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 on the cusp, but Stacey Abrams hasn’t given up


What we don’t know about Tuesday could fill a book this morning.

In a weekend conference call with reporters, a staffer in the Democratic campaign for Stacey Abrams predicted that Georgia would wake up after Election Day and still not know who the next governor will be.

We’re there.

As of this early morning, the race for governor stands thusly:

-- Republican Brian Kemp with 1,966,367 votes, or 50.41 percent;

-- Abrams with 1,897,651 votes, or 48.65 percent;

-- and Libertarian Ted Metz with 36,831 votes, or .94 percent.

Given that an outright winner requires 50 percent of the vote plus one, Abrams and Metz would have to pick up a combined 15,943 votes to push Kemp under 50 percent and send the 2018 race for governor to an unprecedented 2018 runoff.

Which is why she has yet to concede. From a pre-dawn post by one of your Insiders:

Her campaign argued that only a portion of the mail-in ballots in three metro Atlanta counties – Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett – had been counted. And four other large Democratic-leaning counties – Athens-Clarke, Chatham, Douglas and Henry – hadn’t tallied any mail-in ballots by 4 a.m.

Runoffs in two other statewide contests look more certain: In the race for secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger has 49.28 percent of the vote, while Democrat and former congressman John Barrow has 48.89 percent.

Republican Chuck Eaton appears headed to a runoff with Democrat Lindy Miller. Their nail-biter currently stands at 49.89 to 47.45 percent. The two are separated by 93,436 votes. Eaton is the only member of the state Public Service Commission up for re-election who also voted to allow Georgia Power to continue its construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

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A suburban collapse may be best way to describe Republican performance in metro Atlanta. Cobb and Gwinnett counties flipped blue for the second time in as many statewide elections. Which had implications in two much-watched U.S. House races.

Again, the slim margins may shift, but as the sun comes up, Democrat Lucy McBath leads incumbent Republican Karen Handel in the Sixth District congressional contest, 50.45 to 49.55 percent. The pair are separated by 2,872 votes. Like Abrams, Handel hasn’t conceded.

In the Seventh District, Republican incumbent Rob Woodall’s low-profile campaign may have paid off. He currently leads Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, 50.59 to 49.41 percent. Their separation: 3,184 votes. Again, no concession on Bourdeaux’s part.

Those two Georgia congressional contests are at the edge of a decent night for Democrats, while Republicans upped their numbers in the U.S. Senate. From the Associated Press:

The Democrats' edge in the House is narrow. With 218 seats needed for a majority, Democrats have won 219 and the Republicans 193, with winners undetermined in 23 races…

The 2018 elections also exposed an extraordinary political realignment in an electorate defined by race, gender, and education that could shape U.S. politics for years to come.

The GOP's successes were fueled by a coalition that's decidedly older, whiter, more male and less likely to have college degrees. Democrats relied more upon women, people of color, young people and college graduates.

Record diversity on the ballot may have helped drive turnout.

Women won at least 85 seats in the House, a record. The House was also getting its first two Muslim women, Massachusetts elected its first black congresswoman, and Tennessee got its first female senator.

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We’ve got an interactive county-by-county map of the governor’s race here. And an interactive metro Atlanta precinct-by-precinct map here. You’re missing out if you don’t click on them.

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One big surprise: The effort to create a new city of Eagles Landing fell apart last night, with both ballot questions losing by large margins. Returns are here.

The word from Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford, whose city would have been forced to give up a chunk of its tax base to the new city:

“We are extremely excited and grateful. We are a strong team and we will continue to move forward united as one dynamic community made up of diverse Americans.”

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State School Superintendent Richard Woods was the most popular name on Tuesday’s ballot. The Republican incumbent beat Democrat Otha Thornton with 2,034,151 votes, or 53 percent of the vote.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, another GOP incumbent, gathered up 2,026,207 votes, or 53 percent, in his race against Democrat Fred Swann.

In other words, 53 percent was the high-water mark for statewide Republicans on Tuesday – an indication of how the ground has shifted in this state. In 2014, Republican Doug Everett, a Republican incumbent on the PSC, chalked up 68 percent of the vote. Other incumbents, including Secretary of State Brian Kemp, hit the 57 percent mark that year.

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Georgia turnout approached 2016 presidential levels, with 3,900,000 votes counted in the race for governor so far. Just over 4 million votes were cast two years ago. Stacey Abrams one-upped the presidential ticket in another way: She outdid Hillary Clinton’s vote total from two years ago. Clinton won 1,877,963 votes. Abrams currently has 1,897,651. 

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Our AJC colleague Meris Lutz has more on local races here, this is the night’s big one: The five-member Gwinnett County Commission, which hasn’t had a Democratic member in 30 years, gained two on Tuesday. Ben Ku won in District Two, and Marlene Fosque in District Four.

Why does that matter? It bodes well for a referendum on expanding MARTA into the county in March 2019.

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Democrats saw significant gains in state House and Senate races. Our AJC colleague James Salzer has more details here, but among the highlights:

At least six incumbent Republican House members from metro Atlanta were either behind or lost in bids for re-election as of early Wednesday. Democratic candidates also appeared to have won seats given up by Reps. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, David Casas, R-Lilburn and Rich Golick, R-Smyna, while others remained close.

In the Senate, former Democratic state Rep. Sally Harrell ousted Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody and Democrat Zahra Karinshak won the seat vacated by former Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, who lost a bid for lieutenant governor.

Going into Tuesday, Republicans held a 114-64 advantage in the House, and a 37-19 margin in the Senate. We’re still going over Senate returns, but in the House, Democrats appear to have added a dozen members to their caucus. Among races of note:

-- In House District 48, Republican incumbent Betty Price of Roswell, wife of former congressman Tom Price, was defeated by Mary Robichaux, 50.28 to 49.72 percent.

-- In another north Fulton contest, Democrats also picked up the House District 50, vacated by Republican Brad Raffensperger. Democrat Angelika Kausche beat Republican Kelly Stewart, 50.67 to 49.33 percent.

-- Democrat Josh McLaurin of Sandy Springs, who successfully sued the Georgia Republican party for libel last month, beat Republican Alex Kaufman 51.49 to 48.51 percent in the contest to replace retiring Republican Wendell Willard in House District 51.

-- Republican incumbent Beth Beskin of Atlanta appears to have lost her House District 54 seat to Democrat Betsy Holland, 51.64 to 48.36 percent.

-- In House District 37, with all results in, Republican incumbent Sam Teasley of Marietta lost to Democrat Mary Frances Williams, 50.31 to 49.69 percent.

-- In House District 40, Democrat Erick Allen prevailed over Republican Matt Bentley in a bid to replace state Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.

-- In House District 43, longtime Republican incumbent Sharon Cooper of Marietta survived a close challenge by Democrat Luisa Wakeman, 52 to 48 percent.

-- In House District 79, being vacated by Tom Taylor of Dunwoody, went to the Democrat Michael Wilensky, who beat Ken Wright with 53 percent of the vote.

-- Republican incumbent Meagan Hanson of Brookhaven was defeated by Democrat Matthew Wilson, 52 to 48 percent in the House District 80 contest.

-- Republican incumbent Scott Hilton of Peachtree Corners was defeated by Democrat Beth Moore, 50.84 to 49.16 percent.

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