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Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball changes Georgia gubernatorial race to 'leaning GOP'

The University of Virginia's Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball changed its prediction today on the 2014 Georgia gubernatorial race from likely Republican to leaning Republican.

Sabato's blog changed the prediction after the Fulton County jury reached a verdict last Friday that the former director of the Georgia state ethics commission Stacey Kalberman was forced out of office because of pursuing an investigation into Governor Nathan Deal's 2010 gubernatorial campaign financial violations.

Deal's ethics problems are not likely to go away, especially since there are several ethics commission employees who are likely to file similar lawsuits. The Governor settled the 53 financial violations in his campaign for $3,350 in 2012, down from original the original $70,000.

The allegations of financial violations as well as the manipulation of the ethics commission board, in which Deal's handlers allegedly participated, received attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI is now investigating the case.

"We’re moving the Georgia gubernatorial race from Likely Republican to LEANS REPUBLICAN, to match our Leans Republican rating in the [Georgia] Senate race," said the posting on Crystal Ball. "We’re not yet willing to bet against the GOP holding the governorship and the Senate seat. It’s a GOP year, plus the Peach State isn’t at the tipping point to turning competitive purple. Thus, Republicans may well pull both chestnuts out of the fire.

"But our point is: They are playing with fire.

The Crystal Ball blog has a solid record of predicting political races with 97-100 percent accuracy.

Deal is facing opposition in the May 20 primary from John Barge, State School Superintendent and David Pennington, Mayor of Dalton. The two challengers don't appear to be any kind of a threat to Deal, according to polling.

In the general election, the Democratic candidate is state Rep. Jason Carter, the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has no challenger in the primary. Carter has seen a surge in fundraising in recent weeks, collecting $416,000 in the first 11 days after the legislative session came to an end. State lawmakers are prohibited from fundraising during the session, which ended on March 20th.

Georgia's changing demographics pose a threat to Republicans who have led the state for over a decade now. The growing number of the Hispanic population is likely to tip the state back to purple in the next few years.

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