It is rare when an incumbent Governor finds himself endangered in a primary, but Nathan Deal finds himself in that position. Amidst a swirl of controversy involving campaign finance allegations left over from 2010, Deal may find himself out of politics this year. With the Democrats running the grandson of ex-governor and “president” Jimmy Carter- Jason Carter- name recognition on that side is no problem. Fundraising should not be a problem either. At this point, polling indicates that Deal would defeat either of his primary opponents- state school superintendent John Barge and Dalton Mayor David Pennington. Most polls also show Deal defeating Carter although not as comfortable as one might like at this stage of the game.
Whoever emerges, one hopes that a runoff is not necessary so as to avoid a prolonged bloodletting within the party. With three candidates, that is always a possibility, but since Barge has failed to gain much traction, one has to suspect a runoff will not be necessary. Still, the ethical/possible criminal allegations against Deal will linger over this race. There are additional, issue-related qualifications surrounding Deal also that have not endeared him to all of the conservative base. In a sense, this race somewhat mirrors that in Pennsylvania but with the ethics question present. Like Corbett, Deal’s approval ratings among Georgia voters may have already hit their bottom. In October 2013, it was reported at 34%. Since then, he has rebounded to a respectable 45%. The problem is that bad economic news or even an explosive announcement by the US Attorney in Georgia can torpedo the whole show. The question is whether the GOP rolls the dice and goes with Deal, or whether they are averse to risk, cut their losses and go with someone else. That “someone” would have to be Pennington.
Still, running away from the incumbent illustrates capitulation. Given the polling and his trend upwards from a low of 34% and hoping that a second term will unleash the more conservative side of the current governor, this writer endorses the candidacy of Nathan Deal.
Now for the multi-million dollar question in Georgia- the race to succeed Saxby Chambliss. This race originally attracted NINE potential Republicans and SIX Democrats. There are now 7 Republicans and 4 Democrats. On the Democratic side, it is a foregone conclusion that the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, Michelle, will be the nominee in the general election. However, the possibility of a runoff on that side is also present. On the GOP side, it is almost a given. Of the seven Republicans, at least five of them are bona fide candidates, including three sitting congressmen. The other two viable candidates are businessman David Perdue, the cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue, and ex-state secretary of state and 2010 gubernatorial primary candidate Karen Handel.
This will be an expensive race to say the least. On this metric, Jack Kingston would have the upper hand. A look at major donors indicates that Kingston receives the majority of his donations from PACs associated with businesses while Broun has received donations from the likes of Ron Paul’s Liberty PAC and Citizens United. Gingrey receives money from a variety of sources, mainly the Georgia health care industry.
Preliminary hypothetical polling shows a very close race against Michelle Nunn and electability has to be a major consideration here. Along with Kentucky, the Democrats view Georgia as the best possible backstop against a Republican take over of the Senate since they expect losses elsewhere. They will pull out all the stops to win this seat. Even still, it remains an uphill battle for Nunn. So the best analysis will pull together fundraising, electability, and ideology when it comes to endorsement here. Thus, by process of elimination, we can just write off attorney Art Gardner leaving us at six candidates. Minister Derrick Grayson has polled surprisingly well against Nunn, but he seriously lacks a fundraising base and to date it is negligible. He would represent the ultimate David going up against Goliath. Eliminating him brings us to the Viable Five.
David Perdue certainly has the name recognition and can tap into a fundraising network. In fact, he can probably match Nunn should he be the nominee. Additionally, he is perhaps the only candidate who can wear the title of “outsider.” Of course, the hypocritical Democrats have lost the right to declare an alleged “political family dynasty” with Nunn as their candidate. But the question remains: Is Perdue really an “outsider?”
Karen Handel will always have the Susan G. Komen n0n-controversy hanging over her candidacy. Personally, I feel she did nothing wrong by defunding Komen financing of Planned Parenthood. They are, after all, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Komen, at the time and previous to that, was criticized by and threatened with loss of donors because of their grants to Planned Parenthood. Leaving all this aside, the question is whether the GOP wants or is willing to take on this distraction in a general election campaign. Surely, the Democrats will use this to their full advantage to distract from more pressing issues like jobs, the economy, energy, health care and immigration reform. Although I personally find nothing wrong with her credentials, she may prove way too much of a lightning rod and a risk to this seat. It should be noted that I am not dismissive of a Handel victory here and she would likely make a good conservative Senator for Georgia.
Therefore, we come to the three sitting congressmen. Democrats are hoping that Paul Broun, the most conservative of the lot, will win believing he is the most apt to be this year’s Todd Akin/Richard Murdouck. Again, the question arises as to whether the GOP wants to risk making non-issues an issue? Clearly, the Democrats and their liberal allies in the media will be laying traps along the way for Broun, especially more so than with Gingrey and Kingston. Is the risk too great? This writer believes it is. Why leave something to chance with so much on the line?
Although considered a staunch conservative and far-right Republican, Jack Kingston is perhaps the least so of all three. Also, since Obamacare will figure highly in this case, both Gingrey and Broun are physicians, but Kingston is an ex-insurance broker so he too is familiar with the subject albeit from a different angle.
Hence, my decision would come down to the following: the outsider in David Perdue, the least distractive conservative in Jack Kingston, or the dark horse in Phil Gingrey. Taken altogether- conservative credentials, experience, name recognition, fundraising ability, and electability- this writer endorses the candidacy of Jack Kingston to oppose Michelle Nunn in the general election to succeed Saxby Chambliss in the United States Senate.
However, a caveat: This endorsement is based on electability first and foremost. The other candidates are also good conservative choices. The people of Georgia would be well represented in Washington should Paul Broun or Karen Handel also emerge as the victor. If nothing else, this race demonstrates the depth of the Republican bench in Georgia. And it should be mentioned also that Phil Gingrey or David Perdue would not represent a step backwards. Unlike my home state of New Jersey where we on the Republican side are presented with perhaps one true conservative (maybe) and several moderates, Georgia has at least five good choices. Whoever emerges as the winner on Tuesday or in the subsequent runoff in July is worthy of support.