November 7, 2017 10:00 AM
There are nine special elections for state legislative seats today and we know at least two will be decided tonight rather than in the runoff on December 5. One is the uncontested District 42 seat that our very own Teri will be taking over come January 2018 (congrats Teri!). The other is District 117 in Athens, where the seat vacated by Regina Quick (R) is being contested by Houston Gaines (R) and Deborah Gonzalez (D). Whoever gets 50 percent of the vote in that matchup is headed to Atlanta and the smart money is on the 22-year old Gaines.
Although he just graduated from the University of Georgia in May (where he served as student body president from 2016-2017), Gaines has some serious political chops. He raised $200,000 in campaign cash, brought on former Nathan Deal spokesman Brian Robinson, and convinced Athens Mayor Nancy Denson to get dumped by the county’s Democratic committee in order to endorse him (which makes sense since he ran her last re-election campaign in 2014). He somehow scared the district’s former representative, Doug McKillip, away from challenging him this year and even snagged his endorsement. Tack that onto the fact that the district hasn’t had a Democrat compete since 2010 and you are looking at a strong chance that Gaines becomes one of the youngest members to ever serve in the state House.
This election has had a few exciting moments for drama-loving Georgia politicos, such as a controversy over whether Gaines made a racist remark about his Latina opponent (in my opinion, he did not and the whole episode seemed like desperation by the party likely to lose tomorrow). There was also a question of whether Gaines supports President Trump, not exactly a substantive issue for a state legislator but certainly important for the future of the Republican Party.
All in all, expect a Gaines victory tonight. It’s difficult to predict political careers this early on, but we could be looking at someone who will wield influence in the state, whether that is through legislating, lobbying, or whatever else, for years to come.