The election of a new Georgia Governor in 2018 is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the United States — uncertain coalitions, extreme left and right views, identity politics, and corruption, all playing out with an undercurrent influence of President Donald J. Trump.
In a May 22 primary, the Democrats easily narrowed the field of contenders to two, giving Stacey Abrams 76.5 percent of the electoral support. Her closest competitor was a white, female representative with 23.5 percent. Abrams is a well-educated African American woman whose latest experience is Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. Her victory demonstrates the size and cohesiveness of the African American coalition inside the Georgia Democratic Party.
No Republican candidate managed 50 percent of electoral support so there is a runoff July 24 between Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp. Cagle, 52, the Lieutenant Governor, who has presided over the Georgia Senate since 2007, received 38.9 percent of the electoral vote. Kemp, 55, Secretary of State for the last eight years, received 26.6 percent. The remainder of the voting spread-out across several candidates.
Before the June primary, Cagle faced intense competition for the right wing of the Republican Party, particularly from Brian Kemp. Kemp’s ads showed him as a gun-toting conservative prepared to enforce every law on the books to the maximum. In response, Cagle demonstrated his loyalty to the right by having the Georgia legislature end a tax break to Delta Airlines, a massive force in Atlanta and Georgia politics. Delta Airlines provoked Cagle by ending a special discount for NRA members. Cagle was not going to cede the right wing of the Republican Party to Kemp or any other candidate.
A fierce primary battle, such as the one in Georgia, is customary when there is an open seat (the incumbent is not running) within the dominant party, but it was nothing compared to what happened after the primary.
In the days after the primary, one of the disgruntled Republican losing candidates, recorded a private conversation with Casey Cagle. This recording violated the informal Georgia Legislature code of conduct. The recording appeared to show that Casey Cagle took some actions that he did not believe were the best legislative policies, but he did them to prevent one of the other losing candidates from receiving several million dollars in campaign contributions.
One should know this type of horse trading, swapping rewards and punishments, deal making, money sloshing around greasing the legislative process, is rampant; however, it usually is not recorded. Moreover, much of the issue was the prevention of one candidate receiving millions of dollars of special interest money. Why wouldn’t another candidate attempt to block special interest money going to an opponent? For Cagle the problem is that he appeared to admit choosing a bad policy to block the special interest money.
And so the brouhaha began. The chance to weaken the front runner of the Republican primary. The hyperbole asserts Cagle’s behavior is unseemly and possibly corrupt.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), the major newspaper in Georgia, and liberal, pounced into the middle of the Cagle problems. The AJC published many high profile, front page articles about the Cagle taping disclosures, reinforcing these articles with additional feature writer observations. None of these articles helped Cagle’s chances of winning votes.
While it could be considered public spirited work to report Cagle’s problems, it should be noted how the AJC operates in other arenas. Nationally, the AJC rarely, if ever, gives Trump a good headline. His successes are sometimes not even reported, and his failures are reported by biased AP and New York Times reprinted articles. Readers of the paper do not receive balanced news on Trump. So what is going on with the AJC and Cagle?
Could it be the AJC is helping to knock Cagle out of the runoff election? If Cagle loses the runoff, this will leave Abrams to face the weaker of the two Republicans. Cagle, the primary front runner, will compete better than Kemp in the general election because he is more likely to appeal to the moderate and middle-of-the-road voter. Thus, AJC, after helping knock out Cagle, is likely to turn the juice on Kemp in the general election, painting him as far-right redneck — considering his ads it will not be difficult to do.
The runoff primary is July 24. Both Cagle and Kemp are within a percent or two of each other with about 16 percent still to decide. Both candidates are swearing allegiance to the Trump agenda and Donald Trump.
Meanwhile the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, has raised money and polished her resume. Abrams has emerged from the corrupt metro Atlanta political milieu (there are still investigations going on about the management and possible dishonesty of the mayoral election decided by under 900 votes and the corruption in the government); at one time she was a Deputy Attorney of the scandal ridden city of Atlanta; she does not emphasize this fact and on a few of her bio summaries it is omitted. Her policy positions appear to be that of a big spending liberal Democrat, and she is prepared to demagogue the social issues.
She is on record wanting to sand blast off the 17,000 square foot, 40-foot deep, Mount Rushmore-style carving of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on the biggest tourist attraction (and money maker) in Georgia: Stone Mountain Park. The task is estimated to cost millions. Visitors must pay $20 to enter the park, which has many attractions; one could visit and never even view the carving. In short, the park and its carving are not in your face, daily sights of anyone.
Abram’s hope is that the turmoil among the Republican candidates, assisted by substantial media coverage (AJC) about the behavior of Cagle and Kemp, will help her candidacy. In addition, Georgia demographics have shifted to help Democrats compete state wide. The AJC freely reports the growth of Democratic voters in terms of “black voters.” One big headline read: “Black Vote surges in Ga. Primary.” Increase in black voters from the 2010 primary is 43 percent. At the same time white voters decreased by 9 percent. Without question, African Americans and minorities have increased their population while the white percentage of voters has declined. Blacks tend to vote 93 percent for the Democratic candidate.
Nevertheless, there were 607,874 Republican primary voters compared to 553,450 Democratic voters. It would appear there remains more Republican voters, and now the emphasis for both parties will be energy to get out the vote. The November election could boil down to the decision of whether voters like the style and corruption of Atlanta City politics, or prefer to keep the imperfect, status quo Republican politicians in state offices.
John Havick has a Ph.D. in political science. He was a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology for many years, authored several books and a number of articles, including the widely cited "The Impact of the Internet on a Television-Based Society." His work has appeared in The New York Times, and his award winning book, "The Ghosts of NASCAR: The Harlan Boys and the First Daytona 500," has received popular and academic acclaim. Visit his website, Publius21stCentury.com. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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