent remained undecided at the time of the poll, but another 22 percent of respondents said it was possible they might shift allegiances before the election. Eleven percent more still were “very open to change.”
Republican congressional hopeful Martha Zoller unveiled on Wednesday her campaign’s first television advertisement, a disjointed spot pivoting between an attack on her runoff rival before trumpeting her endorsements from prominent national conservatives.
“Unbelievable: Career politician and trial lawyer Doug Collins continues lying, waging a shameful, negative campaign against Martha Zoller,” the 30-second ad opens.
After rapping the Gainesville lawmaker for greenlighting legislation that provided for the recent transportation tax referenda, for which a consequence of rejecting included penalties for disapproving regions, the ad transitions to a traditional introductory spot in which the candidate’s biography and endorsements are heralded.
“A woman of faith, pro-life and strong defender of traditional marriage. Martha Zoller, endorsed by Sarah Palin,” the narrator says as an image of the former Alaska Governor flashes on screen, the graphic also bearing the names of fellow endorsers Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
A Zoller aide declined to specify the extent of the ad buy, though the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the capital city’s media market was cost-prohibitive for the campaign.
Collins responded by making his second television buy of the contest, though the reservation will be filled by the campaign’s earlier spot wherein Zoller is berated as a simple radio talker with outlandish opinions.
“My opponent’s liberal rhetoric as a radio talk-show host is alarming,” Collins said in a release announcing the ad’s extension into the runoff. “Voters in this district deserve to know Martha, much like President Obama, will say anything to get elected to public office. I think that’s wrong, and the 9th district deserves better.”
Collins led Zoller by 734 votes, or 0.66 percent, in certified results from last week’s primary. But neither crested 50 percent and the race defaulted to a runoff, to be decided August 21.
A curious dynamic shift is underway in the Republican runoff contest for Georgia’s ninth congressional district, where outsider and establishment monikers have been radically reshuffled between a state lawmaker and conservative radio talker after a spate of prominent national endorsements have thrown the race into flux.
The pair landed in a virtual tie in Tuesday’s primary contest–little more than 700 votes separated their margins–and were forced into an August 21 runoff.
Doug Collins entered the race as the prohibitive favorite, understood by most Peach State political observers to have the blessing, if only privately, of Governor Nathan Deal, for whom he served as a floor leader in the last legislative session.
His fundraising receipts have consistently led his two opponents, stockpiling nearly double what chief rival Martha Zoller reported at the end of the most recent fundraising quarter.
But the Gainesville Republican found himself in unfamiliar territory in the last two weeks of the race, his campaign bracing from successive rounds of prominent endorsements for his opponent.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum became on Friday the third former presidential candidate to endorse Zoller, whose bid also counts former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin among its supporters. Other former White House hopefuls to endorse include former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.
Left with few other options, Collins played his rival’s new-found political celebrity against her, juxtaposing the endorsements of these out-district interlopers with own his local roots. Like Barack Obama before her, Collins said, Zoller was compensating with sizzle for no substance.
His missive to supporters on Friday had a distinct down home flavor, emphasizing familial ties to the region he said he was blessed to call home.
“My opponent thinks she can influence this election with outsider supporters who have no idea what makes Georgia so great, and we saw her Obama-style campaign strategy of ‘celebrity over substance’ during the primary,” he wrote. “I’m here to tell her she can’t hide behind her big name friends, and voters in the 9th District are going to prove that once again on August 21st.”
Zoller, though, is owning her elevated status among national conservative bigs. Asked to quantify the financial impact of the endorsements, an aide told Tipsheet Friday that the campaign had raised “thousands of dollars” in the intervening period.
“Endorsements from Gov. Palin, Speaker Gingrich and Sen. Santorum have fired up the conservative base in North Georgia and helped the campaign raise thousands of dollars to beat professional politician and self-proclaimed ‘Gold Dome Insider’ Doug Collins,” Zoller campaign manager Ryan Mahoney said by email.
The two top vote-getters in an open north Georgia congressional contest that defaulted Tuesday in a runoff are moving swiftly to consolidate the support of an ex-rival Roger Fitzpatrick.
A strong performance by Fitzpatrick held rivals Martha Zoller and Doug Collins to a ceiling of 41 percent, separated by a margin of 700 votes.
Collins, a state lawmaker and legislative broker for Governor Nathan Deal, phoned Fitzpatrick Tuesday night after preliminary returns indicated no candidate would clear the majority threshold, while Zoller, a conservative radio talker, made a similar appeal in a Wednesday morning meeting.
But Fitzpatrick dashed the pair’s hopes just as soon as they were raised: he said he will not endorse either of his former opponents.
A retired school administrator with no political experience managed to peel away enough disaffected voters in Tuesday’s bitter GOP contest for an open north Georgia congressional seat to deny outright victory to either of the two leading candidates for the post.
