The Scrum for Senate 42

An open legislative seat that a Democrat can win in Georgia is unicorn-rare and not something candidates win without a scrum (unless you’re Dewey McClain, of course). So, an internal poll in the Senate 42 race between Elena Parent and Kyle Williams to succeed State Sen. Jason Carter set off charges from the Williams camp about who is the “real” progressive in the last week of the legislative session.

“According to campaign supporters, the poll suggested that Kyle had taken contributions from an organization that supported D.C. Republicans like Sen. John McCain,” wrote Williams’ spokesperson, Beth Cope.

The poll also tested voters’ response to Parent’s trip to an ALEC conference while serving as a state representative a couple of years ago. Williams’ team has been talking about that trip, hoping it will anchor doubts about Parent as too business-friendly for the Decatur and North Druid Hills district’s progressive politics.

There’s little truth to either of these claims – Parent as a crypto-ALEC member or the nebulous question about a pro-Republican group backing Williams.

Parent did attend a conference of evil ALEC cabalists while serving as a state rep. But she went as a spy.  

Parent’s spokespeople wouldn’t discuss their internal polling in public, but released a statement following my inquiry. “Elena attended the ALEC conference on behalf of the AFL-CIO, progressive champion Sen. Nan Orrock, and other Democratic leaders to help build plans to defeat their extreme agendas,” said Matt Weyandt, Parent’s senior campaign advisor.

I spoke to folks from the AFL-CIO and Orrock briefly on Sine Die, and confirmed Weyandt’s statement. Each told me that Parent went with the backing of progressive leaders in Georgia, seeking competitive intelligence.

Meanwhile, the “organization that supported D.C. Republicans like Sen. John McCain” appears to be a reference to the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, which endorsed Williams in 2009 when he was running for a seat on the Decatur city commission. Williams is openly gay in a district where that’s probably irrelevant, and accepting a GLCR endorsement does not suddenly make someone a conservative.

“Kyle received an endorsement from the LGBT group the Log Cabin Republicans of Georgia along with the Stonewall Democrats of Georgia together as a non-partisan gesture in a nonpartisan Decatur City Commission election in 2009,” Cope said.

So, why the buckshot?

Both Williams and Parent want to position themselves as the progressive in exactly the same way Republicans scream RINO at their peers while puffing about being a “true conservative.” It’s a primary.

I can imagine both Williams and Parent aspiring to higher office, though. The wealthy district can – plainly – serve as a launching point for a run. As the state’s demographics begin to shift, Democrats will be looking for a bench with crossover appeal from which talent can be drawn.

But that doesn’t work if the winner can’t claim centrist credentials.

Williams’ campaign wants voters to see Parent as a political animal too eager to make compromises for business interests. Parent grew up in the D.C. suburbs and still has family there, along with enough connections to throw a fundraiser or two near Washington. But painting her as a pro-business DLC Democrat will be a tough argument, given Parent’s role as executive director of the consumer advocacy organization Georgia Watch, a Clark Howard-esque group that has been fighting against predatory lending, medical malpractice reform and the consumer abuses of utility companies for years.

Still, the Williams’ campaign notes that Parent earned an A rating from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2011, while Carter scored an unsatisfactory rating. However, those ratings more or less reversed themselves the next year – Parent scored a C+ while Carter scored an A.

Williams’ crew is also making hay about Parent’s vote to support the Hope Scholarship reforms of 2011, which made serious cuts to the program. Carter, married to a schoolteacher, led the Senate fight against it. But roughly half the Democratic delegation – including delegation leader Abrams – supported the bill as better than the alternative of losing the scholarship entirely.

Notably, the only chamber scorecard vote Carter failed in 2012 was in his opposition to the charter school constitutional amendment … a vote Parent supported.

Charter school issues are going to be a big deal this year in this district, given the issues with the DeKalb school board and its rejection of a charter cluster for Druid Hills.

Williams chairs the Decatur Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to students and innovation grants to teachers, and as a result can probably claim to be closer to education issues in the community.

Both candidates have likely raised more than $100,000 at this point, and either is likely to stomp the Republican contender Greg Williams flat in a general election. That will happen regardless of whether the two of them stomp each other flat first.


