Georgia Runoff – Half Time Update

This week’s Courier Herald column:

What if Georgia hosted a runoff and nobody came?

That’s not entirely likely, but the less than stellar results from Georgia’s May 20th primary may preview an even small group of Georgians who return July 22nd to decide key races, including a U.S. Senate nomination, State School Superintendent nominees of both parties, three GOP nominees (and presumed winners) for Congress, and assorted other races with smaller footprints.

With Nathan Deal soundly securing his nomination for re-election last month, the top of the ticket is squarely focused on Jack Kingston versus David Perdue for marquis marquee billing.  Kingston has spent his time since the primary consolidating the wings of the GOP, bringing public endorsements from both Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey.

Of note is that many of those within Handel’s grassroots infrastructure have also provided public endorsements of Kingston.  Given that Handel was greatly outspent by the two remaining candidates, her close 3rd place finish can be directly attributed to her base that is now very publicly aligned with Kingston.  Despite finishing a few points behind Perdue in the first round, it’s hard to see anything other than momentum with Jack at this point.  Advantage Kingston.

Getting people to the polls will factor in who advances past July 22nd, and the Senate race should have a spillover effect into the race to see who replaces Kingston in Congress.  State Senator Buddy Carter is facing Tea Party challenger Bob Johnson.  While it’s conceivable that a low turnout could favor a Tea Party upset, it’s not likely that the folks in Georgia’s 1st Congressional district are going to stay home when Kingston needs their votes to move him into the Senate.

Furthermore, third place finisher John McCallum has officially endorsed Carter, and it’s not a difficult stretch to see most McCallum voters aligning more closely with Carter than with the challenger whose greatest feat is issuing press releases calling Carter a “liberal” multiple times a week.  Carter and McCallum combined for 57% of the May 20th vote.  Advantage Carter

In Georgia’s 11th Congressional District, Barry Loudermilk will be facing off with Bob Barr who has returned to the Republican Party following a bid to be President as a Libertarian.  This is as Barr has also returned to his home district after he left Congress by entering a primary and losing to then Congressman John Linder.  Barr is working the race hard, but his second place finish on May 20th is more about lingering name ID than a vision for the future of a GOP Congress.  Loudermilk is more representative of the current GOP, and should remain the strong front runner going into next month’s voting.  Advantage Loudermilk.

Paul Broun will not be returning to Congress next year either, with Reverend Jody Hice and Trucking firm owner Mike Collins left as the options for those in Georgia’s 10th district.  Courtesy of redistricting, the 10th isn’t as…Paul Brounish as the district that originally elected Broun, and this provides the backdrop for one of the more competitive runoffs remaining.  During the original campaign, Hice was the only one of 7 candidates to routinely use Broun’s name on the stump, pledging to be the heir apparent to Broun.  Collins, meanwhile, emphasized his business background and the need for someone to bring a common sense businesslike approach to solve Washington’s problems.  The voters of Georgia 10 have an actual choice of both style and direction to go here, and it bears continued watching.

The State School Superintendent’s race also provides real choices on both sides of the aisle, and will get more coverage in this space before the primary runoff.  Republicans have a choice between Mike Buck, who works for current Superintendent John Barge, and Richard Woods, who lost to Barge 4 years ago.  While there are many differences between the two, most will sum it up as Buck being supportive of Georgia’s Common Core standards while Woods opposes them.  Neither, disappointingly, favor Charter Schools.

On the Democratic side, Valerie Wilson will take on Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan for the highest profile Democratic nomination remaining open.  School Choice is a major delineation between the two, as Morgan has long been an advocate for public charter schools and expanding options for those trapped in failing schools.

Turnout will be key, as this race plus a few local other ones will drive Democratic turnout.  While Morgan finished second in May she shouldn’t be counted out.  Anyone that looks at where the Charter School amendment passed overwhelmingly will see that the potential for this issue to be helpful to a Democrat that can properly harness it is ready and waiting.


  1. BuddyFreeze says:

    I’m not the biggest of having correct me if I’m wrong but 9 weeks for the runoff? All it’s doing is forcing Jack Kingston and the Georgia GOP to spend more money that could be spent fighting Democrats. Go back to the way it was.

