A GA GOP Runoff Post-Mortem

A GA GOP Runoff Post-Mortem

With Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp riding high after his huge victory over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in last month’s runoff, it is interesting to note data in all three of the GOP races. The turnout for governor was only a 4 percent decline from May (from about 607,000 to 585,000). I was thinking around 500,000-520,000 would return to the polls, but that turned out to be low. Obviously, a lot of folks– -no matter who they voted for in May— came back to the polls.

Kemp got about 251,000 more votes in the runoff than in May (about 406,000 on Tuesday and 155,000 in May). President Donald Trump, extremely popular with Georgia Republicans, no doubt delivered the knockout blow to the already-sputtering Cagle campaign with his official endorsement of Kemp.

The GOP lieutenant governor’s runoff ended up 50-50, with Geoff Duncan edging out David Shafer by some 1,700 votes. Regarding Shafer’s race, consider these astounding three-county metro Atlanta numbers (comparing his margin over Duncan in May versus July):

                May Margin        July Margin

COBB           +10,825          +1,676

FULTON       +8,530            +1,393

GWINNETT  +14,111          +4,511

Notice the Shafer meltdown in his home base of Gwinnett County. His margin over Duncan dropped by a whopping 9,600 votes (from 14,111 to 4,511). If the state senator had even won Gwinnett by half his May margin (about 7,000 votes), he would have won the runoff. Someone on Shafer’s campaign sure dropped the ball in Gwinnett, and perhaps give Duncan credit for not conceding the county in the campaign. And remember that Shafer was only 1.1 points short of a majority in May (48.9 percent). Can you recall a Georgia candidate who lost a runoff after leading by 22 points the first round?

The runoff also goes to show some endorsements are worth more than others. Trump one was big for Kemp, but Shafer’s hundreds of endorsements from previous and current officeholders (and lobbyists) made no difference. Voters these days aren’t easily swayed by endorsements, especially when there are few differences among candidates in a primary (ideologically, probably not much difference between Duncan and Shafer). This goes to show the preferences of the voters and the “Capitol insiders” are not always the same.

It is also noteworthy that the winner of the GOP secretary of state runoff, Brad Raffensperger, did not play up his two terms in the Georgia House in his well-done TV ads. He effectively played the role of the “outsider,” just like former state legislator Duncan did in his ads.

A footnote: State Rep. Paulette Rakestraw lost in House District 19 (eastern Paulding County) to lifelong Republican Joseph Gullett. That brings to nine the number of state legislators defeated in this year’s primary and runoffs.