With over a year and one legislative session to go, let’s look at how the Senate stacks up.
It looks very much like the Republicans are going to be playing defense. They have two seats that are in danger — though one of those has a bit to do with the Senator being a known incumbent in a newly drawn district. So, it helps to look from the GOP perspective since they are in charge, but we’ll cover the Dems too.
First up, there is an open seat being vacated by Brian Kemp. Kemp, running out of Clark County in the 46th, won the seat with 51.6% of the vote in a Presidential election year. This seat is heavily predicted to flip to the Democrats unless the GOP gets in there now and gets very organized. Kemp is running for a statewide office and rumor has it that Kemp’s brother is going to seek that seat.
Second, John Bulloch beat Murray Campbell in the 11th. Right now, Bulloch has $11704.47 cash on hand. Bullock won with 53.2% of the vote, getting just under 3,000 more votes than Campbell.
Third, Johnny Grant beat Faye Smith 52.1% to 47.9%. Again, Grant got just under 3,000 more votes than Smith. Right now, Grant has $11,414.13 cash on hand. Grant’s situation can partly be explained by his running against Smith, then an incumbent. While the district for Smith was mostly new, she undoubtedly still had higher name recognition in areas. She also was well funded.
With both Bulloch and Grant, the Republican Caucus is seeking to help them raise their profile. Higher name id will help them.
On the fringe to worry about, there is Ross Tolleson. Tolleson, from Houston County, was placed in new territory in 2004. He won with 56% of the vote over Dan King, who had the Dubose Porter media “empire” in Dublin to help him. Ross, the incumbent, has $59,129.57 on hand, and now is chairing a prime committee that should help him attract donors — his committee deals with the Department of Natural Resources and its Environmental Protection Division.
Complicating things slightly, Tolleson and several other Senators use Joel McElhannon as their consultant. Joel is handling these in addition to Casey Cagle’s statewide race for Lt. Gov. Should Cagle make it through the primary, Joel is going to need some help from the party to stabilize these incumbents.
With the Democrats, the races were even closer in 2004. J.B. Powell beat Randy Hall in the 23rd with 50.4% to 49.6%. Interestingly, as of this morning, Randy Hall filed a disclosure showing $1365.80 cash on hand, and the incumbent, Powell, has not filed a disclosure.
In the 6th District, Doug Stoner beat Ginger Collins 53.7% to 46.3%. That district is a fast growing part of west to northwest Atlanta and leans Democrat based on demographics. Those two may be set for a rematch next year. Collins is showing $12,194.73 on hand with Stoner coming in at $19,057.58. Stoner will have the advantage in the race because he is the incumbent now and the Dems are going to do everything possible to take back the Senate.
Lastly, on the Dem side, there is a possible fight for Tim Golden. Golden, running in the 8th District, won with 56.1% of the vote. But, he only has $3,528.61 on hand right now and very little of that new money is from individuals.
The Republicans are in the position of playing defense. They’d be wise to unite around a common message that cuts across the perimeter into rural Georgia and try both defending their seats and picking off a few more from the Democrats. It never hurts to expand the majority. In the meantime, the GOP better be building its grassroots base to build some cushion.