Election means that all of Georgia’s top leaders will be white male Republicans

By Maria Saporta

What a clean sweep.

In one day, Georgians have elected an all white, all male, all Republican slate to fill all the top jobs at the state.

Let this sink in.

We have gone from having a diversity among statewide leaders serving as constitutional officers in terms of women, Democrats and African-Americans to a total “good-ole-boy” administration.

This happened while Georgia is becoming a more diverse state in terms of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians with more than half of its population being women. The election outcome can lead us to question the whole notion of representative democracy.

It’s not as though there weren’t women, African-Americans, Democrats, Libertarians in the running. It’s just that in this political climate, voters decide to go with a leadership model that is more reflective of a Georgia that existed 30 years ago than the diversity we’ve enjoyed in the past couple of decades.

Let’s take it race by race.

In the top two jobs — governor and lieutenant governor — it’s more of the same. Gov. Sonny Perdue looks much like his successor — governor-elect Nathan Deal. They’re both Republicans and white males.

There were two shots at diversity for governor. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel lost in a Republican run-off election to Deal. Libertarian John Monds, an African-American, garnered only 4 percent of the vote.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, incumbent Casey Cagle, a Republican white male, beat out Carol Porter, one of the few women running on a statewide ballot.

In the Attorney General position, Republican Sam Olens beat Democrat Ken Hodges. Olens succeeds Democrat Thurbert Baker, an African-American who lost his bid for governor.

In the school superintendent race, Republican John Barge beat out Democrat Joe Martin and Libertarian Kira Griffiths Willis. Barge takes the spot that was held by Kathy Cox, a Republican, until earlier this year when she resigned to take a job in Washington. Put that as another loss in the women’s column.

Now the race for labor commissioner. The winner was Republican Mark Butler, a white male, who beat out Darryl Hicks, an African-American Democrat. Butler will succeed Commissioner Michael Thurmond, an African-American Democrat who decided to run for the U.S. Senate rather than seek re-election.

Then there’s the insurance commissioner race. Republican Ralph Hudgens beat Democrat Mary Squires.

And secretary of state. Karen Handel decided not to run for re-election so she could run for governor. She resigned from her post early, and Republican Brian Kemp was appointed to fill her slot, so he ended up running as an incumbent.

He beat Georganna Sinkfield, an African-American Democrat, who has been long-time state representative.

Lastly, in the public service commission race, Republican Tim Echols beat Democrat Keith Moffett, an African-American from Macon.

Needless to say, a Republican white male won the position of agricultural commissioner, Gary Black. His opponents also were white males, and he will succeed Democrat Tommy Irvin, one of the longest serving commissioners in the country.

So there you have it — a clean sweep of Republican white males in all of the state’s top positions.

It is a telling outcome. But knowing the changing demographics in the state, a state that is becoming more diverse, these election results should be of concern to the Georgia Republican Party as well as the rest of us.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

19 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    I don’t share your desire for diversity for the sake of diversity, and I don’t agree that “The election outcome can lead us to question the whole notion of representative democracy.” I am aware of nothing that dictates that only “good ole boys” need offer for office in Republican or Libertarian primaries. The Democrats chose the weaker candidates and lost.

    I think that the outcome of this election on the State level was determined by the failed policies and tactics of the Democratic Party on the State and National level. To be viable, they need to develop new policies other than more government, more taxes and European-sttle socialism are what this country needs.

    I had a few laughs last night waiting to see whether the South Georgia Democratic tsunami forecast by AJC pundit Galloway would sweep Roy Barnes from 10 points behind into office. It was like waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arise from the pumpkin patch on Halloween – it didn’t happen. Mr. Galloway forgets that less than 1/4 of the total vote resides in South Georgia, and that percentage drops every year.Report

  2. Zach says:

    Ever thought that politics aren’t about race and gender, but about policies? By bringing these points up, you’re actually reinforcing racism and sexism. If there was a black politician whose policies I agreed with, or a woman’s policies I agreed with, I would have no problem voting for that person. Unfortunately for you, I guess, the people wanted the policies of the “good ole boys”.Report

  3. CG says:

    I would not say this is a disappointing article by Maria, but more an article posing a question to Georgia. I agree that politics should be about policies and ideas. I think what Maria may be getting at is that the growing diversity in Georgia would normally indicate that a more diverse representation would be elected based on ideas, race, or both. The question being, what does this lack of diversity hold for Georgia, if anything.

    Regardless of a “good ‘ol boys” network, I am worried about the new leadership coming into office because of their diversity and not their policies. Corporate interests will generally take care of themselves. Georgia has a great corporate climate and I don’t believe any party would really sway that climate in any direction too drastically. However, I do think the different parties can give off a drastically different feel for the social atmosphere of Georgia and how accepting of diversity we are. I hope it does not become an issue, but I agree that having no diversity at the top can create problems down the road when a social problem arises and no one making the decisions can relate to that social issue.

    I want good policies, but I also want to feel represented.Report

  4. Tony says:

    Maria, I couldn’t agree with you more. The other comments miss the point. Diversity would be a natural result if voters simply looked at who was qualified for office rather than their gender or ethnicity. That the Republican Party nominated only white males suggests an out of touch exclusive club which lacks a of diversity of ideas as well.

    The other question is how this state has fallen behind and would rather look backward rather than forward. Georgia used to be a progressive state. Now it’s satisfied with being on par with Mississippi.

