Georgia Gearing Up For Primary Fights

Today’s Courier Herald Column, which would be headlined with “Let The Wild Rumpus Start” if the deadline had been an hour later.

Today’s primary in Indiana is as good a time as any to begin to focus on the often forgotten Georgia general election primaries.  Though many Georgians believe we’ve already had our primary, the President is not the only person on the ballot this year.  Primaries for Congress, the state legislature, and many county level offices will be held July 31st.

These primaries generally occur mid-summer to encourage anyone that wants to go door to door to unseat an incumbent to think about days which are 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity.  They are held when many Georgians are on vacation and thus can’t be bothered with the act of choosing local leaders.  In short, it appears that the preference is that few should choose the even fewer who will govern us all.

Incumbents looking to Georgia’s primaries are slightly more nervous than usual.  While most challenges are in the “rumor” category at this point, TEA Party activists reply with wry smiles when asked about potential challengers.  They then generally recommend we all pay close attention the week of May 23rd when official qualifying begins.  That’s when we’ll know which incumbents will face the unusual but growing challenges from within their own party.

We’ll learn a bit about the national mood this evening when today’s votes are counted in Indiana.  Specifically, we learn if a Senator representing the status quo who was first elected the same year as Jimmy Carter will be re-elected or if Indiana Republicans prefer a TEA Party backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.  Lugar is behind in the latest polls and is widely expected to lose.

TEA Party activists got their first scalp in a primary last year, taking out Utah Senator Bob Bennett.  Utah is again active with anti-incumbent fever as six term Senator Orrin Hatch facing a strong primary challenge from a 37 year old former State Senator named Dan Liljenquist.

Now the TEA Party with its deep roots in Georgia is looking at some Georgia races.  Their coy responses to which are beginning to heighten sensitivity with a good number of incumbents.

While there are some announced Republican challengers at the Congressional level, the TEA Party’s Georgia focus on primaries appears to be at the level of the state legislature.  TEA Party leaders are openly miffed at the stonewalling they experienced as they tried to include ethics reform as part of the 2012 Agenda.  Killing all attempts to move a bill was bad enough, but the last hour attempt to seal some ethics violations from public record was salt in an open wound.

Strategically, the TEA Party realizes that those who benefit from Georgia’s broken ethics system are also the hardest to beat.  They have the largest campaign accounts and control the tools that can be used to punish unsuccessful challengers.  As such, they will look for races that are competitive to ensure they can take a scalp or two.  Expect the Georgia Senate to be ground zero.

The Senate is unique in that it already has an unsettled
intra-party rivalry underway.  While a truce was observed between Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the majority of the Republican caucus who stripped him of his power during the 2012 session, it was made clear by both sides that the issue needed to be settled in this year’s elections.  As such certain primary challenges are already baked in to the equation.

Central to the question of the Lt. Governor’s power is the Committee on Assignments.  This is the body created by the Republicans in the Senate to appoint Committee Chairmen instead of allowing the Lt. Governor to do so.

One of the first acts of the newly created committee was to appoint a Senate Banking Chair who is being sued by the FDIC for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty in his role of director for a failed bank.  A continuing act of omission is leaving a Rules Chairman in place who flauts Senate rules to the point of claiming expense reimbursements for travel he did not make – a violation of Georgia law.

There is enough entropy within the Senate Republican caucus that genuine primary challenges are probable, with taking out some entrenched incumbents quite possible.

Primary fights are the world series of political inside baseball, and it looks like Georgia is going to have a good game this year.  Party politics is usually considered a team sport, up until the day a primary challenge is determined to be legitimate.  Then, it quickly becomes every man for himself.

Added to the equation is that Lieutenant Governor Cagle isn’t on the ballot for two more years.  Thus, he can sit back and watch the fireworks if he so chooses, or he can get involved without immediate repercussions if that is his preference.  Either way, he’ll have a lot of free time on his hands to use or not use as he chooses.


