South Georgia is Still There

Shocking I know.

I’m not here to tell you that South Georgia runs this State, nor am I here to tell you it is the predominant force of State politics. South Georgia once was and as the metro area has grown, South Georgia has lost influence. Last night, Handel and Deal went tit-for-tat in South Georgia, trading off victories in counties. While some skewed heavily for Deal, others went for Handel – without really any rhyme or reason. But it was not South Georgia that brought Handel down and pushed Deal forward. Deal made gains in the metro area, picking up his former opponents supporters. These are the votes that many assumed would be going to Handel.

But this post isn’t about last night – it is about the past few months and the next few months. When President Obama came to town, Roy Barnes was in South Georgia. Roy Barnes has been in South Georgia – going to fish frys, shaking hands, and kissing babies. Deal has credibility in South Georgia – he’s voted for the farm bill, which helps with the rock gut farmers. We are about to have an interesting race for Governor – do you remember the last time both candidates for Governor were from above the gnat line? Do you recall a time when the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House were all from above the gnat line?

Last month Hicks, who is from the metro area, narrowly beat Terry Coleman. The Terry Coleman from South Georgia who was Speaker of the House. To me it was a sign. A sign that South Georgia was headed to dark days. With reapportionment coming up, I expect the non-Atlanta parts of Georgia to lose seats – maybe have some Representatives cover 6 counties. I’d hate to have to do constituent services for those guys.

But there is one nugget left on the State-wide ballot from South Georgia. His name is Ken Hodges. He’s a Democrat running for Attorney General – and he won’t be going down without a fight. While I commend Sam Olens on his ability to raise money and endorsements as a Republican running for Attorney General – that position has been dominated by Democrats. Olens has a tough road ahead of him – because Ken is going to use the same playbook he used for the primary. Prosecutor, not a Politician. To his credit, Olens has run a Statewide campaign thus far and that has helped him become the nominee. I expect to see these two all over the state fighting tooth and nail for voters just like Deal and Barnes are going to be.

While I do not expect the land of the red clay and gnats to decide the outcome of November’s elections – in any race – I do think we are about to witness all of the Statewide candidates making a strong grab for whatever they can get from down here.


  1. “do you remember the last time both candidates for Governor were from above the gnat line?”

    Yes–1998–Roy Barnes & Guy Milner

    “Do you recall a time when the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House were all from above the gnat line?”

    Yes–Zell, Pierre Howard, and the gentleman from Bremen.

  2. Progressive Dem says:

    Handel failed to retain her advantage in metro Atl counties. In Gwinnett she had 22,000 votes in the primary, but added only 5,000 more votes in the runoff. On the other hand Deal more than doubled his primary votes in Gwinnett and won the county with 28,000 votes. In Cobb, Cherokee and Forsyth, his campaign made much better progress in what should have been her backyard.

    It is surprising to me that she did not run a better campaign for suburban Atlanta voters. It isn’t apparent that Deal had a particualr strategy for these voters either, and therefore it’s more of a failure in Handel’s message and camapign than anything Deal accomplished. Her take no prisoners, “bring it on” confrontational style was not appealing and despite her experience in north Fulton, she was not able to bond with sufficient numbers of suburbanites.

    • Gary Cooper says:

      In her defense, Deal has represented much of Forsyth County in Congress over the last 18 years and could be considered his backyard.

      • Progressive Dem says:

        That’s a good point, but many of the south Forsyth folks and business leaders moved up the Ga. 400 corridor from north Fulton. From a marketing perspective, south Forsyth and north Fulton are pretty similar. Her vote totals increased in the runoff in Forsyth while his increased a lot more. She still won the county, but by less than 2%.

    • He graduated HS in Gonzalez, FL but I’m not sure about his birth place. I know he has family in the metro area and that he went to Morehouse, but I’d have to double check on birth place. I know he currently lives in Cairo.

      • Ron, where’d your comment go? It disappeared? I was just going to post a link to a video of John at the SWGA Politics forum where he talked about being a 5th generation Georgian whose family has been here for over 150 years. Ahh well…

          • This guy… 5th generation Georgian, been here 150 years, supports the Republican Party’s message of smaller government, less spending and lower taxes more than it’s own candidate does… you know… *that* John Monds. 🙂

              • That’d be the one. The one without all the PAC donations from Insurance CEOs. 😉 (Not that I’m saying Deal has those… that’d be one of your other R friends. 😉 )

                • Doug Grammer says:

                  I think he has enough cash on hand to buy a clue then…..he’ll come in no higher than 5%. He can send the check directly to me.

                  • If he gets 5 percent of the vote, that’s 5 percent of Georgians who will be able to sleep easy that night knowing that they didn’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils. It’s a shame you guys keep propagating that wasted vote theory… otherwise we might see some real competition in the marketplace of elections as well.

                    But of course the Republican Party doesn’t like free markets when it threatens taking away votes from their candidates. (Go listen to the interview on 1340 AM from this morning where Tim Bryant plays the clip from Sue Everhart. If you need to know “John Who?” anymore, I’m sure she’ll be glad to fill you in.)

                    • Doug Grammer says:

                      Considering he has no experience in governing and has never been elected to anything, I’d would say that makes him the least qualified on the ballot.

  3. Rambler1414 says:

    Cobb, Cherokee and Fulton were the difference.
    If you look at the gap between Handel and Deal in the Primary vs. the Runoff, Deal made up ~16,000 votes.

  4. Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

    South Georgia is where Oglethorpe first set foot. It is Georgia’s shipping window to the world from two locations. Ignore it and you only hurt the entire state. At one time in South Georgia when you heard “I am from Atlanta” you were family, you were a friend. Now it is the same as saying “I am from Boston or New Jersey”. Shields go up..yes you are from Atlanta, but from where before that? It doesn’t necessarily mean you are a Georgian. You are just on probation. A suspect. Atlanta really is “Gone With The Wind”.

    • B Balz says:

      Savannah has always been to itself. It is not an easy place to break into for business, especially if one plans on becoming a large enough player to be noticed.

      That is not a slam or meant to be negative, that’s just the Savannah I know. And love.

      In Georgia a conversation may start like this:

      Atlanta: “What do you do?”
      Macon: “Where do you pray?”
      Savannah: “What are you drinkin’?”

  5. rightofcenter says:

    While Nathan Deal may be from Gainesville now, he was raised in Sandersville and they claim him as a native son. Certainly below the gnat line.

  6. slyram says:

    I have been jumping up and down saying we need more members of congress from the area below the Columbus, Macon Savannah line. Senator Chambliss is the only one because Rep. Bishop splits time between Albany and Columbus. With Ray McKinney being from Savannah, should we look in Scotland.

    • polisavvy says:

      Austin Scott is from the Tifton area. That’s definitely below the Columbus, Macon, Savannah line. Let’s hope he prevails.

  7. Ron,

    I always enjoy your posts. I’m a Georgia native and history major. I must admit I got carried away with all the “Deal Bashing” front page posts (besides yours and Erick’s) yesterday and didn’t really read this one till now.

    They use to teach in Georgia history and politics that there are “Two Georgias.” More accurately, they would call it “The Two Georgias.” Metro and “the other Georgia.” Of course, with the rise of the Atlanta Airport since the 50-60s, the Metro Area has grown more and more influential.

    For so many years, thanks to the old County Unit System, you had a unique phenomenon in Georgia where the less populous areas of the state could ban together and defeat the boys in Atlanta. And then, after the unit system was done away with, you were left with a strange make up of 159 (I believe that’s right?) counties across this state (as opposed to most states equal in size or greater where you may have only 20-30).

    Each of these counties has its own “courthouse crowd” and traditional families that have been leaders for multiple generations. To campaign across this state, you have to work your way into the fabric of each of those counties. It’s difficult to reach everyone.

    Obviously, the way Karen and Nathan won specific counties without much rhyme or reason probably meant that they appealed to one or more of the leaders in those counties and that person got fired up and delivered.

    While it is so easy (if fundraising goals are met) to reach the Atlanta area through television, you have to have “boots on the ground” and invest time in “the other Georgia” to make headway.

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