The Democrats and the Governorship in 2018

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.

It is possible that Democrats can recapture their pre-2002 mojo, but a few key things must fall in place next year. Continue reading “The Democrats and the Governorship in 2018”

Speaker Ralston Names Rural Development Council

A couple of weeks ago I previewed the need to get the issues of rural Georgia into the 2018 statewide campaigns. The plight of rural Georgia affects us all, as policy decisions made in Atlanta (and often influenced by the 55% of the state that live in “Atlanta”) make a disproportional impact in that other Georgia. House Speaker David Ralston has named members of a Rural Development Council that will be looking at a variety of issues unique to rural Georgia. This isn’t your average “study committee”. Look at the names and titles of the members below. This is a serious effort to not only identify and isolate well known problems, but foster actual solutions – and translate the need for those solutions to those of us that live up here in “Atlanta”.

Press release follows:

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced the members of the House Rural Development Council. This council, which was created during the recent legislative session, will work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.

“Georgia is a growing and prosperous state, and we are thankful for that,” said Speaker Ralston. “But that prosperity isn’t being felt in every community across Georgia. Some of our rural areas are still struggling, and we must do everything we can to help private businesses grow jobs in every corner of our state.” Continue reading “Speaker Ralston Names Rural Development Council”

A Preview of the 2018 GOP Gubernatorial Primary: Kemp vs. Cagle

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”

Casey Cagle Enters Governor’s Race

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:

Continue reading “Casey Cagle Enters Governor’s Race”

State Rep. Geoff Duncan is Running for Lieutenant Governor

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.

Continue reading “State Rep. Geoff Duncan is Running for Lieutenant Governor”

John Pezold Declines Run For Re-Election

State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus) has decided to end his tenure in the State House when his current term is up. He announced his intentions this morning via Facebook.

“Since 2013 I have had the incredible honor of representing my family, friends and neighbors in the Georgia House of Representatives. After lengthy consultation with my family and friends, it is with a grateful heart that I am announcing that I have decided to not seek reelection next year. My family has been incredibly supportive during my time in office. However, with my children growing older and my professional responsibilities increasing, the time is right to step away from public office and devote my full attention to them.

“Representing you in Atlanta has been the honor of a lifetime and a responsibility I do not take lightly. When I made the decision to run in 2012, I committed to you to advocate for open, honest, transparent, and limited government. I’m proud of my fight for those causes and will continue that fight through the end of the 2018 legislative session.”

Pezold is the second Columbus area legislator to announce that he will not seek re-election. State Senator Josh McKoon will also be stepping aside, presumably for a statewide run for an unspecified office.

A Word on GeorgiaPol’s 2018 Election Coverage

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”

Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman

Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling has entered the race to become Fulton County Commission Chairman. The current Chairman, John Eaves, is running for Mayor of Atlanta. Sterling joins longtime Fulton/Atlanta politico Robb Pitts in the quest to replace Eaves.

Of note, this sets up a partisan contest for control of the Fulton County Commission. Continue reading “Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman”

Doug McKillip To Challenge Regina Quick For Athens House Seat

Former State Representative Doug McKillip is planning to take his former seat back. Our friend Tim Bryant of Athens’ WGAU tweets the following:

Quick unseated McKillip in 2012 by less than 100 votes. With a little over a year until the next votes will be counted, it will be interesting to watch if Quick has consolidated her GOP base, or if McKillip can earn at least 100 of those votes back.

Kemp Officially Enters Governors Race

According the the AJC- Political Insider, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has officially announced his entry into the 2018 race for the Governor’s Office.

“As your governor, I will fight to make Georgia No. 1 for small business, treat all parts of our state – including rural Georgia – the same, work to fundamentally reform government and always put the needs of Georgians – not special interests – first,” he said. “It’s time to fight for Georgia and I am prepared to lead the charge.”

Additionally, he stated that his reason for seeking higher office is because

 “I know how to put government in its place.”

The 53 year-old from Athens is the first candidate to formally declare his candidacy. Others considering the seat are former Reps. Jack Kingston and Lynn Westmoreland, House Speaker David Ralston and state Sens. Michael Williams, Hunter Hill and Josh McKoon.

According to the AJC,

Kemp’s early announcement is in part because he needs to start raising significant cash – and soon. He owns stakes in stone supply and construction businesses and has at least $3 million in land holdings, but he doesn’t have the immense wealth needed to finance his own campaign.

Kemp was appointed to his current position by then Governor Sonny Perdue in 2010 when Karen Handel resigned from the post to run for Governor. He has since been re-elected twice.

For now, it is uncertain if he will remain in office for the remainder of his term. Names being considered to replace Kemp in the interim are Gwinnett State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R), who has announced he will run for the seat, and the governor’s executive counsel, David Werner.