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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

GA-Gov, Lt.-Gov: The Big Day

Posted by James L.

We haven't really spent a lot of time over here at the Swing State Project discussing the upcoming elections in Georgia, but there are a couple of hot races between a few sets of Georgia peaches that are going down today. On the Democratic side, there's a nasty, nasty primary battle going on for the gubernatorial nomination between Secretary of State Cathy Cox and current Lt. Governor Mark Taylor. This race does not particularly enthuse me, mainly due to the fact that these two candidates have spent an estimated $6 million combined on attack ads against each other. It's really bringing back the ghosts of the recent California gubernatorial primary, where two statewide-elected Democrats slimed each other so badly that the Republican party has begun to recycle the same attacks now that the dust has settled. There's been some opinions in the blogosphere that primaries are a good thing, that they help strengthen candidates by forcing them to hone their messages and get serious about on-the-ground organization. And to a certain extent, that seems true; Jon Tester's overwhelming, feel-good victory in the Montana Senate primary against a popular Democrat holding a state-level office, for instance, surely helped legitimize him to national and state donors, pundits, and media. But what's the rule and what's the exception? Are brutal primary races like those in California and Georgia, where character assassination runs rampant, par for the primary course? How can you be sure that every primary attains the perfection of Montana's stiffly competitive, but polite style? I would submit that when the stakes are as high as elected office, there's no way to constrain the nastier competitive tendencies of human nature.

But if there's any saving grace in this, at least the focus is not so much on the Democratic primary today. Nope, it's not even close. If you've been following Jesselee's ongoing coverage at the Stakeholder, you'd know that it's the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor, which is taking place between conservative state Sen. Casey Cagle and Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, that's drawing all the headlines. Reed, who helped orchestrate Saxby Chambliss' dirty victory over Democratic Sen. Max Cleland four years ago, is getting hammered by Cagle over his deep ties with corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff:

His opponent, conservative state Sen. Casey Cagle, has hammered Reed over his connections to Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington insider who in January pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and bribery.

Specifically, Cagle has criticized public relations jobs in which Reed rallied Christian conservatives to thwart regional gambling initiatives. In some cases, that work was funded by competing gambling interests represented by Abramoff, according to the conclusions of a U.S. Senate committee.

"Reed said gambling is immoral, but took millions of dollars from convicted felon Jack Abramoff to help casinos," a recent Cagle TV ad said, referring to Reed's "record of betrayal."

I'm not sure how I should feel about this. A big part of me just wants to see Reed lose outright. What a fitting retribution it would be to see a man like Ralph Reed (whose ultimate goal is to run for President some day, most assume) lose a primary race for a down-ticket office in Georgia. How could his political career recover from such a starting block blunder, especially with the shadows of corruption hanging over his head?

On the other hand, should Reed squeak out a victory tonight (which is possible, given that the light turnout may skew towards his fundamentalist political base), Georgia Democrats can take a page from California Republicans and recycle some of Cagle's attack ads, which link Reed to "forced abortions and child prostitution" on Mariana Island through his efforts to block the implementation of U.S. labor and wage laws on the island, a U.S. territory. The ad goes for the throat, but Cagle may have waited too long to release it--he's spent most of the primary election season peppering the airwaves with typical soft biographical/values ads that lack any bite whatsoever. But with Cagle running neck-and-neck with the former front-runner Reed in the most recent polls, anything could happen today. However, an anemic Reed victory coupled with copying Cagle's script verbatim may seriously inject some life into the Democratic state-wide ticket in Georgia this year.

Posted at 11:37 AM in 2006 Elections - State, Georgia | Technorati

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Eh, I think you're too optimistic. Democrats don't stand a chance in Georgia. It's GEORGIA, for cryin' out loud! If Reed squeaks by with a victory, he will go on to become Georgia's lieutenant governor. For that reason, I hope Cagle wins. Both Cagle and Reed turn my stomach. But, better that Cagle get the office, since his national profile is lower.

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2006 02:53 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't think I'm being unreasonably optimistic. There are already numerous state-wide elected Democrats: Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, SoS Cathy Cox, Attorney General Thurbert Baker (who not only is a Democrat, but is also African-American) all come to mind. There are probably others, too.

Even if Georgia is tilting increasingly Republican, it's not out of reach to say that a conservative Democrat could beat Ralph Reed in November.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2006 03:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't care who wins the democratic nomination for Governor or Lieutenant-Governor, and while it would be great to see Ralph Reed slip into obscurity, I don't care if that happens in a GOP primary or in a November election. I will note that the entire GOP caucus in the state senate are on record as preferring Cagle. They care because in Georgia the Lt-Governor presides over the meetings of the senate, and they don't want that aging boy-tramp waving a gavel at them.

