The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is endorsing Kay Kirkpatrick in the May 16 runoff for State Senate District 32. Senior Vice President David Raynor gave Kirkpatrick his full support, saying, “With big challenges facing our state, it is vital we have members in the Georgia General Assembly who understand the need for state policies that promote economic development and job growth. We believe Dr. Kirkpatrick will be a friend and ally to Georgia families and their businesses in the state senate, and we look forward to working with her if elected.”
In the runoff, Kirkpatrick will face Democrat Christine Triebsch, who won the plurality of the vote in the April 18 general special election. Even though Triebsch won the plurality, the vote was spread pretty evenly among the eight candidates who ran. The 5 Republicans took about 60 percent of the total vote, so expect SD 32 to stay red on May 16. Judson Hill (R), who vacated the seat to run in the Congressional District 6 special election, had held the seat since 2005, and he rarely faced serious challengers.
Although Democrats certainly saw a boost during the 2016 general election and in the first round of the CD 6 special election, I don’t think the climate is right for East Cobb to send a Democrat to the General Assembly. The CD 6 runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will not happen until June 20. That race is likely to generate much more enthusiasm and turnout than this one. So, yes, the Georgia Chamber can rest easy knowing that it most likely endorsed a winning candidate.
State Senator Hunter Hill (R) has just announced that he is running for governor in 2018.
Hill has represented District 6 (which includes parts of Cobb and Fulton counties, including Buckhead and Sandy Springs) since 2012. He is the vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus and chairman of the Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee. He is also a former Army Ranger who served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He currently works as the president of a leader coaching firm, Tommy Newberry Coaching.
In the not so distant past, Democrats held an iron grip on the governor’s office in Georgia. There was an unbroken string of Democratic governors in Georgia from Benjamin Conley in 1872 to Roy Barnes in 2002. Sure, these weren’t the types of Democrats you see now. Most were very conservative, although some statewide Democrats started moving to the ideological center after black voters joined the Democratic Party post-1964. But still, they weren’t Republicans and, despite GOP gains after 1994, it seemed unlikely that a Republican would sit in the governor’s mansion prior to the 2002 election.
In 2002, Republican State Senator Sonny Perdue challenged sitting Democratic Governor Roy Barnes in a longshot bid. Although the south had generally been trending toward the GOP in prior gubernatorial elections (Georgia included) and white voters were now giving over 60 percent of their votes to Republican candidates (up from just 33 percent in 1986), Barnes had tremendous spending and name recognition advantages over Perdue. Moreover, he had defeated his Republican opponent in 1998 by over 8 percentage points and his moderate “New Democrat” policy positions sat well with Georgia voters who were conservative by nature, but had strong ties to the Democratic Party.
Perdue’s victory was shocking, as he won 118 of Georgia’s 159 counties and 53 percent of the two-party vote. Public polling strongly underestimated his chances of winning. His support was particularly strong in rural Georgia, where the average share of the Republican vote went from 38 percent in 1998 to 56 percent in 2002. Rural white voters were the game changers in 2002. These voters had not lent the same level of support to Republican gubernatorial candidates in 1990, 1994, or 1998. They finally turned to the GOP in 2002 though— maybe to support Perry-native Perdue, maybe because of Governor Barnes’ position on the Georgia state flag. Whatever their reasons, their party-switching handed the governor’s mansion to the GOP in 2002, and it has not let go since.
15 years and three elections later, the Georgia Democratic Party is in bad shape. It has little influence outside of Atlanta and hub cities, and it has a tough path ahead in 2018. Yes, Georgia’s demographics are changing. But, it is still 60 percent white and gave over 2 million votes to Donald Trump in 2016. Hillary Clinton won just 32 of 159 counties, and most of these were in the Atlanta area or near a hub city. Democrats’ white voter problem (they are taking around 25 percent in statewide contests) is not going away by 2018, making it difficult for them to win a statewide race.
While everyone had their attention focused on the aftermath of the CD 6 special election, the world of Georgia politics kept on spinning. On Wednesday, the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce held a legislative recap luncheon where State Rep. Chuck Efstration made it clear that fellow Gwinnett Republican and Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer is being encouraged to run for lieutenant governor in 2018. The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that Efstration made the following remarks:
I’m very excited right now that as discussions about statewide races for constitutional officers takes place, I know Sen. Shafer is being encouraged by many people, including myself, to consider running for lieutenant governor. I don’t think we’ve ever had the kinds of opportunities that we do right now for additional influence in Atlanta.
Shafer did not say much in his own remarks, only that there would be an announcement shortly. The pro tem is known for keeping his cards close to his vest, so read into this what you will. His calculus might have changed with State Rep. Geoff Duncan’s entry into the race, although Duncan’s run was widely expected. Shafer is a powerful player in the state senate as is, with 15 years of experience and plenty of statewide connections. He was going to run for lieutenant governor in 2010, but he withdrew after Casey Cagle stepped away from his gubernatorial run and decided to return to stay in his position as lieutenant governor.
