Handicapping Georgia 2018

There’s no sense in sugarcoating any of this, 2016 has been a disastrous year for the Republican party and our national institutions. Nobody trusts the media. Hillary Clinton’s campaign insinuates that Russia is “meddling” in the Presidential election –to the benefit of Donald Trump. Polls are “rigged,” as is, according to Trump, the entire election. There’s talk of assassination and revolution.

But politics, even this years’ especially corrosive brand of it, will continue. So we’re going to look past the carnage of this years’ presidential campaign and into Georgia’s 2018 contests. Call it speculation, but predicting what’s going to happen later is a whole lot more pleasant than observing what’s actually happening now.

Political predictions are fraught with risk, but one can make out a few moderately certain things looking past this year and next into the Georgia’s electoral situation in 2018. For starters, there’s going to be a real bumper car contest in the Republican contest for Governor.

Kingstontweet1It’s pretty clear that former Senate candidate Jack Kingston, as an advisor to the Trump campaign, is trying to lock up the most motivated, least sane wing of Georgia’s electorate, and burnish his credentials as an “outsider.” Kingston has made the rounds of the talk shows defending Trump and taken to Twitter complain about alleged “media bias” against Trump. While everyone appreciates a loyal soldier, repeating or retweeting anything from Alex Jones’ conspiracy-fueled Infowars site is like being the only nudist at a square dance –folks will stare, but not because you’re a good dancer. Loyalty aside, Kingston’s 2018 candidacy will have to outrun the stench of Trump before it outruns anything else.

Speculation about a potential run for Governor by Secretary of State Brian Kemp ran rampant when Kemp was originally appointed to that position in 2010 –Kemp outmaneuvered then-Governor Sonny Perdue’s first choice, State Rep Jim Cole, for the slot and it was widely assumed that Kemp would use the Secretary of State’s office as a means of moving to the big house on West Paces Ferry Road. But Kemp’s term in office has created a public record that would supercharge his opponents’ attack ads. From an intermittently functional website, to the infamous data “breach,” to the lawsuits over illegally removing voters from the voter rolls, Kemp’s own record may be what keeps him out of the Governor’s race.

With his degenerative spine issue seemingly resolved, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is all but certain to throw his hat in the ring for Governor. He’s got a book on education, and has made virtue-signaling noises to social conservatives. Cagle has always occupied a narrow space between the politics of Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, but whether he can stay on that ground after Donald Trump has carpet-bombed is a lingering question. Cagle’s secret weapon? He’s very popular Among African American voters who could give Cagle an edge in a general election.

No list of potential candidates for Governor in 2018 would be complete without House Speaker David Ralston. Ralston has also had to walk the tightrope between the social/evangelical/voting folks and the business/chamber of commerce/donating segment. He’s proven adept at spot welding majorities together when the House has to deliver one, although some of those majorities created no small amount of rancor in his party, he’s probably content right where he is –helping choose governors, rather than becoming one.

Georgia’s congressional delegation doesn’t lack for pols eyeing the governor’s mansion, either, but outgoing Rep. Lynn Westmoreland ought to be struck from everyone’s list right away. Westmoreland has represented most of Georgia in Congress at one time or another, and is a proven campaigner. His public statements about running for Governor have been essentially “I don’t know, I’m thinking about it.” Close observers say that if Westmoreland wanted to be Governor, he’d already be Governor.

Rep. Tom Price of Roswell on the other hand, could be showing his hand with deeds and not words. He hasn’t said much publicly, but has formed an independent committee and showered potential state house allies with campaign contributions. Respected and well-liked, Price has made no secret of his desire to move up the leadership chain in the House –he’s currently chairman of the House Budget Committee- and a run for Governor just might scratch that ambition itch.

Congressman Tom Graves represents the 9th most Republican-leaning district in the nation, Georgia’s 14th District in the northwest corner of the State. While concentrating so many hard-right Republicans into one district would appear to strengthen a candidate, eventually all those conservatives forget who the real enemy is and begin fighting each other. Like too many squirrels on too little territory. Nonetheless, Grave has hired two political consultants already, and may decide that 2018 is his best chance to put the squirrels to work. The same holds true for Rep. Doug Collins –whose 9th district is the third most Republican district in the nation.

The biggest unanswered question for 2018 though, is which candidate will be the beneficiary of the Perdue machine? A unmatched campaign apparatus of donors and supporters that has elected a Governor and a Senator is going to be put to use for somebody. The only question is who.

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Benevolus
Benevolus

So what’s up with Olens? Does he not want the job? Was he pushed aside for some reason?
And what about Chris Carr? Is 2018 too soon?

By 2018 the Republican candidates will be irrelevant anyway. 🙂

The Eiger
The Eiger

If Sam was going to run he wouldn’t have taken a job that pays twice the salary of the governor.

