Georgia Election Review 2020

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Introduction

In the aftermath of the 2020 election one thing is clear: Georgia is a swing state. Ever since Stacey Abrams came within 55,000 votes of pulling off the first statewide Democratic victory in Georgia since Zell Miller’s Senate election in 2000, Democrats in Georgia have been calling for further national party investment in the Peach State. The argument, appears vindicated on Friday morning with Vice President Joe Biden holding a narrow lead in the state by just over 1,500 votes, after several Atlanta counties finished absentee ballots. What’s more, the control of the United States Senate lies in the hands of Georgia voters as two US Senate seats appear headed toward January runoffs.

After three days of dominating the headspace of pundits and political junkies alike, Georgia is poised to remain the center of the political universe for the next two months.

United States Presidential

Source: New York Times

Joe Biden holds a lead of 1,579 votes as of 10:10am on Friday November 6th. Former Vice President Biden overtook President Trump thanks to an unprecedented large number of absentee mail ballots in Democratic strongholds such as Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Chatham Counties. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday, the number of outstanding votes varied causing a wide range of predictions of who would win the state. But as the counts trickled in Vice President Biden consistently inched closer winning 80-90 percent of absentee mail ballots in Democratic counties and even squeaking out absentee ballot victories in many deep red counties.

The counting of ballots was slow but steady. On Wednesday morning, with 93 percent of the vote accounted for President Trump led by about 117,000 votes. By Wednesday night the lead had shrunk to just 28,827 votes with 95 percent of the vote counted. From Wednesday night to Thursday morning the lead shrunk further as Fulton County absentee votes continued to be counted. By 11am on Thursday President Trump’s lead was just 18,146 votes shrinking to 14,000 by 2pm. By midafternoon Thursday Vice President Biden needed about 63 percent of outstanding votes to overtake the President.

As Thursday wore on Fulton County finalized its vote at which point the President’s lead shrunk to just 1,902 with the majority of outstanding votes in Clayton and Gwinnett’s Counties, two heavily Democratic counties south of Atlanta. Clayton County counted through the night and as a result by 3:40am on Friday morning President Trump’s lead was just 463 votes. Finally, at around 5:30am on Friday morning, Clayton County’s latest results pushed Joe Biden into the lead with a 917 vote advantage.

The race will remain in flux until provisional, military and cured ballots are tabulated and even then it will likely go to a re-count. If the results hold, Joe Biden is on track to be the first Democratic Presidential candidate to carry the Peach State since Bill Clinton in 1992.

United States Senate

Both United States Senate races will be decided on January 5, and more likely than not, decide which party controls the United States Senate. Incumbent Senator David Perdue, as of this writing, holds a two percentage point lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff. However, Senator Perdue is below the fifty percent threshold at 49.8 percent. State law requires any race where neither candidate receives over 50% go to a run-off. Like President Trump, Senator Perdue was holding a 50 percent plus one lead for much of the race before losing ground as metro absentee ballots were counted. Nevertheless, he goes into the runoff with a slight lead in the votes.

Source: New York Times

The second Senate race in Georgia, a special election to replace longtime Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson will also head to a runoff, as expected. Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic front runner received 32.9 percent of the vote and will face Incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler who received 26 percent of the vote. Loeffler, who was appointed by Governor Kemp upon Senator Isakson’s retirement, bested fellow Republican Doug Collins after a bruising campaign for loyal Republican voters, while Reverend Warnock was able to consolidate much of the Georgia and National Democratic establishment behind him.  

The fact that the outcome of the two US Senate elections may decide the fate of the United States Senate guarantees not only intense campaigning but also a flood of money from all around the country.

United States House

Both of Georgia’s competitive United States House races were won by the Democratic candidates. Incumbent Democratic Representative Lucy McBath beat Karen Handel handily in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The 6th District, former home to United States House Speaker Newt Gingrich, continues its trend towards Democrats.

In Georgia’s 7th Congressional District Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux beat Republican Rich McCormick. Bourdeaux narrowly lost to formerly Congressman Rob Woodall in 2018 who declined to run for reelection.

Georgia Public Service Commission

With a few thousand ballots outstanding statewide, two seats on the Public Service Commission could also be headed for a runoff. Incumbent Commissioner for District 1 Jason Shaw currently has a four percentage point lead over challenger Robert Bryant but is sitting at exactly fifty percent of the vote. Similarly, Incumbent District 4 Commissioner Lauren McDonald is at fifty percent against challenger Daniel Blackman. As the final votes are tallied we will know whether we can add to PSC races or a separate state runoff on December 1.

Georgia State Legislature

While Democrats made serious enrodes into Georgia in the presidential and congressional levels, their efforts under the Gold Dome were less successful. With redistricting on the horizon, Democrats were optimistic about their chances to flip the State House and make incremental gains in the State Senate. In reality, the strength of down ballot Republicans largely prevailed.

In the House, as of this writing three incumbent Republicans are on track to lose as well as one incumbent Democrat, a net gain of two seats for Democrats. Accordingly, Republicans will maintain a majority 103 to 77. The Democratic incumbent who appears to have lost, is the current House Minority Leader, Bob Trammel. Therefore, there will be a race for Democratic caucus leadership in the near future. On the Republican side current Speaker, David Ralston will likely be re-elected, but he may face a challenge from the right wing of his party.

Democrats picked up two Senate seats with Democrat Nikki Merritt beating incumbent Republican PK Martin in the 9th District and Democrat Michelle Au filling the vacant seat in the 48th District. Republicans maintain a strong majority in the Senate 34 to 22.

Gwinnett County Commission

Democrats swept the three County Commission elections in Gwinnett County, a rapidly diversifying suburb of Atlanta. Democrat Kirkland Carden bested Republican Laurie McClain by about 10,000 votes for the District 1 seat while Democrat Jasper Watkins III beat Republican Ben Archer by about 22,000 votes for the District 3 seat. Additionally, the County Commission will be led by Democrat Nicole Love Hendrickson after handily defeating Republican David Post for Commission Chair.

The new Sheriff and District Attorney are also Democrats.

Cobb County Commission

In addition to taking control of Gwinnet County government, Democrats had an equally productive election cycle in Cobb County, a formerly Republican stronghold. Democrat Lisa Cupid beat Incumbent Republican County Chairman Mike Boyce by about 20,000 votes. The District 2 race was, and remains, much closer. At present Democrat Jerica Richardson is leading Republican Fitz Johnson by about 400 votes. While that is unlikely to change there are still outstanding votes. Monique Sheffield won the Democratic Primary and was unopposed for the District 4 seat. In all likelihood, the Cobb Commission will have 3 Democratic Commissioners and 2 Republican Commissioners.

Cobb will also have a new Democrat Sheriff and District Attorney.

Conclusion

The apparent narrow victory by Vice President Biden at the top of the ticket has Georgia Democrats smiling and down ballot State House races give Republicans some solace. Both parties, however, have little time to ponder the election’s meaning in the short run with high profile runoffs cranking up immediately and the first campaign runoff ads already airing.