They don’t call us pundits for nothing. What follows is my opinion on what happened Tuesday. Your mileage may vary, and note the disclaimers.
Jack Kingston was able to pull off a second place victory and ensure his participation in the runoff due to a strong showing in South Georgia, and lighter than normal voting in metro Atlanta. Bill talks about this in another post today, but I’ll note that in Gwinnett County, Kingston placed third, with just over 14% of the vote, with David Perdue having 31% and Karen Handel 35%. There are two big questions for the runoff. The first is what will Karen Handel and her supporters do? Based on what I am seeing, it looks like many will line up on Kingston’s side. Erick Erickson, whose endorsement of Handel likely gave her a big boost announced his support for Kingston on Election Night.
A tweet earlier this morning by Insider Advantage hinted at the possibility of a Handel endorsement coming soon. Whether she endorses Kingston or not, it seems unlikely she would endorse Perdue, given his remarks about high school graduates becoming Senators. For the same reason, I’m not sure how many of her supporters would jump to the Perdue camp, either.
The second question is how negative this race will become over the next nine weeks. The long runoff campaign is something new in Georgia, and will change the way runoffs are run. Kingston had made a plea for party unity a part of his stump speech late in the primary campaign. The way the runoff is conducted may well determine how unified the GOP is against Michell Nunn after July 22nd.
Disclosure: I have volunteered for the Kingston campaign and have made in-kind contributions via buying pizza and drinks for volunteers. This volunteering, and especially my role as informal campaign photographer, gave me outsized access to the campaign and candidate.
The Tea Party:
Debbie Dooley’s Georgia Integrity Project effort to defeat Speaker David Ralston in his bid to be reelected in the 7th State House district was the most visible Tea Party effort of the cycle, rivaled perhaps by former Dalton Mayor David Pennington’s effort to unseat Governor Nathan Deal. In one sense, both efforts failed, as the incumbents were re-elected handily. ON the other hand, there is not doubt the Tea Party has had an influence on the races decided on Tuesday.
The Tea Party’s effort to influence the debate on the Common Core Standards for education also took a blow on Tuesday. Extreme anti-Common Core State School Superintendent candidates Mary Kay Bacallao and Nancy Jester failed to advance to the runoff election. In Gwinnett County, Tea Party candidate Jef Fincher was unable to unseat House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman, who won without a runoff, despite there being a third candidate in the race. Maybe Common Core isn’t as unpopular as some make it out to be.
Gwinnett Tea Party co-chair David Hancock failed in his bid to defeat Michael Brown for the open House seat left by Josh Clark. And in the aforementioned U.S. Senate race, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey didn’t advance. I was somewhat surprised to see Gingrey with more votes than Broun. And, late endorsements by Tea Party groups for Karen Handel weren’t enough to get her across the finish line.
Tea Party candidates did do well in some races, however. Jason Spencer managed to keep his seat despite the opposition of the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation. And, Mike Beaudreau proudly wore the Tea Party mantle and received a first place finish in the 9th Senate district.
This Wall Street Journal editorial, Tea Party Agonistes, has a national focus, but frames the Tea Party / Establishment battle this cycle very well.
State Senate 9:
I admit I was wrong in predicting the outcome for this one. I thought Don Balfour was going to walk away with a victory on Tuesday with 55% of the vote and no runoff. Balfour and Mike Beaudreau blanketed the district with signs — Balfour with 4×2 signs in residential yards and in front of every area Waffle House, and Beaudreau with signs in front of every polling place. At one Lilburn precinct, I counted a dozen signs.
Instead, Mike Beaudreau received 38% of the vote, P.K. Martin received 33%, and Balfour ended up with only 29%.
In an AJC story, Balfour blames an anonymous attack mailer sent to district residents for the loss. Say what you like, but on balance, Senator Balfour has served the people and the state of Georgia well in his eleven terms in the Senate.
Keep Senator Balfour and his family in your prayers. Perhaps more important to him than losing his Senate seat, he found out Monday that his Son Trey, who has been serving in Afghanistan as part of Georgia’s National Guard, had been hospitalized and was sent to Germany for treatment. Trey Balfour is now out of intensive care, and that’s good news.
Disclosure: I live in the district, and have volunteered extensively for Mike Beaudreau in his past campaigns for County Commissioner. I’ve also volunteered for P.K. Martin, and have informally advised him in this race.