Chris Carr is a nice guy, but has no business running for governor in 2018. He should for reelection and be thankful he will have an “I” by his name.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Olens stood little to no chance of winning the primaries in a state party whose majority still requires one to first kowtow to Ralph Reed and J. Robert White. Plus as we saw in the Trump rallies there is still a contingent of Georgians who don’t just wear their sheets to river dunkings.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

As to Olens, a cushy $250,000 education job in your backyard that evidently doesn’t have education experience requirements, or running for Gov and maybe losing? You make the call.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Papp was pulling in ~$350K not counting the $577K in illegal “retirement funds” that got him fired. Are you saying Olens is going in at $100K less than his predecessor?

J. Wagon
J. Wagon

If Cagle loses or doesn’t run, does that also mean that Renee Unterman and the Todd Rehm clan will be done with?

chefdavid
chefdavid

A run by Cagle would trigger a LT. Gov. run by Senate Rules Chairman Mullis.

Jack Fitz
Jack Fitz

Maybe rename the post “Handicapping the Republican Primary for Governor in 2018”.

If the list of names you gave us is the best the state has to offer, then Georgia really will be handicapped in 2018.

Bull Moose
Bull Moose

an election worth thinking about, because let’s face it, the 2018 campaign has really already started… On the Republican side, I’d have to think that Cagle would be the favorite. I think he needs to come out of the gate first and with a lot of money in the bank. This should scare off the candidate that generally appeals to the same constituency, Brian Kemp, and may push Kemp to either stay where he is or run for LG. Price would make for an interesting candidacy and there is a path to victory for him. All he needs to do… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

I would expect Kasim to run. (Gov. Deal has shown that there are plenty of money making opportunities if you are living on W. Paces Ferry Rd.) Barksdale for governor? No. As far as I know he is in this one because no one else would and he can self-fund. I doubt there will be a shortage of Dems with an eye on this seat in 2018 especially if HRC wins Georgia. I hope somebody on the Dem side (Dubose Porter?) is already getting these ducks all lined up so there are decent candidates for multiple seats and not have… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Cagle, from Hall County same as Deal, withdrew from the 2010 Gov race for a reason. Olens breeze to leading KSU didn’t happen without Deal’s approval. I’d suggest the Deal machine is preparing to line up behind Cagle.

Perdue’s only significant issue in Washington has been the deficit/debt. That’s very unlikely to be a state issues in 2018.

The Eiger
The Eiger

“I’d suggest the Deal machine is preparing to line up behind Cagle.” Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Deal and his team, specifically Chris Riley, do not like Cagle. They will support someone like Tom Graves over Cagle.

augusta52
augusta52

I think Kasim Reed wants to go to the private sector and make some big money before running again—he has been in office 15 years (more or less) between the General Assembly and Mayor. And since he is only maybe 46, 47, something like that, he could run anytime perhaps the next 20 years, maybe wait for the demographics to get better (as they doubtless will for the Democrats). As for Jason Carter, he would seem to be the favorite, but a second consecutive loss would not help future prospects. As for Republicans, Price’s decision to run would be enhanced… Read more »

Rambler14
Rambler14

Wonder what Chip Rogers is up to these days?

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

My second LOL comment in this thread, the first being Jack Fitz’s.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Westmoreland was a two term Congressman in 2010 when the Gov field had a number of widely known prospects. I think it a leap to say he could have been Gov if he wanted to.

Bart
Bart

Interesting/unfortunate that there are no females projected to run from either party. Karen Handel tried her best a couple of times but is probably done for now. Beyond that, who else is even close to being in line for a major statewide run?

Benevolus
Benevolus

Mary Norwood maybe, but not quite yet.
Stacey Abrams?
Wouldn’t mind seeing Margaret Kaiser, but also not yet.
Elena Parent?
Not sure if Stephanie Stuckey Benfield wants to run for public office again, but I think she is still in government.

westgapol
westgapol

Collins deserves more than eight words. His district may be one of the most conservative in the nation, but let’s not forget he raised over $1mil this cycle, beat a crazy Congressman, and received more primary votes than any other Republican Congressman – despite having four opponents. Raised some eyebrows over in west GA.

LoyaltyIsMyHonor
LoyaltyIsMyHonor

“With his degenerative spine issue seemingly resolved, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is all but certain to throw his hat in the ring for Governor.”

Degenerative spine issue should really be in quotes considering that he ran a triathlon a couple of months after his “back surgery.”

CoastalCat
CoastalCat

Won’t some of these Democratic names be pulled into the Clinton administration rather than staying in little ol’ Georgia?

Benevolus
Benevolus

Interesting question. I would suspect that there are equally qualified people in other states, so it becomes a question of who gets the national gig and who is deemed more helpful reclaiming a state. GA being possibly teetering on the balance may actually cause Team Clinton to look to calmer waters to draw from.