UNLESS YOU haven't turned on your TV in the last month, then you're well aware that we are in the midst of a very heated election here in Georgia.
All of our constitutional officers like Governor, School Superintendent and such are up for election, in addition to members of the General Assembly.
Additionally, we have a heated race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Just a few election cycles ago, Georgia seemed all but certain to be a solid red state and a lock for the Republican Party.
A Republican holds every constitutional office, the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans, and a majority of the state’s congressional delegation is represented by Republicans.
For the most part, Republicans appear poised to continue to hold the positions of Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, and Insurance Commissioner. The Governor’s race and the race for Superintendent of Education are both too close to call.
Governor Nathan Deal barely won the Republican nomination in 2010, but decidedly defeated former Governor Roy Barnes in the general election. This year, Deal’s opponent is Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
Carter has quite a background as a Peace Corps volunteer, attorney and served two terms in the State Senate.
Deal is a particularly vulnerable incumbent for a number of reasons, first among them being a series of ethical complaints that date back to his time in Congress. He resigned from office to avoid further investigation and since becoming Governor has faced a series of complaints filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission.
The investigations lead to a series of events that ended up with former employees of the commission filing whistleblower complaints against the state that resulted in multi-million dollar settlements for the former employees. The issue: Deal’s staff interfered with the investigations.
Deal is also vulnerable because of the billions of dollars in cuts that have occurred in Georgia under his administration. Across the state, classroom sizes are increasing and teachers have to do more with fewer resources because of these continued cuts to education.
This has led to the Georgia Association of Educators to formally endorse Senator Jason Carter. For his part, Senator Carter has proposed a budget process where we fund our top priorities, like education, first.
Finally, a third issue that seems to be hobbling Deal is that despite Georgia being recognized by a few sources as the number one place to do business, we are actually the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.
The race for Superintendent of Education is open because incumbent John Barge, a Republican, challenged Governor Deal in the Republican primary for Governor. Barge highlighted the billions of dollars of cuts Deal has made to education in Georgia and the burden that this was having on local school systems, teachers, and local school boards, as they have to scramble to make up for the lack of state funds.
Dramatically underfunded, Barge lost.
The race is now between Republican Richard Woods and Democrat Valarie Wilson. Just this week, Barge broke ranks with Republicans and endorsed Valarie Wilson to be Superintendent.
Woods has a background as a teacher and administrator from Irwin County. Wilson served on the Decatur School Board and ultimately became the Chairman before moving on to become the President of the Georgia School Board Association.
Now let’s talk about the Senate race. The Republicans had a very contentious primary and runoff election, whereas Democrat Michelle Nunn faced token opposition.
Nunn will face off against businessman David Perdue, the cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue.
Typically, Senate races tend to follow national trends, and right now, most Democrats are struggling across the country, weighed down by the unpopularity of the President.
Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, has highlighted her role in leading former President George H. W. Bush’s Points of Lights Foundation. On several occasions, in her TV ads, she talks straight into the camera, and calls out and disproves her opponent’s attacks.
For his part, her opponent, David Perdue, has faced issues relating to his shipping jobs overseas while head of the now bankrupt Pillowtex Corporation in North Carolina.
Perdue has committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act and said that shutting down the government is a means he would use to get his way.
In contrast, Michelle Nunn has highlighted those types of actions as what is wrong with politics today.
Nunn has been leading most polls, but this race might also go into a run-off due to Georgia’s 50 plus one, majority rule.
Our political system is only as strong as the citizens that participate in the process. Don’t become a jaded cynic that thinks voting doesn’t matter. Each and every vote matters and hopefully, on Election Day, you will matter too!
Clint Murphy, a former Republican Political Strategist, is a Savannah Realtor and serves on the Board of Common Cause Georgia.
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