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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Low Turnout, High Consequences

I’ve found this year’s primaries in my home state of Georgia to be very interesting. Clearly, Georgians do not agree. Despite a host of competitive contests in both parties, total turnout in yesterday’s primaries was about 22%, which is pretty pathetic.
In any event, the consequences wrought by those few voters were pretty interesting. On the Democratic side, former governor Roy Barnes took the next step in his attempted redemption from a huge stumble in 2002, when his grossly overconfident re-election campaign was upset by a party-switching good ol’ boy named Sonny Perdue. This time around Barnes impressively defeated an African-American statewide elected official by a three-to-one margin, doing especially well in heavily African-American urban areas. Two Democratic congressmen, Hank Johnson and John Barrow, survived primary challenges.
Republicans set themselves up for some potentially wild-and-crazy runoffs. Sarah Palin’s candidate, Karen Handel, will face Newt Gingrich’s candidate, Nathan Deal, on August 10. All kinds of nastiness between these two candidate broke out late in the primary contest; Handel has basically called Deal a crook and Deal has basically called Handel a godless liberal. It’s not likely to get more civil in the runoff.
The Republican congressional primaries produced some odd results, too. You have to have some sympathy for 9th district congressman Tom Graves. He won his gig after a special election in May and then a runoff in June, all because Nathan Deal resigned the seat to (take your pick) devote more time to his gubernatorial campaign or short-circuit an ethics investigation. Then he had to run for a full term in yesterday’s primary, and once again, he’s in a runoff against the same candidate, Lee Hawkins. So Graves and Hawkins will be facing each other for the fourth time in three months.
Then you’ve got state Rep. Clay Cox, who was endorsed by a who’s-who of Georgia Republican politics in his bid to succeed the venerable right-winger John Linder in a safe GOP district. Cox dutifully endorsed Linder’s hobby-horse, the “Fair Tax” proposal, and did everything else expected of him. But he finished a poor third, losing not only to Linder’s former chief of staff, Rob Woodall, but also to talk radio host Jody Hice.
In general, the August 10 runoffs will be mostly a Republican affair, and in that rarefied company, we can expect a lot of more-conservative-than-thou one-upsmanship. Looking forward to the general election, Democrats are in reasonably good shape to do relatvely well in this red state, in this bad year.

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