    • FranInAtlanta says:

      I read somewhere that this was required so that deployed military could vote in the runoff and that the Democrats did it. But it looks like other states weren’t required to do it – or is it a Voting Rights thing?

      • Charlie says:

        Yes, Yes, and Yes.

        SOS Kemp is now blaming it on our voting machine technology. But many other states have figured out workarounds. We, instead, figured out how to make his head bigger on websites that sometimes function.

  2. pucillo.oscar says:

    “Neither, disappointingly, favor Charter Schools.”

    This is wrong, especially with respect to Alisha Thomas Morgan. Instead, the race is between 3 people who have mainstream views on charters – Buck, Woods and Morgan – versus 1 who is diametrically opposed to the concept.

    Here is the deal: charters are limited by the number of people willing to run them, or who are willing to run anything beyond a little middle school here or there that enrolls a couple hundred middle schoolers that uses pretty much the same pedagogy and curriculum as regular public schools and is run and staffed mostly by former public school employees. (And yes, such schools have a failure rate – I mean literally failing to maintain their charter and closing their doors – that is not much lower than small business startups.) Making a big show of standing up and supporting charter schools to the hilt is a meaningless display. You get the reputation of a bold innovative reformer and advocate for poor and minority kids without doing anything that would change facts on the ground. Something for nothing. That is why Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both support charter schools while receiving tons of money from the teacher’s unions: it is a show. That is why I am glad that Buck and Woods are not out there trying to out-charter each other. Charter schools are so few in number and so rarely meaningfully different from or better than regular public schools that for the vast majority of the population they may as well not exist. So, support for charter schools is often used as a substitute for real reform.

    Real reform is: school vouchers. Plenty of existing private schools that could take on lots of students plus new schools would pop up.
    Real reform is: allowing kids to attend schools outside their attendance zones or even school districts (and forcing the receiver schools to take them, even if it means adding capacity … caveat is that the refugee students would be subject to the disciplinary policies of the receiver schools and provide their own transportation).
    Real reform is: the state getting serious about magnet schools, reform schools, vocational tracks and dual enrollment
    Real reform is: limiting the size of school districts and individual schools
    Real reform is: forcing education colleges to have the same standards of admission and rigor as other professional schools (i.e. law, engineering, pharmacy, architecture, accounting)
    Real reform is: uniform disciplinary standards and punishments for school systems that refuse to comply

    And if you actually support charter schools, real reform is setting aside substantial state funds or promoting the establishment of a substantial private fund via tax credits for private and corporate contributions (and when I say substantial I mean into the hundreds of millions of dollars) to recruit individuals and groups to start charter schools. Anyone willing to meet the requirements (which would be far higher than the minimum standards) could qualify for the charter school startup grants, preference would go to those willing to start the schools that the state wants (i.e. STEM emphasis, classics emphasis, vocational emphasis, urban areas).

    Basically, unless you are willing to actually use charters to transform and modernize education as it has been in places like New Orleans (although we should point out that the positive results with charters in New Orleans were not achieved in D.C., Philadelphia and Milwaukee) the people who trumpet their support for charter schools are just politicking, and in some cases using charters as an excuse to block meaningful reform.

    • joe says:

      “Instead, the race is between 3 people who have mainstream views on charters – Buck, Woods and Morgan – versus 1 who is diametrically opposed to the concept.”

      You are a little confused. There are still 2 races going on. One for the Democratic nomination, and one for the Republican nomination. You can only vote in one (unless of course you are a dead Democrat from Chicago), and when those 2 races are over, there will be another race for Superintendent.

      • pucillo.oscar says:

        There are 4 people running. 2 in the Democratic Party. 2 in the GOP. Consider it a “tournament” I guess. They are still competing in their respective “brackets” if not directly against each other.

    • Charlie says:

      The last paragraph is key. Charters can’t be a label, like they are with Georgia’s current “charter districts”, nor can they be an occasional outlier like we have with the too small number of charter schools that we have now.

      The New Orleans model keeps public dollars in public schools, but provides for real school choice. And it has amazing results to show for it.

      • pucillo.oscar says:

        Hello Charlie:

        “Charters can’t be a label, like they are with Georgia’s current “charter districts”, nor can they be an occasional outlier like we have with the too small number of charter schools that we have now.”