  1. Jamie Ensley says:

    The Georgia Log Cabin Republicans made a decision several years ago to issue endorsements in non-partisan municipal elections. In past elections we’ve endorsed the non-partisan races of Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, and of course the unsuccessful past Kyle Williams Decatur Commission campaign.

    I’ve served on the Georgia Equality board for 10 years, and I’m currently the longest tenured member on their board. Georgia LCR currently has a wonderful working relationship with Georgia Equality, and in the past we’ve often issued endorsements in tandem.

    During our endorsement process we review the qualification of the candidates and most importantly if they could represent the interests of all the people, including Republicans, Independents, and the LGBT community.

    The current senate race is a partisan race, and the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans don’t have a dog in that fight. However, we will not stand by and allow a QUITTER like Ms. Parent who’s never followed through with anything to use the good name of our organization to discredit her opponent in a dastardly whisper campaign.

    It’s extremely disappointing and an outrage that Ms. Parent finds it acceptable to hold a bias against tax paying Republicans, Independents, and members of the LGBT community, and It is perfectly clear these citizens would not receive proper representation from her if elected to the Georgia Senate. Ms. Parent, discrimination on any level is wrong, wrong, wrong!

    After this revelation, any Republican, Independent, or member of the LGBT community supporting Ms. Parent would have to get smarter just to be stupid!

    Jamie Ensley
    Georgia Log Cabin Republicans

    • Doctor Strangelove says:

      So a few things:

      1) This was an internal messaging poll. It’s common to test literally everything in it.
      2) Your organization was never mentioned by name.
      3) It is vile that you would suggest that Elena Parent has anything but love for the LGBT community. It is meritless at absolute best, and, knowing Elena, is the farthest thing from the truth. Frankly, you owe her an apology for suggesting she is pro-discrimination, because you have literally no basis upon which to make such a defamatory claim. I can’t even believe you said it, to be honest.
      4) Quitter? Care to elaborate a single time that she has quit something? Because if you say “she quit the House,” you’d be wrong. Your party, the GOP, kindly redistricted two up and coming Democrats together, and Elena Parent stepped aside so as to not have a nasty primary with her friend, Rep. Holcomb.

      Really, I could have deleted everything but the third point I made. Your letter was partisan, sure, and you are a partisan organization. But I am disgusted that you would suggest or intimate that Elena Parent is anything but a friend of the LGBT community- and you can ask her many LGBT supporters if you don’t believe me.

      P.S. I don’t have a dog in this fight. Both Elena and Kyle are friends of mine, and I think both would be fantastic Senators.

    • ricstewart says:

      Did I miss something? Since when is someone who finishes out the full term of the office to which she was elected considered a quitter?

  2. northside101 says:

    It is a 71 percent Obama district—the most heavily Democratic of the State Senate districts which are not majority black (lost of white liberals in this district). Even Johnny Isakson, who got 58 percent statewide in 2010, got only a third of the vote in this district. So yes, the Democratic primary is for all practical purposes, the general election in this district, much as the GOP primary is in most GOP-held State Senate districts.

    • Dave Bearse says:


      How about a few specific examples where the primary of a GOP-held Senate District is not, for all practical purposes?

      None come to mind to me, but you’re a couple of orders of magnitude more informed on such matters as me.

  3. northside101 says:

    Dave, the GOP primary was not the general election in 2012 in Senate District 6, where Hunter Hill defeated Doug Stoner. Hill won the district 53-47%, hardly a landslide, though it could be argued that Stoner was the strongest candidate there, being an incumbent, and in an open seat, Hill would have won bigger. Romney also got 53% in the district. Senate 6 was the only district in that chamber where Romney and Obama finished within 10 percentage points of each other. Senate 8 (seat being vacated by Tim Golden in the Valdosta area) may not be one either where the GOP primary is tantamount to election)—yes, Romney won 57% there, but blacks accounted for nearly a third of the district’s total turnout in 2012. But as for the 18 Senate seats held by the Democrats, the general election indeed is the primary—Obama easily won all 18 of those, exceeding 60 percent in each one but for one, Steve Thompson’s SD 33 in southwest Cobb/Marietta, where Obama still won handily—58 percent. Every seat held by the Democrats in the General Assembly (78—18 in Senate and 60 in House) backed Obama in 2012—no exceptions.

  4. Jamie Ensley says:

    Elena Parent a SPY??? I was going to queue James Bond’s Skyfall, but thought this was more appropriate:

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