Last night’s elections, nationally, were absolutely incredible for Democrats.  President Obama won a decisive victory, and Democrats netted an increase of two Senate seats, and took back some House seats from Tea Party extremists.

But here in Georgia, the elections were depressing, at best.  Republicans took a supermajority in both the State House & State Senate (assuming, as we should, that Rusty Kidd will relinquish his thinly-veiled Independence), allowing them to theoretically pass any Constitutional Amendment without putting it on the ballot for a popular vote.

So now the big question: Will they?

We Democrats are sort of in a conundrum.  While we all hope and pray that Constitutional Amendments like a Mississippi-style abortion statute never cross into Georgia, there is an argument to be made that Georgia Republicans could blow the electorate’s goodwill much more quickly by doing so, giving Democrats a quicker path back into power.

Yesterday, Georgia Republicans hardly received the mandate for which they hoped.  They designed the districts of incumbent Representatives Pedro Marin and Scott Holcomb to be taken over by Republicans, but they failed.  A new open seat in Paulding and Douglas counties was designed to be won by a Republican, but Democrat Kim Alexander prevailed.  The Republicans have the exact number they need for a supermajority in both houses, no more, no less.  One wrong move, and they could lose it.

And, by my count, there are plenty of places where such wrong moves could be made.  Sen. Doug Stoner was barely edged out by Hunter Hill, who ran his entire race on the premise that he was a moderate Republican who would not be a blind follower of the Republican leadership.  He would be vulnerable if he decided to vote for, say, a restrictive abortion bill, because that would destroy any air of moderation he has attempted to put on.

But Senate District 6 is not alone.  Perennial candidate Bill Bolton lost by a little less than 4,000 votes in a moderate Marietta district, formerly held by Democrat Pat Dooley.  Valerie Clark defeated Timothy Swiney 56-44% in HD 101, in a race that I heard of very little organized campaign on the part of the Democrat.  Ditto HD 111, where Democrat Bill Blackmon was bested by Brian Strickland 53-47%.  Renita Hamilton lost by less than 3% to Joyce Chandler in HD 105.  Mike Cheokas eked out a win against Kevin Brown, winning by just over 1% (admittedly in a district designed to be won by a Democrat).  Heck, Quentin T. Howell got over 46% against “Independent” Rusty Kidd.  And, worst of all, if Gerald Greene had a Democratic challenger, Greene would likely have lost, because his district, too, was a Democratic vote sink.

Fear not, as I will be spending my Winter Break from law school analyzing all of these numbers, but these base numbers paint a very simple picture: The Republicans do not have a strong hold on their supermajority.

Over the next two years, the Georgia GOP could very easily pass some absolutely deplorable and insane laws.  And they very well may.  But doing so could be extremely dangerous for them, and the balance of power they hope to maintain.

But that’s not the end of the story, fellow Democrats.

Now is not the time to rest (okay, it’s sort of the time to rest, because most of us worked extremely hard over the past few months and years).  But, in another sense, our minds can never be resting.  Above, I cited a bunch of races that, by all stretches of the imagination, we could have won.  I cannot honestly say I know the ins and outs of each of those races, but there are a number of possible explanations for our failures to win at least some of those seats.

  • In at least one instance, Democrats failed to even field a credible candidate (to run against Gerald Greene).  Yes, I know, someone declared to run, but was ruled ineligible, but to me at least, this should have been fully vetted in advance, to ensure that we had a good person and faithful Democrat to represent that district.  On that point, we failed.
  • In other races, perhaps we did not field the best candidate possible.  Note that I have no particular individual in mind; of the above Democrats I mentioned I have only met Mr. Bolton and Mr. Howell.  But perhaps that’s the problem in and of itself.  I consider myself (and many other Democrats I have talked to as well) “insiders,” to whatever extent that word matters, and we tend to hear through grapevines at least glimpses of most Democratic candidates for office, for better or for worse.  Perhaps this year many of us were insular, but perhaps not.  I don’t know.  But the point is that we might not be fielding the best candidates in competitive districts.
  • Many of these candidates had no infrastructure, campaign to speak of, money, or support.  The faults, there, should be self-explanatory.