  1. Chance says:

    As a proud Democrat, I support the TEA Party’s ousting of as many of these establishment Republicans as possible. Not because I believe they’d be easier to beat (I’m quite aware of the pathetically dismal condition of my state party, thank you very much), but because I would sleep better at night if I got to argue against genuine philosophical differences with well-meaning conservatives than I do having to constantly shake my head in bewilderment that our state leadership can somehow manage to continuously fool their constituents into believing that their intentions are anything less than pompous self-enrichment.

  2. SallyForth says:

    According to reports from Washington, the Tea Party people who got elected to Congress are now giving Republican leadership running fits. The Caucus cannot agree on anything, Speaker Boehner cannot get them to vote together, hold a bargained position on legislation, and it seems to be a situation of Congressional Republicans herding cats. Instead of helping things in DC, the Tea Party people have simply added to the gridlock. Time will tell whether their constituents see it that way.

    Meanwhile, like you guys say, we’re talking REAL tea in Georgia – so the Republican Primaries may be the best political entertainment of the year! 🙂

    • Three Jack says:

      “Instead of helping things in DC, the Tea Party people have simply added to the gridlock.”

      Gridlock is helping things in DC.

      • SallyForth says:

        True, in a lot of ways – but when they can’t even agree on a national budget?

        • sunkawakan says:

          Funny. HuffPO and Marketwatch are reporting that Obama has his first monthly budget surplus – April.

  3. debbie0040 says:

    Gridlock would have stopped ObamaCare, TARP, Auto-maker bailout, etc. Tea party activists expect campaign promises to be kept . Why is that such a novel idea?

    Maybe Boehner and company should stop trying to govern like RINOS and there would not be grid-lock.. They expect the tea party freshment to tow the party line and blindly follow leadership. That is not what they were elected for. We help put the GOP back in power in the House on a sort of probation. We DID NOT help elect them so they could go back to business as usual and lose control again..

    Lugar is gone.

    • ted in bed says:

      Hopefully, the Tea Party here in Georgia gets inspiration in lugar’s defeat and can find a challenger to Saxby.

  4. chefdavid says:

    We keep hearing this. I read on here a while back that Mullis was going to be one of their targets. With his war chest on hand do they really think they can oust him? He’ll swat em off like gnats. Unfortunately although those who follow state politics, the voter base does not. He will mass mail the electorate and it will be over. And then he will resume his trips to turkey and china all in the name of high speed rail and economic development.

  5. debbie0040 says:

    Sen. Mullis has made conservatives angry and deserves to be primaried. There are other tea parties like State of Georgia Tea Party that are recruiting opponents for Sen. Mullis but Atlanta Tea Party’s target in the Senate is Don Balfour. We know we need to focus our primary attention on that seat and let other tea parties focus on other seats. The person we recruited to run against Sen. Balfour will give us their decision by the end of this week on whether they will run. We are forming a 501c4 and already have a PAC ..

    If you have a grassroots army that will come from all across the state and go door to door hitting all the hard Rs in a district, make phone calls, put up signs, etc, that does negate a big war chest to some extent. Just look at the race Sen. Crane won.

    There is a tea party opponent for Jack Murphy. He called me the other day and he is a tea party organizer .

    • Doug Grammer says:

      Sen. Mullis WAS primaried in 2010 by 2 other candidates who barely got 30% between the 2 of them. Why would 2012 be much different?

      Does State of Georgia tea party still consist of 1 person ?

      • debbie0040 says:

        T-SPLOST is not very popular in Sen. Mullis district and he is a strong supporter of T-SPLOST. Because the Senate failed to act on ethics reform, there is an anti-incumbent mood on a state level that was not there in 2010.

        • Doug Grammer says:

          Keep telling yourself that. It will take at least 150k to beat him and I don’t see anyone stepping up yet.

  6. debbie0040 says:

    Those of you interested in contributing financially to a strong opponent to run against Sen. Balfour, please email me at [email protected] and put Balfour in the subject line..

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