“Begin” may not be the right word for it but now that the legislature is over, for the next frantic month and a half, all eyes turn to the primaries ahead of general elections this fall. A couple of the gubernatorial candidates were active participants in that legislature, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Senator Michael Williams (R-27 Cumming), and another, Hunter Hill, resigned his seat to focus on the campaign. One of them, Brian Kemp, holds the office of Secretary of State which will certainly remain busy the rest of the year.
On Saturday, these candidates – and several others – met for a debate in Flowery Branch sponsored by the 9th District GOP. Buckhead businessman Clay Tippins – who has already earned the support of state Representative Allen Peake (R-141 Macon) – was on the stage. Also joining them were less well-known candidates Eddie Hayes and Marc Urbach.
There were few surprises policy-wise. Many of the candidates discussed GOP staples of-late – illegal immigration, taxes and religious liberty. Plenty of barbs were directed at Cagle – particularly from Williams who derided the Lieutenant Governor and other Republicans as “mealy-mouthed” and soft on a number of issues.
Kemp pledged again to impose a spending cap if elected and Cagle proposed a zero-based budgeting system that would require agencies to come back to the table every year to justify their spending. Hill again discussed his plan to eliminate the state income tax – which he said he would pay for by cutting spending on “welfare, food stamps, the higher education bureaucracy, Medicaid reform.”
Straw polls are often derided for their inaccuracy but the 9th district debate poll perhaps offers some insights that can be instructive. This was an online straw poll that could be spread around via social media and so it’s reliability is, less than desirable, but considering the results, will be interesting to look back on in late May. Fitting other current polling in the race, Cagle pulled off the win with 40% and Brian Kemp received 22%.
The surprising results came in the third place showing – whether it will matter or not who comes in third in a late March straw poll remains to be seen. It could be illustrative of some gaining momentum or it could simply represent a reshuffling of third place – which would ultimately not mean anything at all, only the top two advance to a runoff should no one receive a majority.
Clay Tippins was the third place winner this time. Tippins received 15% of the vote and Hill came in at 12%. Williams received 9%, Hayes and Urbach received a handful of votes but could not break 1%.
Tippins, Hill and Williams are all playing the “outsider” card but, on some level at least, only Tippins is able to claim the true mantle. Williams is running on his claim as the first Donald Trump supporter. Trump had the advantage of 100% name ID and a popular reality television show – Williams is in his first term as a Georgia senator.
Time is running shorter for the third place candidates to make a move to at least pass Brian Kemp to make it into a runoff. Expect some fireworks in the next month.