Long story short from election night – there were few surprises.
The governor’s race turned about how it was expected. Casey Cagle held a comfortable lead in the polls throughout the race and carried it into a win on election night. He did not manage to avoid a runoff, coming in with 39%. Brian Kemp came in 2nd relatively easily with 26%. Kemp will continue his “politically incorrect” message in the runoff but neither candidate will be able to claim an outsider mantle.
As is so often the case in primaries, name ID may ultimately have been the biggest factor. Cagle and Kemp have both held statewide elected office for at least 8 years and have thus campaigned across the state multiple times. The Cagle campaign reportedly has some ads ready to roll against Kemp for the runoff. The social security numbers incident will undoubtedly get brought up. Kemp will try and garner the support of the base conservative voters and paint Cagle as too close to big business and “monied interests.”
An interesting trivia tidbit, should Cagle or Kemp win in November, they will be the first life-long Republicans to be elected governor. Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal were both originally Democrats before switching to the Republican party in the early 90s.
As for the other three candidates, it is likely that Clay Tippins hurt former state Sen. Hunter Hill pretty badly. Tippins trumped Hill’s outsider status and for those who highly value the experience of a veteran candidate, they likely split some of those votes as well. Their combined vote total would have been good for second place and a spot in the runoff.
Michael Williams, of Deportation Bus fame and the first Georgia legislator to endorse Donald Trump, didn’t break 5%. Running on the issues of Donald Trump, with some of the attitude of Trump, but without that 100% name ID, turned out to not be as popular with Georgia Republican primary voters. The old adage about Congress – everyone hates Congress, except for whoever their congressmen is – may also be applicable to Williams here. He was hitting other Georgia politicians like Trump hit his primary opponents, but Williams’ opponents had already received votes from some of those same voters. Cagle and Kemp etc. were their guys. Harder to paint them as evil elites.
Tharon Johnson covers Stacey Abrams’ big night HERE.
Speaker David Ralston (R-7 Blue Ridge) held off yet another primary challenge and widened the gap over previous challenges. As so many other leadership positions are flipped around the state, Ralston will keep his tight grip on the Speaker slot and be the elder statesman of the group.
Speaking of flipped leadership spots, a wild race in Senate District 41, home of Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson (D- Stone Mountain). As of midnight, with 94% reporting, Henson was down 29 votes to challenger and semi-celebrity Sabrina McKenzie. Should Henson ultimately lose, it will be a big blow to the Democrat caucus in the legislature. Henson has been a steady hand and is well-respected by his colleagues. A leadership election will be triggered and then there’s yet another fight at the Gold Dome.
Two months to go for the runoff and then the real fun begins.