This is the first of a two-part series on the Republican primary in Georgia. This state is split into a two part treatment because the resignation of Saxby Chambliss has created a domino effect where three sitting congressmen are vying to be the Republican candidate for his seat thus creating three open Republican-held seats in the House out of Georgia in addition to the other district races. Additionally, there is an important gubernatorial election. Therefore, a two-part treatment will do these important primary elections better justice. This entry will deal with the House primary battles and the second part will address the gubernatorial and Senate races. Proceeding numerically through the districts where there are two Republicans in the primary mix:
The Cook Political Report rates the 1st District +9 Republican as do I. Jack Kingston is vacating the seat to run for the Senate. First elected in 1993, he was the first Republican to hold the seat since 1874. Six Republicans are running in the primary- two of them named “Carter.” If fundraising is any indication, then Buddy Carter is your man and may very well be at the end of the day. However, right behind him is venture capitalist and former Gingrich aid John McCallum who is largely self-financed. Personally, this writer believes it will come down to these two candidates who will then have to go into a runoff on July 22nd. By that time, the Democrats will likely have settled on Lesli Messinger who ran against Kingston in 2012 and garnered only 37% of the vote. Although there may be the temptation to run one of the Carters in this district for the GOP, this writer believes that the best fit is John McCallum given his resume and platform to date. Additionally, he has the financial resources to go the distance.
The 2nd District is held by Democrat Sanford Bishop and is rated +6 Democratic by Cook. This rating puts the district on the cusp of vulnerability for the Democrats. Greg Duke will face Vivian Childs in the primary. Should this be a GOP wave year, Bishop becomes more vulnerable against a viable candidate and that candidate is probably Greg Duke. Therefore, that is where the endorsement lies, although having a black female conservative candidate is tempting.
In the Third District, businessman Chip Flanegan is running against one of the most conservative members of Congress- Lynn Westmoreland. This is a very strong GOP district located in the heart of Georgia centered in Macon. Trying to portray Westmoreland as “entrenched” would be ridiculous since he has been there only since 2007. Therefore, Flanegan is left to attack Westmoreland over NSA spying on Americans. Simply, there is no need for change here and this writer supports Lynn Westmoreland. Meanwhile in the 9th district, this writer sees no need to change course and endorse Bernie Fontaine and therefore endorses incumbent Doug Collins in one of the most Republican districts in Georgia and the country.
The northeastern Tenth District is being vacated by Paul Broun and is centered in the college town of Athens (which has given us some pretty good bands if one leaves their politics aside). Seven Republicans have entered the race all but ensuring a runoff later in the year. In terms of fundraising, most candidates have shown moxy in this area with state representative Donna Sheldon leading the way while Mike Collins, the son of former congressman Mac Collins, is largely self-financed. Most pundits rate Collins the frontrunner here. However, one should not overlook the candidacy of pastor Jody Hice. With the Democrats likely to run activist Ken Dious, he is too liberal for this district college or no college. Cook has this district at +14 Republican. I have it considerably lower. The candidate with the most detailed plan- S. Mitchell Swan- seems to be an also-ran. After reading their positions on the issues, this writer supports the candidacy of Jody Hice to succeed Paul Broun. I believe he would be the best fit for this district for years to come. Note: some may disagree and support ex-Columbia County GOP executive and Tea Party activist Brian Slowinski. However, I again rely on my ranking- not those of Cook- when determining these “endorsements.”
The 11th District lies along the Alabama border and stretches to the western suburbs of Atlanta. It is centered in Marietta. Here, Cook and I agree and consider this a safe Republican district (Cook +19; me +21). Phil Gingrey is vacating his seat for a run at the Senate which originally attracted eight Republican possibilities, now down to six. In terms of money, former Congressman Bob Barr leads the pack, but state house majority whip Ed Lindsay and businesswoman Tricia Pridemore are close behind. Like any crowded field, a future runoff is possible and money is important here. Obviously, Barr has the name recognition and the fundraising advantages that go with it. This is a tough choice here. State senator Barry Loudermilk has received the endorsement of FreedomWorks while Barr is a proven winner…and loser.
What should trouble most about Barr is his departure from the GOP and running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president in 2008. Although he was considered a staunch conservative while representing the 7th District, there are those nagging questions of possible marital infidelity in his past which smacks of hypocrisy since he was one of the leaders of the fight to impeach Bill Clinton. He also authored the Defense of Marriage Act which opened a can of worms. For an alleged “libertarian,” his views here are questionable. Thus, I would not endorse Barr.
Instead, I believe that businesswoman and the ex-director of state workforce development is the best candidate here- Tricia Pridemore. This takes the “war on women” meme off the table and, quite frankly, the GOP needs more women candidates. The Democrats will likely run Patrick Thompson again; he was trounced by Gingrey in 2012. Therefore, all things considered, this writer endorses Tricia Pridemore in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District.
Stretching from Augusta to the northern suburbs of Savannah, the 12th District is held by a Democrat- John Barrow. Both Cook and I put this district at +9 Republican. Therefore, one would suspect that this district is ripe for the taking except for one thing- John Barrow is one damn good Democratic politician. Practically every election cycle he has a target on his back only to survive. Thus, taking him down in 2014 will be no easy task. Still, only once has Barrow broken 60% of the vote- in 2008 against John Stone in a Democratic wave year with Obama at the top of the ticket. Stone is again running. His closest race was in 2006 when he won reelection by less than 1,000 votes. It is obvious that he can be taken down with the right candidate.
Unlike the other districts, this race has drawn only five Republicans- the aforementioned John Stone, state representative Delvis Dutton, Rick Allen who sought the GOP nod in 2012 but lost to Lee Anderson, Diane Vann- a nurse who sought the nod in 2010 but lost to Ray McKinney,and Eugene Yu. Yu initially enetered the open Senate race only to withdraw for this one. With all due respect, Vann’s candidacy seems to be about fighting the Cold War and communism first and foremost; thus I rule her out. The smart money is on Rick Allen this time out with Stone playing the spoiler and creating a runoff between either Allen and Stone or Delvis Dutton.
This is an intriguing race. In previous years, Republicans have attempted to take down Georgia Democrats with some successes and failures. In 2012, when Anderson beat out Allen, the GOP may have made an error by running a candidate from the more urban areas thus leaving the rural areas of the district vulnerable. Dutton would break that pattern and be more in the mold of an Austin Scott in the 8th district who hailed from a rural part of his district but who could connect with the GOP base in the more populated areas. Anderson did not fit that criteria. Likewise, Allen hails from Augusta itself at the extreme northern end of the district. Yu,on the other hand, is an up-and-coming force in Georgia Republican politics, but this just may not be his year due the dynamics in this district. However, his performance on Tuesday should be watched and if he was to surprise, would not be a bad choice. . However, given these dynamics, this writer endorses the candidacy of Delvis Dutton in the 12th Congressional District at this time.
Finally, in the 14th GOP incumbent Tom Graves has drawn a primary opponent in Ken Herron. This is another very strong GOP district. Again, this writer sees no need to change course here and endorses the candidacy of Tom Graves.
In the 1st: John McCallum, in the 2nd, Greg Duke, in the 3rd Lynn Westmoreland, the 9th Doug Collins, the 10th Jody Hice, the 11th Tricia Pridemore, the 12th Delvis Dutton and the 14th Tom Graves.