Analysis: Republicans Must Work Hard to Keep Georgia Governorship

May 23, 2018

Tuesday’s election revealed some interesting trends in Georgia politics, especially in the race for governor.

Georgia’s current governor, Nathan Deal, is term-limited and serving out his last few months. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans voted for who they’d like to see represent their party in November’s general election.

Democrat Results

Democrats chose Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House Minority Leader, by a wide margin over competitor Stacey Evans, who also previously served in the state’s House of Representatives. In winning the nomination, Abrams becomes the first black female gubernatorial candidate of a major party in U.S. history.

Republican Results

On the Republican side, five candidates vied for the nod to represent the GOP in November. Two of them—Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp—advanced to a runoff that will occur in July. None of the GOP candidates managed to reach 50 percent of the vote. Cagle, a well-known politician in Georgia, received only 38.9 percent of the vote, far short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Kemp received 25.5 percent.

Analysis

For the past quarter-century, Georgia has been a Republican leaning state. That would tend to favor the GOP nominee (either Cagle or Kemp) against Abrams in the fall. However, I believe Abrams has a decent chance to flip the governor’s office from red to blue.

Here’s why:

  1. Tuesday’s election settled the race on the Democrat side, with Abrams winning a whopping 76 percent of the votes. Therefore, she has two extra months to campaign against the views of the opposing party while they’re still duking it out to win the runoff in July.
  2. Abrams is already garnering national attention by being the first black female gubernatorial nominee of a major party anywhere in the country, so she’s sure to benefit from plenty of positive media coverage and out-of-state donations, either directly or through the efforts of political action committees.
  3. Less than two years ago, Donald Trump won the state of Georgia by only five percentage points. By contrast, Mitt Romney held a nearly 8 point advantage over Barack Obama in 2012, showing that Democrats are making gains in the state.

[Related: Some of Georgia’s Gubernatorial Candidates Using Lookalikes of Opponents in Campaign Commercials]

My advice to the Republican candidates: campaign as if you’re going to be the nominee. Don’t focus on bashing each other, but focus on what you intend to do as governor of Georgia and how your vision is different from that of Abrams and her supporters. Don’t discourage GOP voters by dividing them with mudslinging. And by all means, please stop with the commercials featuring shotguns and your own personal illegal immigrant roundup trucks. And stop with the threats to punish Delta with tax policies for ending their discount relationship with members of the National Rifle Association.

If Republicans are to hold the governor’s office, there is no time or room for shenanigans from Cagle or Kemp!

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