The other opportunity Efstration was referring to is State Rep. Buzz Brockway’s announced run for secretary of state. Brockway represents the Lawrenceville area and previously headed up the Gwinnett County GOP. He will face at least one challenger in that race as State Rep. Brad Raffensperger has also announced.
Five of the 11 Republicans running for Tom Price’s congressional seat came to Emory University on Thursday night for a debate hosted by the university’s College Republican chapter. It is probably fair to say that this was the lower tier of candidates, with none polling above five percent. Think of the Bobby Jindal-Lindsey Graham showdown in the 2015 “undercard debate” and you’ll get an idea of what this was like. Candidates David Abroms, Mohammed Ali Bhuiyan, Amy Kremer, Keith Grawert, and Kurt Wilson showed up to discuss the most important challenges facing our nation. The auditorium where the event was housed did not quite fill up, with only 15-20 attendees (which was quite possibly a 100 percent turnout rate for Republicans at Emory).
The event got off to a strange start, with Bhuyian, Kremer, and Wilson all hitting odd notes during the opening speeches. Bhuyian (who recently invited controversy after posting an anti-Semitic message on Facebook) left quickly after his, saying he had to attend to an unexplained emergency. Kremer railed on the top-performing Republican candidates in the race (Karen Handel, Dan Moody, Bob Gray, and Judson Hill-all of whom are polling at 10 percent or higher) for not attending. Wilson decided to bite the hand that fed him, saying that Emory is part of the lunacy that is ruining the country. I left after that, but cannot imagine that things improved from there.
And if you were wondering, no Emory is not inside the 6th district.
All joking aside, the Emory College Republicans deserve credit for hosting the event. They were making an effort to engage students in a very important congressional race. While none of the candidates who attended have a chance at making the runoff, they are still out there, engaging with the public and talking about issues. It’s nice to know that someone cares.
Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle are two Republicans who are definitely running for governor next year. Other possible contenders include Speaker of the House David Ralston, state senators Michael Williams, Hunter Hill, Josh McKoon, and Burt Jones, state representative Allen Peake, former congressmen Lynn Westmoreland and Jack Kingston, and political operative Nick Ayers. I will update this list as announcements become more likely. Expect a rundown of the Democrats soon.
Brian Kemp: The only announced candidate so far. The Athens Republican has served as secretary of state since he was appointed by Sonny Perdue ahead of the 2010 elections (he was running for secretary of state at the time of his appointment). He served as a state senator from 2003 to 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in 2006. He is a small business owner and is involved in the construction industry.
Early indications are that Kemp might be pursuing a Trump-like strategy, announcing his campaign slogan as “Georgia First.” In his announcement at a Cobb County GOP meeting, Kemp hit on some of the themes that Trump did in 2016: cracking down on illegal immigration, reaching out to rural voters who have been bypassed by globalization, and fighting the “political establishment” at the State Capitol. Like Trump, Kemp is probably trying to rack up rural votes to make up for weaknesses in metro Atlanta. Continue reading “A Preview of the 2018 GOP Gubernatorial Primary: Kemp vs. Cagle”
With the first round of the Congressional District 6 special election just six days away, the RNC is dropping a new attack ad against Jon Ossoff. Is the RNC worried about Ossoff surpassing 50 percent of the vote in the first round or that he will win the runoff? When you win a bright red Kansas congressional district by just 7 points, it might be something to consider. Let us know what you think in the comments.
It looks like Brian Kemp has company. The AJC is reporting that Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has filed papers to run for governor in 2018. Cagle and Kemp are the only Republicans who are running so far (more analysis on this matchup is coming soon). No Democrats have announced yet, but House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams seems certain to join. You can read Greg Bluestein’s post on Cagle’s gubernatorial bid below the fold:
And so it begins. GeorgiaPol has it on good authority that State Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) is running for Lieutenant Governor in 2018. The baseball star-turned-lawmaker has apparently filed his papers with the secretary of state’s office and, if his Facebook page is any indication, he is rested up and ready to hit the campaign trail.
With the 2017 legislative session closed and a new Masters winner wearing a green jacket, we are gearing up for the 2018 campaign season here in Georgia. Candidates are beginning to announce, which means that soon there will be incessant chatter in political circles about who’s up, who’s down, and who should have dissolved his campaign months ago. Although many of you pretend to hate politicians, there is no denying how much we love politics and the drama it brings into our lives.
Those of us at GeorgiaPol want to make sure that our readers are up to date on what is happening in important 2018 statewide races. We’ll begin by focusing on the three most likely expected to be without an incumbent: governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state. Throughout the next year and a half, we will be covering public events, reviewing campaign press releases, and tracking candidate movements to give readers the most up-to-date information on these campaigns. Continue reading “A Word on GeorgiaPol’s 2018 Election Coverage”