Run-offs…  oh, run-offs…  how we hate them, right?

Every year when run-offs come around in Georgia I hear several people asking why we engage in this 50% + 1 nonsense.  Run-off elections have a different voter turn out than primary elections simply because voter turn out is more difficult.  On July 31st, the T-SPLOST was on the ballot and everybody had an opinion…  on August 21st that motivator isn’t there, so campaigns and candidates have to work twenty times as hard to get people to come out to vote.  On July 31st they came to vote for or against T-SPLOST and in the process much of the electorate said “Oh, I’ve seen that candidates signs” or they voted for the incumbent, or they voted top of the ballot…  and in a few cases they really cared about who their State Senator or State Representative was.

This year in Cobb County, ole’ Bill Bryne will still have a chance to be Chairman of the Cobb County Commission despite falling more than 10 points short of current Commission Chairman Tim Lee…  down in Macon, Miriam Paris and David Lucas continue their longer than year long struggle for Robert Brown’s old seat in the State Senate.  Of course, District 92 that started with a 5-way primary and has now narrowed down to the final two, and if you’re in District 92, I’d recommend you vote for my friend Dr. Doreen Williams.

In these three races, as with any run-off…  the candidate that comes in first thinks they should have won out right for winning the most votes on election day, whereas the candidate in second place thinks voters deserve a last chance to choose between the top two candidates instead of a crowded ballot.  Of course, as mentioned earlier, run-offs normally involve a more educated electorate, which means the campaign with the best GOTV strategy is likely the campaign to win…  be that a good or bad thing.

But run offs…  for as much hair pulling as they cause…  can sometimes avoid disaster as well.  Unlike our friends in Tennessee, who simply lets whoever comes out on top get the victory.  This is where we come to Mark Clayton.

Who is Mark Clayton?  He’s this years Alvin Greene and the guy that was lucky enough to be first on the ballot in the Tennessee Democratic primary for US Senate in a race where most people had no clue who the candidates were.  And now… he’s the Democratic nominee for US Senate from the state of Tennessee.  I don’t know why people tend to vote first on the ballot, but you all know the old rule, you either want to be first on the ballot or the longest name on the ballot.

With less than 30% of the vote, and a total of 7 candidates on the ballot, Mark Clayton is a lucky man.

The Democratic Party of Tennessee has disavowed their candidate and recommended that people voting in November write-in the candidate of their choice.  This in turn has meant Mark Clayton called for the state chair to resign…  and I’m sure has caused many afternoons of laugh sessions at Bob Corker’s office and the Republican Party of Tennessee just so they don’t burst with the craziness of this situation.

In 2010, we had a Senate candidate in South Carolina nobody knew that embarrassed the party and got crushed…  it seems we’ll have the same happen in Tennessee…  maybe the Georgia strategy of just not running anybody for certain state wide offices isn’t that bad after all.  (Two state-wide PSC seats are up for election this year, Democrats are only opposing one…  leaving the second to be the Republican incumbent vs. a Libertarian challenger, which is the same scenario that happened in 2008.)

So run-offs…  while not exactly my favorite thing in the world, can sometimes be useful…  and I bet our friends in Tennessee wish they had an opportunity to vote in a run-off next week instead of being saddled with Mark Clayton as the banner carrier for their state party in 2012.


2 Responses to Why Run-Offs Aren’t ALWAYS a Bad Thing

  1. JMPrince says:

    Thanks Juliana for that helpful reminder. I attempted to do that for our folks up here, but forgot a few clauses. I’ll try again for clarity.
    And Trevor & Steve have in their inboxes the Bartow results from the last 2 generals. That took about a week to obtain too.
    Good to see everyone out in Columbus, despite the now usual sturm und drang. I want the next general resolution to be a reinstatement of this, perhaps even in Decatur in his honor:


  2. Juliana says:

    Here are the GA Election Code rules. I’ve seen conflicting information circulating in emails. This is copy/pasted from Cobb County Election Board.

    The following are common inquiries concerning the next Runoff Election.

    Q. If I select a particular party for the Primary, may I switch to the other party for the Runoff?
    A. No. When you choose a party during a primary, you may participate in only that party’s runoff. You may not switch parties for the runoff.
    Q. If I didn’t vote in the Primary, may I vote in the Runoff?
    A. Yes. If you didn’t vote in the Primary, you have not yet selected a party preference and may select either party in the Runoff.
    Q. If I selected only the nonpartisan Election on July 31st, may I select one of the parties for the Runoff?
    A. Yes. If you voted Nonpartisan on July 31st, you have not yet selected a party preference. This means that you are eligible to participate in either party’s primary runoff.