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.