Today’s Georgia political column comes to you from Washington D.C. where I can report that our home state’s presence remains strong. I’m in the nation’s capital to speak to the CampaignTech conference held by Campaigns and Elections Magazine. Thursday afternoon I will address the conference during the keynote session to discuss online advocacy, while Friday morning I will join a panel on political advocacy and blogging. Having also served on a panel for online politics with the conference last year, I’m looking forward to the next two days.
As luck would have it, my invitation to CampaignTech coincided with the Georgia State Society’s Congressional reception at the Capitol. Having nothing to do with the Atlanta university of the same name, the Society is composed of those working on the staff of the Georgia Congressional Delegation as well as other Georgians working on the hill for others. Many of Georgia’s Congressmen also attended the festivities, with Congressman Phil Gingrey serving as this year’s Chairman.
The questions and discussion surrounding the event were generally geared toward the upcoming Congressional elections, with most of the focus on developing horse races in the 12 th and 9th districts. The news of the evening isn’t official news yet, but continued speculation that Former Congressman Mac Collins has in fact decided that he will challenge Paul Broun for the newly drawn 10 th district in the Republican primary. Loud whispers said to look for an official announcement just after the 1st of May.
Collins represented much of South metro Atlanta during his term in Congress until he chose to run for U.S. Senate upon the retirement of Senator Zell Miller in 2004. Collins competed alongside Herman Cain for the seat that is now occupied by Senator Johnny Isakson.
In 2006, Collins attempted to return to Congress but in a new district (courtesy of a mid-cycle remapping by Georgia Republicans) against Georgia Democrat Jim Marshall. The race was close, with Marshall ultimately prevailing by roughly 1,000 votes. Collins notably refused to concede to Marshall following that race.
This year, again after a significant re-shuffling of district lines, Paul Broun finds his 10th district with less than half of his current constituents. Gone are much of his ultra-social conservative base in North East Georgia, replaced with voters in the Lake Oconee region and Atlanta’s far eastern suburbs. Presumably,
the primary will be over Broun’s rigid view of conservatism versus a more pragmatic approach usually taken by Collins.
Broun’s campaign account shows a bit over $275,000 on hand as of the end of March. While that’s less than many other incumbents, he does still have the power of incumbency. His ability to raise money versus Collins’ ability to attract financial backers or freeze out some that would otherwise contribute to
the incumbent will be a guidepost to judge this campaign.
The bottom line is for the inside crowd, this race should make for some good political theater. While other Congressmen such as Westmoreland and Gingrey face declared opponents that both will take seriously, neither appears anywhere near at risk of not returning to Washington next year.
With the probable matchup in the 10th, however, you have an incumbent congressman being challenged by a former Congressman. Many of Georgia’s Republican congressmen are relatively new however. Graves, Scott, and Woodall were all elected just last year. Price was elected the year Collins ran for
Senate. Gingrey served one term with Collins, but has now served a bit over two terms with Broun. Westmoreland replaced Collins, so he didn’t serve with him. Jack Kingston is the only Republican in Georgia’s delegation to have spent more time with Mac Collins than Paul Broun, and that time ended
almost 8 years ago.
Loyalty is a word used to describe the relationships between Georgia’s Congressmen and those with aspirations of moving up from their club. Governor Deal (a member of this exclusive fraternity) and Congressmen Westmoreland, Gingrey, and Scott continue to support Newt Gingrich (also an alum) in his
flatlined quest to be President despite all evidence that the race is over. Loyalty among this group does run deep.
When support from the Georgia Republican delegation is assessed – and the important ties to fundraising apparatuses that come with that – loyalty is most likely to the current member of the club, and not the member that left some time ago.