        The real problem with charters being a label is when school districts take existing public schools and call them “charter schools” while not only retaining control over those schools, but making no other changes other than perhaps minor and cosmetic ones. APS used that scheme to try to block actual charter schools for years. Yes, the charter school amendment (with all its unintended consequences) was in direct response to APS.

        Still, ” nor can they be an occasional outlier like we have with the too small number of charter schools that we have now” … there has to be an actual way to change this. The issue is that people with a professional interest in and know-how/experience concerning education tend to already work for public (or at least private) schools. People from outside the education field generally wind up creating the worst charters because of the lack of expertise or suspect motives. And even people with an education background to create a school with a good academic component lack the business/management ability to run a charter. So when you get the people who have the ability to run the academic and business side that it needs to make a good strong charter school, there is nothing that helps get these schools where they are needed to fill the roles that are needed. Part of this is due to the laws governing charter schools themselves. Because they cannot use merit-based admissions and have to take all comers, you cannot create magnet schools or specialty schools. If you could, the demand to create charter schools would be a lot higher.

        That is why so many politicians on both sides of the aisle support charter schools: because they know that there is only going to be a few of them that actually make a difference. Otherwise, a lot fewer politicians would support charters than currently claim to. A voucher system would actually make a difference, and that is precisely why no one – not even the GOP or the Tea Party – is talking about them. Vouchers were a big issue for the GOP back when everyone assumed that the Supreme Court would never allow them. But ever since the Supreme Court ruled that vouchers were legal, the issue has shriveled up and blown away and the GOP has gone to advocating charter schools – without doing anything that would practically lead to effective charter schools being funded and created – instead. Gee, I wonder why …

      • Jon Lester says:

        I’m not really sold on charter schools, per se, at least not the dubious for-profit models, but since I have to vote the Democratic ballot after doing so in the primary, I think I’ll err on the side of getting any school choice we can. Not every student does as well in traditional schools, and some students really don’t need to be thrown in with general population, to use a not-so-inappropriate prison term.

  3. Doctor Memory says:

    “marquee”: doubtful Jack would want Marquis billing. Tends to affect elect-ability.

  4. northside101 says:

    We could see some interesting geography in the Senate runoff. Kingston (as Phil Kent pointed out on Georgia Gang this past weekend) got 75 percent in his home congressional district in the primaryt. That amounted to a quarter (roughly 40,000 votes) of the 156,000 votes Kingston got statewide in Round 1. However, Perdue outpaced Kingston in most of the other districts. Doug Collins’s CD 9 (centered in Gainesville but running from Elbert County in the east to Fannin and Gilmer Counties in the northwest) may be key, as it cast the most votes (about 66,000) of the 14 congressional districts in the May 20 primary, and is usually the state’s most Republican congressional district (78% for Romney in the 2012 presidential election). Kingston did not fare particularly well in metro Atlanta in the primary (trailing Perdue in all the metro counties), but then had the benefit of a 7-way split in metro Atlanta. He won’t have that luxury this time.

    FYI, it has been a while since Georgia had a competitive GOP Senate runoff—all the way back to Bill Clinton’s presidency (1996), right after the end of the Atlanta Olympics. In that contest, about 321,000 showed up, with Guy Millner winning 53% to Johnny Isakson’s 47% (Isakson of course would later, in 2004, get elected to Georgia’s other Senate seat). In 1992, only about 159,000 showed up when Coverdell edged Barr by only 1% (about 1,500 votes) in the Senate runoff, which many saw as a bad sign for Coverdell’s chances against Democrat Wyche Fowler (Coverdell being regarded as the heavy favorite to win the nomination). But to the surprise of many, he eventually won the seat, after a pre-Thanksgiving runoff with Fowler.

    About 680,000 Georgians showed up for the July 2010 GOP primary for governor, and about 580,000 showed up for the Deal-Handel runoff, in which Deal prevailed by barely 2,500 votes.
    Interesting to see if Kingston/Perdue comes down to low single digit percentage difference…

    • Dave Bearse says:

      My guess is there will be a larger falloff in voter turnout in the runoff than occurred in 2010.

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