Tuesday’s Primary: What I’m Watching

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

Finally, Election day is upon us.  We shouldn’t get too excited to get this behind us, as many of the contested races on my ballot have so many candidates that runoffs are a virtual certainty.  Yet some things will be decided on Tuesday.  Other races will tell us where we are on the way to November.

The U.S. Senate race has gotten a lot of press for the last 16 months, so it’s obviously an interest.  The battle between the “Tea Party” and the “establishment” will be something experts and grass roots will argue about long after Tuesday.  We’ll generally save those topics for post-election analysis, but there’s a lot more going on this week. With that in mind, here’s five of the things I’m looking to see Tuesday night:

1)      Governor Deal’s margin of victory:  I don’t expect Governor Deal to be in a runoff, but I do expect his critics to use the fact that he gets less than 100% of the votes in his primary as a sign of weakness.  I’m not buying that, at least not now.

I’ll use an example the 2012 candidacy of Congressman Lynn Westmoreland.  He remains a popular member of Congress with his conservative credentials intact and rarely questioned.  Yet in an era of TEA Party fueled anti-incumbent sentiment, Westmoreland received “only” 71.6% of the vote against two underfunded, relatively unpublicized challengers.  In most contests, that’s still considered a landslide.

Governor Deal similarly has two opponents, both of whom have received significant media attention and at least one has paid TV ads in the Atlanta market.  As such, I think Westmoreland’s 2012 primary vote should be looked at as a possible high water mark for the Governor.  Anything in that ballpark and he’s set up well for a general election.

2)      How many people voted?  Consultants, candidates, and pundits began to second guess themselves when they began to review the number of people voting early.  Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say they were somewhat alarmed at the numbers of people not voting early.  This is the first time Georgia has held a general primary this early. Conventional wisdom is that with schools still in session, more people would participate.  The opposite may be true.  As such, campaign plans and poll numbers may be off significantly.  We’ll have a lot of the professionals pouring over the differences of poll numbers versus turnout for some time to come.

3)      What’s the dropoff in total number of votes from the Governor’s &/or Senate race to the State School Superintendent’s race?  Well, there are nine candidates in this down ballot race, and even GOP insiders are scratching their heads at whom to support or vote for.  The number of candidates has given many voters an excuse to not invest the time in getting to know the candidates or their positions. My guess is that many skip this race.  I’ll be looking to the bottom of the list and voting for Kira Willis.

4)      How do Sam Moore and Charles Gregory fare?  House incumbents Sam Moore of Cheorkee County and Sam Moore of Cobb are the two incumbents most closely identified with the GOP’s Libertarian wing.  They’re most likely to vote “no” on anything and everything, and it was Moore who introduced the bill that would have allowed convicted sex offenders to loiter near schools.  While the Libertarians within the GOP have fielded a longer list of candidates than ever before for this year’s primary, the success of these two in getting re-elected (or not) will tell us more about the market for this brand of “Republican” with GOP voters.

5)      The Speaker of the House: David Ralston has his own contested primary in House District 7, which is Fannin, Gilmer, and part of Dawson counties.  This one, frankly, I’m just watching for sport.  Speaker Ralston has become the boogey man for everyone from Georgia Right to Life to the Tea Party to any anti-establishment interest that can’t understand why their version of anarchist limited government hasn’t yet been enacted, freeing them of all their problems in life.  They have often threatened him to remove him from office.  This year, they have tried.  They will fail.  The only questions are how badly and how often they (won’t) be taken seriously when they resume making the same threats in January.


  1. Larry Harkins says:

    Amazing how much establishment forces have spent to beat Gregory and Moore. When it’s all said and done, probably well over $150,000. Would like to see an analysis of that. Interesting to see Chip Lake’s consulting firm give money to Reeves AND also coordinating Chamber’s big money mail attacks. Coordination?

      • Charlie says:


        And I’m OK with that.

      • Larry Harkins says:

        Well, strike that. Chamber, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Rubbermaid, Delta, Georgia Power pouring money into Chip Lake’s consulting firm and “Quick Response Communications, Inc.,” a recently filed, anonymous LLC to attack Gregory and Moore [and Spencer]. So whatever you want to call that. Big Business? The same consulting firm Lake owns and runs has contributed to Reeves’ campaign and is coordinating all of the Chamber/Big Business/whatever mail pieces against Gregory and Moore.

