Editor's Note: Do Nunn & Carter stand a chance? 

The Republican domination of Georgia was building for quite awhile, but when the wave finally broke it was overwhelming.

Fueled by a boatload of party-switching Democrats, Georgia's Republican revolution kicked off in 2002, the first midterm election of the George W. Bush era.

Your current governor, Nathan Deal, was one of those turncoat Democrats. As was his predecessor, Sonny Perdue.

From 2002-2003 the GOP captured the Governor's Mansion, defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, took out three-decade Democratic Speaker of the state House of Representatives Tom Murphy, and, oh yeah, took control of the Georgia Senate after a few more opportunistic Democrats bolted their party.

Since then, Republican numbers have done nothing but go up. After the Tea Party uprising in 2010, there wasn't a Democrat left in statewide office.

Outside a few blue enclaves, like Savannah, Fulton County, and Athens, the state Democratic Party has been in full-on triage mode.

Less Blue State than Code Blue.

Two Democrats with famous last names, however, are trying to do more than just stop the bleeding. They're trying to win.

First to declare was Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn. She vies for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Saxby Chambliss, who defeated Cleland in 2002 and since then has been primarily known for his golf game.

Nunn, a highly educated nonprofit CEO, has only recently opened a usable website, after making enough rounds with high-dollar donors to convince her she has a competitive chance.

For those of you who don't know, and I'm guessing that's a lot of you, Sam Nunn was an extremely well-regarded senator who combined high personal ethics with a staunch defense of the military and America's standing in the world.

And yes, he was a Democrat, back when Democrat didn't mean "liberal" so much as it meant "the dominant party in the United States since the 1930s."

While most Georgians who remember Nunn remember him fondly — I haven't met a single person who ever had a bad thing to say about him — plenty of others are simply too young to have any memory or feeling about him either way.

His daughter, near as I can tell, is running on a centrist platform similar to her father's, or wants to be perceived that way.

Sample quote:

"I'm going to talk a lot about the deficit. Neither side of the equation is really tackling that. I think people are really tired of the mudslinging and the silliness of this."

Now, personally I think that's a load of silliness itself. Talking "a lot about the deficit" is precisely what causes the mudslinging.

As the Clinton years showed us, a sound economy is the antidote to deficits. Deficits are due less to overspending than to poor decisions which hamstring the economy. Poor decisions like, oh say, forcing a government shutdown and putting people temporarily out of work, who then can't buy things and pay sales taxes, i.e., contribute to a sound economy. Things like that.

Every minute you spend focusing on deficits — which can be and are erased over time — is a minute you're not spending on investment in the profitable new economy of alternative energy, or reigning in the Federal Reserve's obsession with creating unsustainable bubbles, or addressing banking regulations which encourage living on credit cards rather than savings.

The other newly-minted Democratic candidate with a famous last name is Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and a current state senator. He's taking on Nathan Deal in a bid to return the Governor's Mansion to Democratic hands.

On the surface, Carter's job should be easy. Deal is not only one of the most ethically challenged governors in the U.S., he ran for governor largely to escape an ethics investigation while a U.S. Congressman.

Deal is so ethically challenged, in fact, that the newest ethics allegation against him is his apparent attempt to unethically quash another ethics allegation against him.

But this is Georgia, and former Democrat Deal now has that magic "R" by his name. And regardless of how slippery a character he may be, Deal knows how to win elections — he hasn't lost one in 30 years.

As much respect as I have for the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter — the only one of our supposedly "religious" presidents of modern times to actually practice true Christian ideals in his public and his personal life — I'm afraid Deal's magic "R" will easily outweigh the Carter name.

Carter does have this going for him: Younger voters at least know who his grandfather is, unlike the case with Michelle Nunn and her dad.

The one area where Nunn and Carter's names are very important, however, is in persuading wealthy donors to take out their checkbooks. If all their candidacies accomplish is to make state Democrats at least feel viable, then they've accomplished something.

But it's still not a path to victory.

Another guy who knows how to win elections — he just won re-election as mayor of Atlanta — is Kasim Reed. He recently said something that bears repeating:

"You've got 600,000 unregistered African-American voters who nobody is communicating with in Georgia. You have more than 200,000 Latino voters that nobody is communicating with," said Mayor Reed.

Indeed. If Georgia Democrats are serious about winning, and not just trading on old family names which have less and less modern relevance to the average voter, that's where they will look.

Not where the money is, but where the votes are.


About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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