November 14, 2017 8:00 AM
Kyle Wingfield penned an opinion piece Monday (warning: paywall) that pointed to an issue that Republicans don’t want to admit: the 2018 mid-terms will be a tough election. The fact is that Democrats are galvanized by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s stinging loss in 2016. They tried, and failed, to convince constituents of Georgia’s 6th district to elect a Democratic congressman who lived outside of the district, but their fortunes turned last week with wins in New Jersey, Virginia, and, more locally, here in Georgia.
Okay, I hear a lot of conservatives beating the “oh, NJ is a liberal state…VA always votes against the majority party in DC.” Yes, those are valid arguments, but let me submit this to you: the morning of Election Day, Republicans held a comfortable super-majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. By that night, that super-majority evaporated leaving the Democrats with a 1 seat majority. That’s a very large swing in legislative control, and I’m afraid a lot of my Republican friends are downplaying it as not a forecast for 2018. I’m not saying that it will happen in Georgia, but I’m sure the Virginia Republican Party wasn’t expecting to lose control of the House either.
Here in Georgia, Republicans lost the super majority in the House and a Republican-leaning seat in the Senate during special elections last week. The fact is that Republicans were out-motivated by Democrats. President Trump was a factor to a point. That motivation for Democrats will no doubt carry into 2018 who will try to nationalize every election to make it a referendum on Trump. Of course, the Democrats have their own hurdles to clear with the tension between State Representatives Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans. Republicans, at this current moment, have the choice between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former State Senator Hunter Hill, Senator Michael Williams, and political newcomer Clay Tippins.
With Governor Nathan Deal in his penultimate year, there hasn’t been a clear, defined heir-apparent to be the next governor of Georgia…unless that person will qualify as “Undecided”, which currently leads the field with around 43%. There is concern among Republican stalwarts. From Kyle Wingfield’s piece:
Party loyalists are worried. I hear little faith in the two biggest names, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. There were high hopes for state Sen. Hunter Hill, and it’s not over for him, but nor has there been a surge in his direction. State Sen. Michael Williams is running as Donald Trump, but without the money, fame or charm. A political newcomer, Clay Tippins, doesn’t seem to be catching on (or these panicked conversations would be going differently).
The anxiety is even spreading to ordinary voters I hear from. If Democrats can field a strong candidate (which isn’t a lock) and if the national political tide turns in their favor (which looks more likely), they might break through in a race that still ought to favor the GOP.
Cagle is dominating the polls, but he’s only in the 30s. Number two and three are in single digits with only six months until the Georgia General Primary, so there’s understandable concern as Kyle points out. There’s no excitement at this point with the current field. Big political names haven’t really made much of a wake in the current makeup of thhe gubernatorial pool. Six months is still plenty of time for a new entrant to gain traction. I’ll point out that Governor Deal’s campaign was all but written off at this point in 2009. Republicans probably didn’t expect to see the former Congressman come from behind to win a hotly-contested primary and become one of Georgia’s most-effective governors.
Kyle drops the name of Congressman Doug Collins as a potential entrant. Collins hails from the same geographical area that Deal represented in Congress. He understands the issues that surround rural Georgians as well as the needs of a growing Atlanta metro area (as it moves up GA-400 in Forsyth, up I-985 in Hall, and into surrounding counties). Broadband access is one issue that comes to mind. There is also another prominent elected official in Collins’ district: Lieutenant Governor Cagle.
Will the Congressman decide to jump into the fray? Anything is possible. Heck, it could be a congressman, former or current, another elected official, or a citizen. One thing is for sure, the next governor will be inheriting a state that is in much better shape than it was in 2009. Republicans should be proud of the job that Governor Deal has done leading our state. Georgia Republicans should think seriously on who can excite conservative voters to turn out in November 2018 and continue the work to make Georgia a great place to call home.