We need to fix these problems, quickly.  This is going to involve organizational and institutional change.  I know I will be pushing for such change from whatever position I hold, because the status quo is unacceptable.  If we are going to push back in 2014 against the inevitable Republican insanity over the next two years, we’ll need a hell of a change.


14 Responses to How Georgia Republicans Could Blow It, Quickly

  1. Tim says:

    Ire, love ya, but I have this to say as used previously by one General Clement….”Nuts”
    The dems can win back a number of seats, they will have to recruit a different breed of candidate. one who doesn’t mind going door to door often, one who will actually get on the darn phone and fundraise, and one who can somewhat intelligently speak about issues concerning our communities.
    A focused message party-wide by its leaders on solutions to common problems.
    A state party committment to down-ballot races such as mayors, city council, school boards.
    These coupled with an actual field and social media strategy coordinated between the two Caucuses and the State Party over the next 10 years would get us from bottom of the barrel now to a fighting chance at statewide seats in less than 10 years.

    Is it difficult? No
    Is it feasible? Yes
    Is it sustainable? Yes
    Is it likely given the current leadership of the party (state house caucus, state senate caucus, congressional delegation, state party chairs & vice-chairs)? Probably not.
    I say probably because some of the above are definitely willing and some are absolutely not. Note, that the above plan doesn’t work without everyone pitching in and doing it.

    As long as these things above don’t happen we are relegated to outside groups working in conjunction with one of the party players occassionaly scoring a rare win (see Macon DA referenced above), or to an exceptional candidate running in the right district at the right time (ala Kimberly Alexander & Scott Holcomb) but no across the board gains or any statewide seats.

    And yes, 2016 will not be successful for any D running for any statewide seat barring some major scandal in the state GOP current office-holders, and by major, I mean MAJOR, not some half-baked investment that went wrong (no one gives a s*^t about Okie Woods or a failed north GA motel), as long as our party remains unfocused and separated.

    It will either take an epiphany among the party leaders (not likely) who are resistant to any hard work and they actually start working with those who are already attempting to do this work (like Abrams) or a statewide candidate that has maximum star power and wields both grassroots support AND party backing AND major financial ties (not sure even Reed could pull all that and he’s close with the POTUS).

    Sigh, ok my rant is done. Back to work.

    • Tim says:

      Argh, 2016 above should have said 2014. Although 2016 is the same case, 2014 is much more true.

      • Jules says:

        2014 Paper candidates only-oh and Michael Thurmond, who will probably do whatever the hell he wants to anyway.

    • Brandon T says:

      The problem for 2014 is infrastructure. And whomever is considering running for these positions should be gearing up now. I hear crickets…

      Honestly, we don’t have to be reliant on having an organized “party” structure to win. My problem (again) is folks running over and over and getting the same results. We have to recruit good candidates to run for seats that are winnable. But also provide them with the tools and training they need to win. I constantly see candidates focusing on the wrong things on campaigns. Hire folks to help who know how to win and trust them. You don’t hire a plumber to do your dental work, why would you hire someone to run your campaign who has no experience or a day job.

      I also hear the argument that hiring consultants is too expensive. Frankly, that isnt true. For Dark Horse, we price based on the race and the overall budget goal vs. what are the campaign’s needs. I get so frustrated looking at disclosures and seeing campaigns spend like 40-60% on staff. The money you raise should be spent on communicating with voters. Not surrounding yourself with staff and “yes” men (where does that sound familiar).

      • Steve says:

        I mean, obviously. Like I said, there are some great consultants, some hack consultants, and some complete and total scammers. We need more folks willing to take on the task, but they need training and what not.

    • Brandon T says:

      Also, I’m wondering if I should be offended by the “rare win” comment. I won all my races this year and all but one last year


      • Tim Cairl says:

        lol, Brandon, you should feel better that you are behind the rare wins 🙂 well not all, but some. ;-P

  2. JMPrince says:

    Yep. “They’ve got us surrounded again, those poor bastards.” (Maj. Gen. ‘Abe’ Abrams) JMP

  3. Brandon T says:

    I agree with a lot of this. But we did have one BIG win last night in Georgia. David Cooke was successful in his bid to unseat Republican DA Greg Winters by 10%.

    We need to focus on building that bench throughout Georgia so we can actually take advantage of these changing demographics. I see around 8-15 seats we could win now. But we have to run good campaigns with good candidates. I see some of the same names over and over again, and while I appreciate their willingness to run, they dont do anything different election after election expecting to get different results. Pretty sure that is the definition of insanity.