        • notsplost says:

          Unholy alliances between big business and government have led to fascism in the not so distant past (think Mussolini in Italy.)

          So if Gregory and Moore get defeated don’t be so quick to celebrate.

          Just sayin’ …

  2. Raleigh says:

    1) I have to agree, no runoff and the race will be Deal-Carter in the general election. Is this the year of a democratic comeback in Georgia? No I don’t think so. I’m no big fan of the Governor but I believe Governor Deal will handily beat Carter.

    2) The prediction for Cherokee county is 25% however we do have some very contentious races going on which will be decided tomorrow. I’m not sure state wide we will make 25% and if I was a betting man I would bet not.

    3) I can’t disagree with you here.

    4) Poor old Sam Moore, was it just arrogance on his part or a concerted effort to render impotent a non wanted party faction by the part elites? Maybe a little of both. All I know is I would have waited and used the time as an opportunity to learn the lay of the “land” and learned just who my friends were before I dropped anything. No matter, his political career is just as dead and a sun dried possum hit by a logging truck on I75 north of Cartersville.

    5) I am no fan of the “most ethical speaker in Georgia’s history” and I would be pleased as punch if last session was his farewell tour. I don’t think that’s going to happen. My reasons for not pressing his “like” button are many but I will say ethics is one of the primary reasons.

    That’s my ½ cens the other 1 ½ is going to pay for a closed down recycling center up here in Cherokee County.

    • Larry Harkins says:

      Not sure Moore won’t make it in to a run-off. I agree, his bill was at best horribly orchestrated. But the guy is a ferocious door to door campaigner. It also would be funny if Joel McElhannon’s candidate, Meagan Biello, loses to Moore AGAIN. If he does make it in to a run-off with Cantrell, I’m guessing well over $100,000 flows into the district from Atlanta. I don’t agree he’s sun-dried yet, but close.

  3. Larry Harkins says:

    From Galloway’s column:

    “Both referred the curious to Scott Paradise [works for Lake], a Marietta political strategist in charge of coalition logistics. “We had no litmus test to determine our support, nor was there any single issue that encouraged us to support or oppose a candidate,” Paradise said.

    “All three [Gregory, Moore, Spencer] have opposition with whom, according to the rules, the business coalition can’t coordinate.”


  4. Holden Caulfield says:

    Speaker Ralston is certainly going to win (and win big at that). Snider will realize that the ATL tea party folks who told him he had a shot were full of it, and Debbie Dooley will have had a nice vacation at a cabin up in Ellijay.

    Here’s also hoping that Sam Moore goes down in flames after his very brief tenure at the gold dome.

  5. Mid Georgia Retiree says:

    Wish there was a way, and maybe there is, to see how many Democrats vote in the Republican U. S. Senate primary for either Broun or Gingrey. I’m positive they would like to get one or the other into the run-off.

      • Holden Caulfield says:

        If I recall from the McKillip v Quick statehouse race, there were some numbers being thrown around regarding estimates of how many crossover voters there were (GA Dems sent out mailers asking their folks to vote against McKillip). I believe that it may have come from how many new, never before voted in a Republican primary voters there were, especially when many of them weren’t your typical brand new, young voters.

        I’m sure it’s much harder to get that data from across all the counties in the state though and piece it together, as opposed to a localized race where the Georgia Dems put out mailers that had a significant and measurable effect.

        If someone can come up with a good estimate though, I’d love to see it.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    As to (5), it’s notable that the influence of the Tea Party or anti-establishment interests in the GOP is discounted, yet in a field of seven competing for an up for grabs US Senate seat GOP primary voters don’t even have a viable choice for a candidate that supports Common Core, or says talking about the Fair Tax is a waste of time, or would publicly utter an adverse word about the Guns Everywhere legislation.

    The Tea Party isn’t ruling the GaGOP roost. It’s just that Saxby’s record is simply too liberal.

  7. Rambler14 says:

    What I’m looking for:

    How many Broun/Gingrey supporters throw their vote towards Handel in order to push her towards 2nd.

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