James.qxp July August 2018 web - Page 9



I
t is of course difficult to keep tabs on a Georgia race for
governor from a perch in southwest Florida. But when
asked to do so, I emphasize the one thing I’m sure about: No
one knows who will be elected Georgia’s next governor.
History teaches that lesson quite clearly.
For instance, when Democrats ruled the state, former
Gov. Lester Maddox, who had been termed limited and
elected lieutenant governor for four years, was the odds-on
favorite to win a second term as governor in 1974. But time
caught up with Maddox, who ran an old-fashioned
yard sign and brochure campaign in a new TV-dominated world. He lost in the primary to George
Busbee who touted on TV and radio that he was
“a workhorse, not a show horse.”
The list goes on. Joe Frank Harris was not an
initial gubernatorial favorite in 1982. Zell Miller
had been declared ruined after a failed U.S. Senate
bid in 1980. But he roared into the governor’s office
in 1990 riding the wave of the HOPE Scholarship.
Roy Barnes seemed a shoo-in for re-election in
2002. But a “King Rat” internet ad and voter backlash over a change in the state ag brought
Georgia its rst Republican governor since
Reconstruction.
In 2010 Nathan Deal seemed to be limping out
of Congress and was overshadowed by a amboyant
insurance commissioner and determined secretary
of state in their GOP primary. Deal blew them
away. He then faced a resurgent Barnes, who
learned that Georgia’s shift to the Republican
side of the aisle would be lasting for a while.
In other words, predictions in a race for governor are risky at best.
So rather than make a set prediction, better to
examine the forces that might help determine if the
Republican nominee (Casey Cagle or Brian Kemp) can win
in November or if Stacey Abrams can reclaim the office
for Democrats.
First, there is an assumption— an incorrect one— that
an African-American female Democrat cannot win in
Georgia. That is, in my judgment, a very simplistic one
which may well be disproven in November.
Some political pundits have been trying to spin the concept that Georgia is turning “purple” for the past six years. But
Democrat Jason Carter’s signicant loss to Deal four years ago
proved that Democrats have a way to go before reclaiming
statewide political dominance. This is particularly true in
gubernatorial races, which occur in non-presidential years.
Those are election years where voter turnout among some
younger voters, African-Americans and Hispanics— the cornerstone of the modern Democratic Party— is usually tepid.
But these are unusual times. There is a school of
thought that antipathy toward President Donald Trump is so
deep within these particular groups that turnout in
November among younger voters, as well as black, Hispanic
and other minorities, might be closer to that seen in presidential years. If so, Abrams could be well within reaching distance of an upset.
And while the demographic shift in Georgia
has been mixed in with the alleged strength of
millennials to suggest a potential tsunami for
Democrats— more wishful thinking than reality— the fact does remain that the net Democratic
vote for a gubernatorial year has been gaining at a
little under .5 percent a year since 2014. That is basically a net plus to Democrats of about 2 percent, creating a net 4 percent swing.
That would reduce Deal’s 52.8 percent win to
50.8 percent and Carter’s number lifted from 44.8
percent to 46.8 percent. Not exactly earth moving, but enough to make things interesting.
Should Abrams manage to excite AfricanAmerican turnout, that number could narrow more.
Need tangible evidence? Just consider that both Cobb
and Gwinnett, two counties that once dominated the
so-called “Republican metro Atlanta doughnut,” are
slowly evolving into Democratic counties.
For Republicans, there are numbers that
give hope. Polls measuring the president’s
approval in Georgia are methodologically awed
with far too many cell phone interviews and poor
voter weighting. If Trump voters become motivated,
they could overwhelm Democrats at the polls. The voter
intensity of Trump supporters is unlike anything the GOP
has produced in decades (perhaps ever).
But, yes, this is a gubernatorial race. And such races in
Georgia are hard to predict, including the variables that
might impact them. Keep that in mind before betting on
this 2018 version.
Matt Towery is the chairman and co-founder of InsiderAdvantage / James
magazine. He resides in Florida with his wife Dolle.
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8
9

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