    I cant tell you how many of these close challenger races raised ZERO (or very close to it) campaign cash. I’m sure I am biased as a fundraiser, but it does cost money to communicate with voters.

    • Steve says:

      With regards to Mr. Cooke, that was a big win, but a non-starter when it really comes to policy formation in Georgia (full disclosure: as a law student, I don’t believe DA races should be partisan).

      Your second paragraph really is the crux of it. As someone who also is experienced in working on and running campaigns, I am all too familiar with “first time candidate syndrome.” The problem is when that syndrome carries over into a second or subsequent race.

      Fear not, this is not the last of my thoughts on the subject. I’ve seen quite a bit, and I have many ideas. But building a bench (or even identifying a bench) is step 0.

  4. ire says:

    shorter version: if you’re not an incumbent democrat you’re not winning.

    You also don’t mention a truly excellent map drawn by Republicans which is going to make it nearly impossible to win back the legislature for 10 years (just look to FL where dems out number Republicans yet IIRC, GOP has near-supermajorities in both chambers). lets say we field a strong candidates in 2014 for senate and governor, their probably going against incumbents making the task even harder. Also citing six races where there were still pretty large defeats for Democrats doesn’t particularly engender much hope.

    Let’s not forget Democratic candidates/campaigns poise the question of where opponents “stand on rape”.

    Just saying there are reasons to be optimistic but a Democratic takeover is likely not imminent.

    • Steve says:

      And I’m not arguing an imminent Democratic takeover. I am, however, arguing that the Republican supermajority should be tenuous at best. In fact, there never should have been a Republican supermajority this year if there was some basic competence from some individuals.

      And, ire, the defeats were not that large. In fact, some of them were absolutely tiny. If we would have won even ONE of the Cheokas/Brown or Hamilton/Chandler, there would be no Republican supermajority.

      But, in reality, that’s not the point. My main point is the second part of the argument I posited, about the need for leadership and coordination.

  5. Tim Cairl says:

    It’s more telling that I got asked only a couple of times to volunteer for local state/senate candidates and I was everywhere this season, that includes in my email inbox.

    Just a few hundred calls into Renita’s or a thousand or so calls into Stoner’s district, some help with visibility, anything….

    I got asked by Simone Bell to volunteer with the House Caucus, Sen. Stoner asked at a fundraiser I attended. No state party emails, nothing….
    Sadness, lack of pre-planning, lack of vision, lack of leadership.

    Thank God for Rep. Abrams, Rep. Bell, Ann and the few tireless others who worked their asses off while other leaders did…who knows what…otherwise we’d be in worse shape than we are now.

    Bitter? No.
    Extremely disappointed? Yes.
    Going to stay quiet about it? No.

    • BEZERKO says:

      I think maybe Stacey Abrams should run for Gov. We should recruit candidates with a liberal legislative agenda; a bill that provides a voter advocate to be present at every precinct to council voters who are rejected for whatever reason, election day registration, instant runoff voting, extend early voting to at least ’08 standard, or whatever else would encourage people to vote and run it under the heading of something like “restoring democracy.” “We believe in making it easier for you to vote, they want to make it harder for you to vote.” Maybe bills making it easier for workers to unionize, repealing “right to work” laws. Transit for all, healthy foods, ethical business and state government reform. An initiative to partner with Research Triangle N.C. to develop technology, investing in chip manufacturing and microprocessor manufacturing, talk about a national security issue! Failure to get back in that game, will hurt, if not make it impossible to get back into consumer electronics. Just spit balling here, but we take this legislative agenda and couple it with a cognitive strategy and a communications strategy to tell Georgia that if you put us in the majority, we will pass these bills into law. Pick a number of unregistered Georgia citizens, half a million, one million, and work with a coalition of unions, AFLCIO, Teamsters, CWA, and so on to register that many voters with the agreement that the Democratic caucus, or a progressive caucus will do everything in their power, maybe even make it the number one priority, to repeal Right to work laws in Ga. The ultimate goal should be to achieve presidential year election Democratic turnout numbers in the non-presidential election of 2014. What the hell, we suck you know, shoot for the moon!