Election 2022 is behind us – almost. (Yes, Georgia, Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker will be joining you for Thanksgiving.)
What can we learn about Georgia, the nation, and their respective political climates after last night’s fracas?
Let’s take a look.
Ten months ago, former Senator David Perdue announced his campaign for governor, saying, “Look I like Brian; this isn’t personal. It’s simple: he has failed all of us and cannot win in November.” Soon after, some Georgia politicos began wondering, ‘Will Brian Kemp even be on the ballot in November, much less win a second term?’ Perhaps, some wondered, the primary challenge alone will weaken him and allow Stacey Abrams to win their eventual rematch.
Simply put, the reports of Governor Brian Kemp’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Governor Kemp (R) handily defeated Stacey Abrams (D) last night by a staggering 7.5-point margin with 53.4 percent of the vote compared to Stacey’s 45.9 percent.
The governor’s solid victory sends a message to political observers across the country. Governor Kemp took the brunt of Democratic criticism for reopening the state during the pandemic and former President Trump’s anger for not siding with him on allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. Nationally, Democrats thought Stacey Abrams would be able to capitalize on their victories in the state in 2022 and finally return a Democrat to the Governor’s Office. In one interview, she even discussed new artwork in the Governor’s mansion. Instead, Governor Kemp stuck by his political gut, learned from his party’s mistakes in 2018 and 2020, and won his reelection race by a sizeable margin. By focusing on the state’s business accomplishments over the past four years compared to the rest of the country, the governor not only unified Georgia Republicans but also attracted voters who previously voted for his opponent.
The governor will now prepare for his second term in office with a mandate from the voters. Instead of skating by, as he did in 2018, the governor will enter this term with enhanced political influence aided by a new Republican Lt. Governor and General Assembly that rode his coattails to victory.
Lt. Governor Election
Republican State Senator Burt Jones also handily defeated Democrat Charlie Bailey. Jones was the only of Trump’s slate of Georgia candidates to win outright last night and may serve as a standard bearer for that side of the party as we head toward the 2024 Presidential Primary. Charlie Bailey, for his part, could never gain momentum with his attacks on Jones’ connection to Trump, despite the former president’s relative unpopularity with the general electorate.
The Georgia Republican Senate Caucus will soon hold private meetings to discuss how much power to give now Lt. Governor-elect Jones in the Senate Rules. As a Republican with a background in the chamber and the exodus of many of his Senate rivals, Jones will likely retain the same power given to current Lt. Governor Duncan.
Secretary of State Race
After he refused to assist Donald Trump and his team with their claims of voter fraud, many left Secretary Raffensperger’s political career for dead. Instead, Raffensperger won last night’s election by the most significant margin of any state executive. Raffensperger (R) defeated Democrat Bee Nguyen by 9.3 points, solidifying his position as the state politician with the greatest bi-partisan following.
Attorney General Race
The Attorney General’s race pitted two rising stars in their respective parties against each other. Republican Attorney General Chris Carr defeated Democrat State Senator Jen Jordan, as of the time of this writing, by 5.3 points. Look for both of these individuals to emerge in future political races.
Georgia General Assembly
In State House Races, major news organizations so far have called 96 races in favor of the Republicans and 75 in favor of the Democrats. As is the case in local races, as the dust continues to settle, more races will be called, and the shape of the Georgia General Assembly will round into view. Look for Republicans in the House to wind up with between 101 to 103 seats.
Among the House races being most closely watched, both Scott Hilton (R) and Deborah Silcox (R) look poised to return to the State House after losing their seats in 2018 and 2020, respectively. House District 117 is the closest race yet-to-be-called. As of this writing, Republican Lauren Daniel holds a 341-vote or 1.3-point lead over her Democratic opponent, Demetrius Rucker. The district, split between Henry and Spalding County, is a new district on the frontlines of Georgia’s changing political landscape. In contrast, in Buckhead and Sandy Springs Democrats won several hotly contested races including reelecting Betsy Holland and Shea Roberts and electing, for the first time, Esther Panitch.
In the State Senate, Democrats gained a net pickup of 1 seat, bringing Republican’s total to 33 seats, a 4-seat majority. In Senate District 14, State Rep. Josh McLaurin (D) defeated Republican Liz Hausmann in a competitive race between two well-respected public servants. McLaurin, who has made a name for himself in the State House, will now move across the Gold Dome to the “upper chamber.”
Despite last night’s results, the most important state legislative news came the week before the election as long-time and highly admired Speaker of the House David Ralston (R) announced he will not seek the position again in January due to health reasons. Ralston has been a giant in Georgia politics for this century, guiding the state through challenging weather with confidence and ease. Even Democrats have sung his praises; Abrams said about his retirement, “I think it’s going to be hard to fill his shoes.”
Republicans will caucus at the end of this week and hold their interparty election on November 14th. That individual will be formally elected on the 2nd Monday of January when the Georgia General Assembly begins its new session. Late Tuesday afternoon, reports indicated that three major potential candidates came to an agreement to back Rep. Jon Burns (R), a well-respected establishment Republican from the Savannah area. Burns has previously served as the House Majority Leader since 2015. Burns is not guaranteed to win, as other Republicans have suggested they may run for the office.
U.S. Senatorial Race
During this Thanksgiving through the beginning of the Holiday Season, we will see Senator Warnock’s (D) and Herschel Walker’s (R) faces spread across our TV while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and in the middle of those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. Last night, Georgia voters could not reach a consensus on who they’d like to represent them in the U.S. Senate, setting up a sure-to-be-expensive runoff on December 6th. Nationally, Republicans had an underwhelming night compared to expectations and have yet to break the Senate’s 50-50 tie. Ultimately, Republicans could pick up seats in Nevada and maybe even Arizona despite dropping a seat in Pennsylvania. At this point it looks like Georgia may host a December runoff to decide control of the U.S. Senate.
With control of the Senate on the line, the upcoming runoff between Senator Warnock and Walker will feature widespread national attention and out-of-control political spending as both parties attempt to extend Halloween for six more weeks by scaring voters into the alleged horrors of the other party being in power. Georgians will be familiar with this role as they played the lynchpin back in 2021, ultimately giving Democrats 50 seats and control through the Vice-President’s tiebreaking ability.
For Georgia Republicans this will be an opportunity to solidify their party’s gains. For Democrats, there is the hope that by re-electing Senator Warnock and continuing their control of both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, the party will keep at least a toehold in Georgia despite being shut out under the Gold Dome.
In Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, the only competitive congressional election in the state, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) decisively defeated Republican Young Gun Chris West, a local attorney, and developer, by 10 points. West attempted to pull off a major upset after redistricting gave the district a bit of a red hue but could not convince voters he was a better option than their long-time representative.
Bishop will return to Congress alongside all incumbents on the November ballot and newcomers Rich McCormick (District 6) and Mike Collins (District 10).
The Congressional Delegation is as follows: Rep. Buddy Carter (R) (District 1); Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) (District 2); Rep. Drew Ferguson (R) (District 3); Rep. Hank Johnson (D) (District 4); Rep. Nikema Williams (D) (District 5); Rich McCormick (R) (District 6); Rep. Lucy McBath (D) (District 7); Rep. Austin Scott (R) (District 8) Rep. Andrew Clyde (R) (District 9); Mike Collins (R) (District 10); Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R) (District 11); Rep. Rick Allen (R) (District 12); Rep. David Scott (D) (District 13); and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (District 14).