More than 109,000 ballots were cast in the race, though a mere 729 votes separated the tallies of Rep. Doug Collins and conservative radio talker Martha Zoller.
Neither managed to cross the majority threshold, though, due in large part to the stronger-than-anticipated performance of Roger Fitzpatrick, whose support was clocked at just under 17 percent.
The pair will square off again in an exclusive August 21 bout.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has recorded a get-out-the-vote robocall for north Georgia congressional hopeful Martha Zoller.
“If you agree that it’s time our elected officials stop talking at us and start listening to us, then I hope you’ll join me in supporting Martha Zoller for Congress,” Palin says in the tape, her Western-influenced speech coloring the pronunciation of the candidate’s last name. (Rather than zah-ler, Palin twice reads zow-lur.)
“Martha’s running against the establishment, but with all of our support, she can win,” the former Republican vice presidential nominee says. “In congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes and repeal Obamacare. I hope you’ll join me, Sarah Palin, in supporting Martha Zoller for Congress.”
Zoller, who had been lapped by her chief rival in cash-on-hand at the end of the last reporting period, will square off in the Tuesday contest with fellow GOPers state Rep. Doug Collins, a one-time legislative broker for Governor Nathan Deal, and retired school administrator Roger Fitzpatrick.
The winner is widely expected by political handicappers to breeze past thin Democratic opposition in the fall in the newly drawn, supremely conservative ninth district.
Republican Martha Zoller’s eleventh-hour parade of prominent endorsements grew Thursday to include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“For years, Martha Zoller has been a clear, clarion voice for the conservative movement here in Georgia and around the United States,” Gingrich, who won the state’s presidential primary earlier this year, said in a release. ”In Congress, Martha will lead the force that fundamentally changes ‘business as usual’ in Washington and will work tirelessly to implement conservative solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.”
The winner of the July 31 primary, in which Zoller will square off with fellow GOPers Doug Collins and Roger Fitzpatrick, is virtually assured victory in the fall. The open district is among the most conservative in the country.
A tea party-aligned political action committee will offer north Georgia congressional hopeful Martha Zoller a boost in the final days of the primary contest, running robocalls and radio ads that tease the conservative radio talker’s endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
A robopoll funded by Western Representation PAC, steered by a trio of west coast activists, will launch tonight and feature a robopoll of sorts, prompting listeners to press a button on their phone to indicate support for Zoller.
Palin, who a Zoller aide said today Tipsheet today would be “helping in a variety of ways to ensure victory,” is not featured herself in the call. A transcription of the call:
This is Bryan, and I’m calling from Western Representation PAC with exciting news about next Tuesday’s Congressional race. Governor Sarah Palin has endorsed the true conservative running for Congress. That’s right, Sarah Palin has endorsed Martha Zoller, right here in Georgia! Martha is a true patriot who understands what has made this country great: limited government, free markets and fiscal responsibility.
I’m asking you to vote for the real conservative for Congress – Martha Zoller. If we can count on your support for Martha please press 1 now. Please visit JoinMartha.com for more information. This call was paid for by Western Representation PAC and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin waded into Georgia’s most spirited congressional primary this week with a surprise endorsement for conservative radio talker Martha Zoller.
“Martha has been fighting for conservative causes for years as an award winning radio show host where she has been a voice for the Tea Party movement,” Palin said in a release circulated by aides Tuesday evening. “Martha is running against the establishment, which, as we known, is an uphill battle; but with all of our support she can win.”
The endorsement comes at a critical moment for Zoller, whose most recent fundraising report showed her campaign had stockpiled little more than $35,000–less than half what her chief rival, state Rep. Doug Collins, had reserved–for the sprint to the July 31 GOP primary.
Zoller’s rival unveiled last week a brutal new television spot torching the radio talker-turned-pol on the issues of abortion, taxes, marijuana and civil unions for gays and lesbians.
But Palin said Zoller stood for the “things we need more of in Washington.”
“In Congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes, and repeal Obamacare,” the 2008 vice presidential Republican nominee said. “In addition to being pro-life and a firm defender of our Constitution, including our Second Amendment rights, Martha is a strong fiscal conservative. Her ‘MAP for Prosperity’ plan calls for increased accountability, bold reform, and citizen engagement – three things we need more of in Washington.”
UPDATE: Collins campaign general consultant Chip Lake emailed a reaction strutting the Gainesville lawmaker’s own prominent endorsements.
“While we admire and respect Governor Palin, Martha’s liberal talk threatens our conservative values,” Lake said. “Better to have a true Georgia conservative like Doug Collins. The endorsements he’s received from Governor Zell Miller, Speaker Ralston and the NRA, along with the faith shown in him by Governor Deal show he shares the values of people who know and love north Georgia the most.”