First and foremost, Georgia will cast its electoral votes for Donald Trump. Every election we see talking-heads waste our time on guessing when Georgia’s electoral votes will be cast for the Democratic nominee for president. I’ve heard my fair share of it earlier this election cycle and, quite frankly, I’m glad we’re through with it.
The presidential election is sucking all of the air out of the room and leaving few moments to discuss important races down-ballot. In Georgia, we have many races that will be determined by a razor-thin margin. Those races will have huge implications in later years. For example, House District 105, held by incumbent Republican Joyce Chandler, will gauge how strong Democratic advances are in Gwinnett County.
Counties to watch
I recently listened to Brian Robinson and Tharon Johnson–both of whom are much smarter than I am–discuss the state of Georgia’s politics at a WABE/NPR event, so I’ll just share their opinions on the matter.
Brian Robinson: Watch the metro Atlanta’s counties in comparison to Mitt Romney’s 2012 results. Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, and Cobb counties will be indicators of how Georgia will vote.
Tharon Johnson: Keep an eye on DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Richmond, Rockdale, Forsyth, and Fayette counties.
I defer to them.
House races to watch
I will keep an eye on House District 80. This is the only chance Republicans have at taking a House seat this cycle. Incumbent Taylor Bennett, known for his fight over the rape-kit bill, is running on a center-left platform. His opponent, Republican Meagan Hanson, is running on a pro-LGBT, pro-transit, less government platform. If Hanson pulls out a victory, her campaign will be the model for Republicans who run in Atlanta swing districts.
Another close race is House District 101 between incumbent Republican Valerie Clark and Democratic challenger Sam Park. 53 percent of the district voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and 54 percent voted for John McCain in 2008; however, the demographics are shifting and the perfect storm could be brewing. Clark is the go-to person in the House for education policy. Park, on the other hand, would be the first openly gay man elected to the Georgia General Assembly and would bring a fresh perspective that is lacking under the Gold Dome.
House District 105, as I mentioned before, is another Gwinnett County race to watch. Joyce Chandler, much like her colleague Valerie Clark, is an education policy expert in the House. Her district, unlike Clark’s, is trending Democratic. In 2008, the district split 50-50 between Obama and McCain and in 2012, the district favored Obama 52 percent to 47 percent. Chandler’s opponent is an African-American woman named Donna McLeod. McLeod is an immigrant from Jamaica and is endorsed by President Obama. If the Republican Party will lose a seat, it will be this one. You can read more about House Districts 101 and 105 in a post by Jon, our Gwinnett County guru.
Lastly, we’re going to shift away from metro Atlanta and veer a bit to the southwest portion of Georgia. House District 138 is a tight race between Republican Mike Cheokas, chairman of the House Information and Audits Committee, and Democrat Bill McGowan, who is endorsed by President Obama. As Charlie wrote last Friday, the district depends on its elected official to push through projects and legislation. Cheokas is no stranger to tight elections; he won his 2014 election by 4.6 percent and his 2012 election by 1.4 percent. Speaker Ralston visited the district to encourage voters to support Cheokas.
Senate races to watch
Republican Hunter Hill is struggling to walk the line between his metro Atlanta constituency and the politics of Donald Trump. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his district, Senate District 6, vote for Hillary Clinton and send Hunter Hill back to the Gold Dome. He was challenged by an incredibly week candidate in 2014 resulting in Hill winning by nearly 22 percent, but he won by only 5 percent in 2012 when he ran against incumbent Democrat Doug Stoner. I have no doubt Hill will win reelection, but the question is how much Trump will cut Hill’s share of the vote.
Now we get to Senator JaNice VanNess. She is a Republican in a district that doesn’t elect Republicans. Her 2015 special election victory shocked onlookers and her Democratic opponent, Tonya Anderson. For all intents and purposes, Anderson was supposed to win that election. Democrats and Republicans agreed that VanNess’ victory was the result of incredibly low voter turnout. Senator VanNess conveyed confidence in her ability to win the general election during a presidential year and increased voter turnout when I spoke with her during session. Tomorrow, she is facing Tonya Anderson once again. I believe this will be an easy pickup for the Democrats.