Democrats Suffer Major Losses, Begin Regrouping in Georgia

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- The Democratic Party of Georgia suffered major losses in the General Election this year, losing representation among every statewide constitutional office and losing a US Congressional seat.

Democrats lost in every statewide race, including for seats previously held by Democrats, including Attorney General (Thurbert Baker, who ran for Governor and lost in the Democratic Primary), Commissioner of Agriculture (Tommy Irvin who retired), and Commissioner of Labor (Michael Thurmond, who won the Democratic nomination for US Senate but lost in the General). Republicans picked up all the seats.

US Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) was reelected, defeating Thurmond, and Chuck Donovan, a Libertarian. Isakson was the most popular Republican candidate running statewide, winning 58.4 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party lost one of its six US Congressional seats, when US Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), a centrist Blue Dog, lost to Austin Scott, a Republican.

Democrats in Georgia are beginning to evaluate their losses and figure out how to move forward.

"Nationally speaking as well as Georgia, for years the Republicans have been doing a superior job of marketing. What they've marketed is their message. They have made the word liberal evil, the word progressive evil, and they've made Democrat almost a curse word," Trevor Southerland, who previously worked for the David Poythress for Governor and Marilyn Blackburn for State House campaigns, told Atlanta Progressive News.

"The same way any person in Georgia refers to any soda product as a Coke, that's something Democrats need to catch up on," Southerland said.

"If you think Republican, you think smaller government, less taxes, not record deficit [which is the reality], not endless wars. If I tell you I'm a Democrat, you either don't have a list because you're not exactly sure what a Democrat stands for, or it's gonna take a dissertation to explain it. How are we going to sell ourselves in what is a soundbite world?" Southerland said.

Southerland also believes more Democrats in Georgia should have defended Obama's record, including on health care, instead of trying to run away from it.

"On a national level, we saw politicians sort of running towards the polls. Instead of saying, this is why you should like the health care law, look at how it does a, b, c, and d. We said, you don't like it? Neither do we. Why not support stuff that we worked very hard for?" Southerland said.

Eric Gray, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia, expressed frustration at recent losses, and at what he saw as the party's inability to articulate a single message because in fact it is not united behind a single message.

"That's tough. It's indicative of the red wave that continued in a red state. Ultimately, we're judged by elections, so obviously this election was a pretty poor showing for Democrats. But let's also acknowledge the realistic facts of the situation. It was Republicans up and down the ballot all over the country. I'm sure there's things we can improve," Gray said.

"I think we're all just demoralized," Gray said.

"They [Republicans] are all White suburban males; it's easier to get everyone on board. The Democratic Caucus, we have a large African American group, LGBT group, Hispanic groups, we run the gamut; it's harder to get everyone to agree on the message," Gray said.

"Everyone in Georgia who's a Republican can agree on the right way forward. However, if you poll Democrats in Georgia there's gonna be differences between Atlanta, South Georgia, and North Georgia. That's something that needs to be decided, which way should we go," Gray said.

"Democrats are all over the scale in Georgia on being progressive, and Republicans aren't. That's what the next Chair needs to decide," Gray said.

Currently, the DPG is preparing for election of its next Chairperson. Names being floated as possible contenders include Mike Berlon, Darryl Hicks, Amy Morton, and Thurmond. Current Chair, Jane Kidd, could also run for reelection but carries a lot of baggage, particularly concerning the Party's attack ads against Mayoral candidate Mary Norwood. Dubose and Carol Porter have both stated on Facebook that they do not plan to run.

Al Herman, Treasurer of the Green Party of Georgia, said "the Democrats are lost. They're afloat at sea with no sail."

Herman said they capitulated too much to Republicans and they should have insisted on single-payer universal health care for all and completely eliminated insurance industry profits. If they had done so, health care reform would be more popular with the public, easier to understand, would not be as expensive, and would not be a private insurance mandate.

Democrats now hold five US Congressional seats in Georgia, while Republicans hold eight. US Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and John Lewis (D-GA) easily defeated their Republican opponents, Liz Carter and Fenn Little, respectively, with about 74 percent each.

US Rep. David Scott (D-GA) was reelected with no problem at 69.4 percent. US Rep. John Barrow's (D-GA) reelection was a bit tighter at 56.6 percent. US Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) barely held on to his seat with 51.4 percent.

Republican US Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Tom Price (R-GA), Tom Graves (R-GA), Paul Brown (R-GA), and Phil Gingrey (R-GA) were reelected, while Rob Woodall defeated Doug Heckman to replace US Rep. John Linder (R-GA).

