Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: Brian Kemp’s runoff surge was the largest in Georgia history


‘Way up north, where the Mississippi is so young you can wade from one bank to the other, they’ve crunched some interesting numbers on Georgia’s Republican runoff for governor.

Like the fact that Brian Kemp’s 43.9-point increase from the initial May 24 GOP primary vote to Tuesday’s runoff was largest such surge in Georgia history.

That and other stats are the work of Eric Ostermeier and the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics team. Click here for the details, but these points come from a summarizing press release:

-- Prior to Kemp, only one other gubernatorial candidate had seen their support increase by more than 40 points in a Georgia runoff. In 1930, Democratic state House Speaker Richard Russell gained 40.6 points from his initial 27.3 percent primary showing to the 67.9 percent in the runoff against Secretary of State George Carswell.

-- Overall, the 69.5 percent won by Kemp is the second best out of the 26 candidates to participate in a Georgia gubernatorial primary runoff, behind Democrat Roy Barnes’ 82.9 percent in 1998.

-- Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is just one of two candidates to lose support from the initial primary to the runoff, falling from 39.0 percent in the initial primary to 30.6 percent in the runoff (-8.4 points). Only Democratic Secretary of State Lewis Massey fared worse when he fell from 27.9 percent in the initial primary to 17.1 percent in the 1998 runoff against Roy Barnes (-10.8 points).

Now, about that last entry. The one problem with analyzing stats from a distance is that sometimes you miss the historical landscape. Actually, you could call Cagle’s precipitous runoff collapse the most dramatic in Georgia political history. Because Cagle was trying the entire time.

In the 1998 Democratic primary, Roy Barnes had won 49 percent of the vote, just shy of the majority he needed to claim the gubernatorial nomination. He had the cash. Massey didn’t. In short order, Massey was persuaded to quit the race, three weeks before an Aug. 11 runoff. Ballots had already been printed, so Massey’s name still appeared in front of voters. But he was no longer a candidate.

If you want more details, give a shout to Keith Mason, the well-connected attorney who initiated negotiations with the Massey campaign on Barnes’ behalf.

***

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, has made the cover of Time magazine. It’s a special regional edition, but what the heck – it still frames just as nicely.

The accompanying piece by Molly Ball quotes Obama BFF Valerie Jarrett saying nice things, and has GOP pollster Whit Ayres injecting some cold water. This may be the smartest paragraph:

If she’s right, Abrams could show the wilderness-wandering Democrats a new way, says Ilyse Hogue, head of the abortion-rights group NARAL. “We’ve seen women run like men a lot, and Stacey is not doing that,” Hogue says. “The script of how you run for office has been determined for eons by white men telling everybody else what to do, and Stacey Abrams said, ‘No, thank you.'” Her campaign isn’t just a playbook; it’s an act of imagination. And so, like any unprecedented effort, there’s a good chance it could fail.

***

If all goes as planned, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant should have a new job this time next week. U.S. Senate leaders have scheduled a procedural vote to confirm the former Georgia solicitor general’s appointment to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday evening. That means a final confirmation vote will likely be Wednesday. 

The Senate votes will come more than three months after word first came that the Trump administration was tapping Grant for the position on the powerful appeals court, which has jurisdiction over Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has prioritized confirming conservative judicial nominees this year, but Grant’s nod had gotten stuck in an unrelated fight over trade for more than a month. 

Many Democrats are expected to vote against Grant’s nomination, due at least in part to a civil rights group voicing concerns about her record. But still, Grant should not have a problem being confirmed in the Republican-led chamber. 

***

An Amazon facial recognition program incorrectly matched photos of 28 members of Congress -- including three members of the Georgia delegation -- with others’ mug shots. U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Sanford Bishop, as well as U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, were among the misidentified legislators, our colleague Jennifer Brett reports, but the ACLU says the false matches disproportionately affected people of color.

The group pointed to the results as a reason why Congress should call for a moratorium on law enforcement using such facial recognition software. 

Lewis called the results “deeply troubling”

“As a society, we need technology to help resolve human problems, not to add to the mountain of injustices presently facing of people of color in this country,” he said. Read the whole story here

***

Kevin Abel, the Sixth District congressional candidate who lost in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff to gun control advocate Lucy McBath, broke his silence yesterday. The business owner urged supporters to back McBath in the general election against U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.

But he also expressed frustration about the tone of the race, lamenting that McBath attacked him for once postulating about the creation of a potential centrist third party. 

“I am saddened that party primary politics has a way of suppressing such messages of moderation; how the very word “moderate” connotes such a vile response from those who prefer to play in the end zones,” Abel wrote in a metaphor-mixing letter to supporters. “But I am a realist and a pragmatist and I know that change doesn’t come with one swing of the bat.”

***

Never miss a minute of what’s happening in Georgia Politics. Subscribe to PoliticallyGeorgia.com


Reader Comments ...