What I do care about is the Democratic nomination for Secretary of Education. Denise Majette lifted her face out of Zell Miller's butt long enough to file for the position, since (to her) any government paycheck is better than working for a living. She has no qualification whatsoever for that particular office, so far as I can discern, and she is running against an actual teacher for the nomination. Call me a cynic, but I suspect Majette wants to just tread water in that job while she waits for an opportunity to come around to run for higher office. I think Georgians deserve a Secretary of Education who knows something about education.

I also want to see George Corley Wallace III get beaten today in the Alabama run-off for Lt-Governor. He ought to be ashamed of himself, running for office as a Republican when both his momma and his poppa were Democrat governors. Bad governors, but still. Have some respect for the dead.

Posted by: Christopher Walker [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2006 04:46 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Christopher, I wasn't aware that Denise Majette was running for office again. She was a complete disaster in the Senate race in '04-- what was that nonsense about G-d telling her to run???-- and, in giving up her congressional seat, she opened the door for the odious, embarrassing, and anti-Semitic Cynthia McKinney to retake her old seat. (I have some friends who went to graduate school at Emory, so I've been filled in quite a bit on the happenings in Dekalb County, which, strangely enough, is pronounced "de-CAB," with the "l" being silent. But I digress.) Frankly, both McKinney and Majette are blemishes on the party. With Democrats like those, it's no wonder the party is nearly extinct in the south!

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2006 06:18 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It's Majette. With 76% of precincts reporting, she buried Harrell 2 to 1.

Sorry, I meant to bring the url from the Georgia Secretary of State's web page along over here and post it for confirmation, but I was careless.

Taylor won, if anyone cares. And so did Cagle.

I suppose Majette is an inevitability. Governor or Senator some day. It takes some doing to be a Democrat further to the Right than Zell Miller, but I've read that Majette told a radio interviewer that she had voted for Alan Keyes. I hope that's not true.

Further confirmation that pursuing the recovery of the South is not the best geographical strategy for the party. When we flip voters in the West, we get Democrats who are conservative, Western-style. They believe in individual freedom, government that minds its own business, and clean air and water. Conservatives in the South are not progressive on *any* issue. They drag the Party back to the stone age of Lester Maddox and Lurleen Wallace. I would rather see us concentrate on solidifying control of the NorthEast and the Atlantic Seaboard, and flip the SouthWest and Mountain states for the extra electoral college votes required. We don' have to re-justify the Voting Rights Act to Westerners. And extreme fundamentalist churches are not as strong in the West. Winning the South back puts DLC types in control of the Party for the rest of my lifetime. Winning the West instead brings along cultural values of fair play and get-the-government-out-of-our-bedrooms.

Posted by: Christopher Walker [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2006 11:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

There was another down ballot race that was noteworthy in Georgia today. My brother who lives in Ga. tipped me off about the race as I do not typically follow Secretary of State races in other states. And am even less likely to follow GOP primaries for said office.

I do know that the turnout was light statewide, except in Fulton Co., where there was a proposal to split Fulton Co. and recreate Milton Co. which was absorbed by Fulton 70ish years ago due to extreme poverty. Today it is a suburban area dominated by GOP leaning northerners who moved South for employment reasons and they do not like being dominated by the urban Fulton Co. voters. So that local issue helped drive the turnout in Fulton Co., which is where Karen HANDEL is from incidently

In the GOP primary there was a 4 way race but the real battle is Karen HANDEL v. Bill STEPHENS. Despite the fact the office has nothing at all to do with domestic partner benefits for homosexuals, STEPHENS launched a blistering media attack on HANDEL because she indicated she would support extending domestic partner benefits in a Fulton County race several years ago.

HANDEL & STEPHENS are going to a run-off. HANDEL lead the pack with 41% to STEPHENS 33%

I realize that commenting on GOP primary races is off-putting to some. But to know your enemy you have to observe your enemy and what I am seeing is a depressed evangelical vote in Ga. at this time. That has important implications for November in Georgia and I would urge people to never neglect a state. We need to fight them wherever a Democrat stands in opposition. Never surrender. Especially in a Dem leaning year like 2008 may be shaping up to be.

Ralph REED & William STEPHENS were the candidates of the Religious Right. One lost, the other is running uphill in a runoff election.

Tuesday the 18th of 2006 was therefore a good day.

Posted by: walja [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2006 02:09 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Very well-said, Christopher! I definitely agree with you that it's the west, not the south, that needs to be the main focus of the Democratic party, for exactly the reasons you stated.

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2006 01:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment