In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.
– Hunter S. Thompson
News of come-from-behind wins by both Senator-elect John Wilkinson in SD 50 and Senator-elect Mike Crane in SD 28 have met a variety of spins from tasseographers.
Drilling down into the numbers, it becomes apparent that the paths to victory of Wilkinson and Crane were significantly different.
In SD 28, Crane gained 1874 votes in Coweta County from the Special Election to the Runoff; his margin of victory was 1859 votes. With Coweta County contributing nearly 74% of the votes in the Runoff, Crane’s victory was driven by his consolidation of Coweta County votes between the Special and the Runoff.
In SD 50, Wilkinson’s victory represented was more widely-based, as Wilkinson increased his vote totals in every county without a dramatic increase in any single county.
Beyond the individual winners in the contest lies the question of which Senate faction won or lost.
The spin among politicos and pundits is predictable; some who favor Senate leadership or individual members of leadership are calling it a draw, while Cagle-partisans declare victory. Some believe that the Republican leadership has been damaged. No one calls it for leadership.
At this point, no one can say conclusively who financed the anonymous attacks against Wilkinson in SD 50 and against Duke Blackburn in SD 28, but the fact that the Senate leadership is likely to be collaterally-damages illustrates the real problem with anonymous independent expenditures. Such dirty tricks often backfire, even against innocent bystanders.
In the comments here on Peach Pundit, former State Rep. Rick Austin denied any involvement in the anonymail, and I believe him. But it’s clear that they attacks fell short of their intended target and damaged Austin’s campaign. In the same manner, they are likely to take a collateral toll on some of the Republican Senators who contributed nearly $12,000 to Austin.
This may or may not be fair, but the problem with anonymail like we saw in the Senate contests is that just like it’s difficult for the target to prove who’s targeting them, it’s also difficult to prove who was innocent of sending them.
In my analysis, the collateral damage to Senators who backed Austin moves the contest for Senate control in a direction favorable to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. It may also reinvigorate those who oppose Senate leadership without actually favoring Cagle.
Ultimately, the big losers from the rise of anonymail are those of us who believe ultimately in the process, and the voters of Georgia. Last night I wrote a post that incorrectly identified calls by former Gov. Roy Barnes as being spoofed. I leapt to that assumption because events in the election had led me to disbelieve everything and assume that all communications that late in the game were somehow fraudulent.
With weary voters already suspicious of the motives of elected officials, nothing has happened in these elections to enhance their trust of elected officials. This corrosion of trust serves neither voters, nor our state or elected officials.
An incisive comment in yesterday’s thread about a new candidate announcing in SD 6 highlights the extent that Senate elections are now less about voters and candidates candidate than about who holds the reins in the State Senate: “ the real question is, ‘Pro-Cagle or Anti-Cagle?’ That comes even before party or political philosophy these days.” And that diminishes voters and our Grand Old Party.