The Rundown on the Georgia Runoff

Most political eyes will be focused on Georgia’s Republican primary on Tuesday. With Mitch McConnell a sure thing for re-election at this point (though see if Bevin can break 40%, which I think he can), Georgia is where the great unknown is.


In fact, there are only three things known about Georgia’s elections right now. One, the Democrats are not going to win the state in 2014. Look no further than DailyKos for the reason why. Two, David Perdue is going into the runoff. Three, turnout is going to be very low.

The only part of the state showing significant early voting is the Columbus-Muscogee area. That is because of a highly contested mayoral race in that consolidated city-county government. Fulton County, which had more than 100,000 early votes in 2012 has had somewhere around 10,000 this year.

This is the first time Georgia has had a primary in May. It is usually the third week of July. People just aren’t paying attention. Likewise, there are so many candidates and so many races that a lot of voters have decided to just wait for the runoff to vote. Let the die-hards pare down the ballot.

That leads us to the contenders of the Republican primary for the Senate. The Democrats, in their Senate primary, are certain to nominate Michelle Nunn who is that rare candidate whose last name and accomplishments are the same thing.

David Perdue will get in. He has spent a lot of money to generate name ID for himself and tie himself to former Governor Sonny Perdue, his cousin. It has worked. When he goes off talking points, Perdue makes routine flubs. He attacked those without college degrees — a reference to Karen Handel. He claims only five members of the Senate are smart enough to even understand what he means by “revenue increases.” He’s talked out of both sides of his mouth on common core and seems to support an internet sales tax.


Jack Kingston and Karen Handel are the only other two people capable of getting into the runoff. Even with low turnout, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey do not have enough support to mount a serious challenge. Their supporters are left to either decide if they will shape the runoff by voting for Kingston or Handel or just lose with their guy.

A lot of pundits suggest Kingston has a slight edge to Handel because he is popular in the 1st Congress. In fact, there is a heavily contested race in the 1st District to replace Kingston. Voters who vote for any of those candidates most likely will vote for Kingston. Kingston is also popular in the Middle Georgia area due to his tenure in that area as a Congressman. He has had a sizable bank account and spent a lot to drive up his name in the metro Atlanta area.

Handel, however, has won statewide before and her base is the metro-Atlanta area. Betty Price, the popular Roswell councilwoman who is married to the popular 6th congressional district Congressman Tom Price has been campaigning hard for Karen. So has Sue Everhart, the former chair of the Georgia GOP. Josh McCoon, a state senator from Columbus, has been getting out Handel’s vote in Columbus-Muscogee, and Karen has both my support in drive time Atlanta radio and the support of Austin Rhodes, the very popular talk host in the Augusta area. Handel won that area against Nathan Deal.

Some analysts see a Kingston rebound in polling. Others see Handel with momentum. The second place spot is, in fact, too close to call.


What is assured is that the knives will come out in the runoff. A Perdue-Kingston race will keep conservative dollars on the sidelines, but the Chamber of Commerce will support Kingston. A Perdue-Handel race will have conservative dollars pour in against Perdue’s millions making for a more exciting runoff.

Broun and Gingrey both have a theory that their supporters are so committed and turnout will be so low that they could surprise people. The problem with that theory is that Kingston has a sizable base of support in the 1st district that will turn out. And Handle has a sizable base of support in the metro area. Both, given polling, would be larger than Broun’s or Gingrey’s, thereby negating their turnout efforts.

Keep your eye on Georgia on Tuesday night. It should be interesting. One thing is for certain — come Wednesday, it is going to get nasty.


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