Former US Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) was elected Governor, despite a litany of ethics issues and investigations pending against him. Deal defeated former Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, and John Monds, a Libertarian.

Casey Cagle was elected Lt. Governor, defeating Carol Porter, a Democrat, and Dan Barber, a Libertarian.

Brian Kemp was reelected Secretary of State, defeating former State Rep. Georganna Sinkfield (D) and David Chastain, a Libertarian.

Sam Olens was elected Attorney General, defeating Ken Hodges, the Democratic nominee, and Don Smart, a Libertarian. Hodges faired better than any other Democratic candidate running statewide, receiving 43.5 percent of the vote.

John Barge was elected State School Superintendent, defeating Joe Martin, a Democrat, and Kira Willis, a Libertarian. Willis faired better than any other Libertarian candidate running statewide, receiving 4.9 percent of the vote.

Ralph Hudgens was elected Commissioner of Insurance, defeating Mary Squires, a Democrat, and Shane Bruce, a Libertarian.

Gary Black was elected Commissioner of Agriculture, defeating J.B. Powell, a Democrat, and Kevin Cherry, a Libertarian.

Mark Butler was elected Commissioner of Labor, defeating Darryl Hicks, a Democrat, and Will Costa, a Libertarian.

Tim Echols was elected to Public Service Commission District 2, defeating Keith Moffett, a Democrat, and James Sendelbach, a Libertarian. Democrats continue to hold no seats on the PSC.

Democrats did have one victory, though, when Elena Parent defeated State Rep. Jill Chambers. According to an email from Kidd, Parent is one of only ten Democrats nationwide to be elected to a formerly Republican seat in a state legislature. Parent won with 52.2 percent.

RuthE Levy, a Democratic candidate in east Cobb County against State Rep. Matt Dollar (R), lost in her third attempt to unseat a Republican in a heavily Republican district.

"It's about democracy. Democracy means that there's more than one voice. It's important [I run] so they know that we're here. Their constituents are not all Republicans... we are not monolothic," Levy said.

"The fervor- there was an anti-Obama fervor that bled into every race from Barnes on down. You probably saw the signs Nobama, No Barnes. I had doors slammed in my face because I would not swear against Obama policies. If I was a Democrat, I was Obama, and they were voting against me," Levy said.

"We have to keep Democrats informed of the good things Democrats are doing at the federal and local level. We need to keep our electorate informed. We need to tell our story better. We need to know more about basic principles of being a Democrat, that we are about taking care of people first. Republicans are about big business," Levy said.

Republicans maintained control of the legislature, picking up only a few seats there.

With Republicans continuing to control the Governor's seat and the legislature, they will be able to control the redistricting process to their advantage. Legislative and US Congressional Districts will be redistricted as a result of the 2010 Census in the legislature, and Georgia is expected to pick up one seat. The new seat will likely be in Cobb and Paulding counties, or Gwinnett and Hall counties.

In Fulton County, John Eaves and Robb Pitts defeated Republican challengers, Steve Broadbent and Lori Henry, respectively, to District 1 and 2 at-large seats on the County Commission.

The new Commission will include Eaves, Pitts, Liz Haussmann, Tom Lowe, Emma Darnell, Joan Garner, and Bill Edwards. The balance of power remains the same as Haussmann replaces a Republican, Lynn Riley, who was elected to the State Legislature; and Garner replaces a Democrat, Nancy Boxill.

Also in Fulton County, Kelly Amanda Lee and Shelitha Robertson head into a Run-off Election for Superior Court Judge. Clarence Johnson came in a close third, followed by Chloe Dallaire and Karlese Yvette Grier. So far, Dallaire has endorsed Lee.

In statewide judge races, David Nahmias and Tammy Lynn Adkins head into a Run-off Election for Supreme Court Justice. So far, Hodges has endorsed Nahmias.

In addition, Antoinette "Toni" Davis and Chris McFadden head into a run-off for Georgia Court of Appeals Judge.

As for the statewide Constitutional amendments and the referendum, there was some good news for the environment and for Georgia taxpayers: Amendment 4, allowing for Georgia to make state buildings more energy efficient through performance contracting.

A ten dollar annual car tag fee which would have funded trauma care failed. A move to allow multi-year contracting within the Department of Transportation failed.

Amendment 1, allowing Georgia courts to enforce non-competitive agreements, passed. The corporate ad valorum tax on inventory was repealed. And industrial zone properties will be able to annex themselves to a city.

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