    Our success as a state lies in solutions of the 21st century and not of the 1960s.Report

  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Tony
    So, by your reasoning the Democratic Party offering was a natural result based on office qualification rather than gender and ethnicity? The Democratic Party’s only office qualification is to win, with everything else as window dressing. Witness last week’s charade of Bill Clinton and President Obama trying to get black man and lifelong Democrat Kendrick Meek to withdraw from the Florida Senate race so that the Independent (up until a few months ago Republican) candidate Charlie Crist might poll better against the Republican Marco Rubio. He didn’t.

    Progressive these days means left-of-center liberal, and Georgia is not a progressive state by this measure. The only progressive states are colored blue and seen on the left and right coasts of a mainly red map of non-progressive states.

    The concept of enforced diversity is very much a policy of the 1960s and not the 21st century. I pray that we never return to 1960s policies.Report

  6. Maria Saporta says:

    Whoa, this piece touched a nerve.

    First of all, I was making an observation about yesterday’s election that was striking to me. It’s not about quotas. It’s not about race. It’s not about gender. It’s not about party. It’s about inclusiveness. It’s about there being room in our political system for all types of people, and not just one race, one gender and one party.

    Our political system works like a pendulum. Two years ago, it seemed as though our country and its citizens were willing to embrace an African-American (actually bi-racial) president and that we could become more colorblind as a society. Now the pendulum has swung in a completely different direction, and we don’t know where that will take us. I just know that slogans like: “we want our country back,” have racial undertones that scare me.

    As a woman, yes, I would love for there to be more women in public office. And in Georgia, most of the women who have been elected statewide have been Republicans. I just find it sad that with no women, no blacks and no Democrats, we will not have a healthy exchange of ideas and perspectives. I truly believe that we all benefit when we are around people who are different from ourselves. It opens our minds and our hearts and makes us better as human beings and as a nation.

    And that’s what I fear we’re losing in Georgia with our current slate of elected officials.Report

  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Maria
    To me and those I know, the election was not about the President’s ethnic background. It was about the policies that he and his willing cronies in Washington imposed on this country against the wishes of the majority of its citizens. It was about pushing this country toward European-style socialism at the very time the Europeans are admitting that their version of socialism doesn’t work. It was about spending mind numbing sums of money that we don’t have, and placing the burden on our children and grandchildren to repay it. It was about putting this country at risk because of the mountain of debt being amassed. These are the major reasons – not the color of the President’s skin.

    I also would prefer to see more women and those of varied ethnic backgrounds in politics, but I will encourage their participation, not seek to mandate it. Since diversity means so much to you then, given your public exposure and connections, why don’t you run for office the next round?

    @ Progressive Dem
    And what does the makeup of management teams in large corporations have to do with the election? Management teams are appointed, not elected, and they generally serve as long as they produce, unlike politicians. To be sure, some members are appointed to give the appearance of diversity. And, by the way, would you want the very diverse management team of AIG managing your finances, given that we taxpayers will soon invest another $22 billion into that yawning pit, for a total of $180 billion. But, they look diverse and that’s so much more important.Report

  8. MountainHawk says:

    In setting up a straw dog for her commentary, Ms. Saporta leaves the reader with the mistaken impression that both the Democrats and Republicans nominate candidates for statewide elected office in Georgia, with primary voters and subsequently general election voters left to select among party nominees. One can only assume that underlying Ms. Saporta’s false premise is a prejudicial notion that the Good Old Boy Republicans are bigots that nominate only ageing white males, whereas the more fair-minded Democrats collectively get together and nominate a more diverse cadre of candidates. The simple fact is that in Georgia, as in almost every other state, candidates self-determine their own candidacy. They are not nominated, and their viability is determined by their ability to garner votes of the electorate, not by their diversity.

    Bottom line…Very telling indeed that Ms. Saporta ignored any reference in her article to the snubbing of support given to Michael Thurmond by the Georgia Democratic Party while she elected nonetheless to publicly admonish Republicans. Interesting that, in the one area where the Democratic Party could have elected to financially support diversity, it consciously chose not to, leaving Michael hanging out there alone.Report

  9. dave says:

    Saporta, you are off your rocker. The majority of this state (sadly there are a few exceptions) doesn’t care about the gender or the color of the skin of the candidate. They are voting based on policy. Do you really think people voted for Isakson b/c he is white and Thurmond is African-American? Hell no, they voted for Isakson because of where he stands on the issues. Our attorney general elect is a Jewish transplant from the north and he defeated a lifelong Georgian who is Protestant. Maria, you have lived here long enough to know this a conservative state and it has grown even more conservative with the thousands of transplants fleeing the overtaxed blue states of the northeast and California. Is it a coincidence that the red states (GA, TX, NC, SC) are the ones with positive net migration, while the blue states (CA, NY, MA, NJ, MI) are watching their residents leave in droves? I think not.Report

  10. Keith says:

    Enough with the diversity mantra. Diversity equals balkanization. Vote for the best person regardless of race or gender. If blacks would adopt that attitude and stop voting wholesale for Democrats they would no longer be taken for granted and would have their concerns heard. Right now neither party has an incentive to even listen to them.Report

  11. Mason Hicks says:

    People are leaving California in droves? Really? Dave, did you make that one up by yourself. According to the US Census,( …and they didn’t make it up…)California’s population has increased almost 10% over the previous decade. With respect to population shifts to GA, TX, NC, and SC; they are all southeastern “Sun-Belt” states. Add Arizona to them as well. It has almost zero to do with politics. It is the continuance of a trend that has been ongoing since the advent of air-conditioning…
    Nice try…Report

  12. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Mason Hicks
    According to the Census Bureau, CA’s population in 2009 was 9% larger than in 2000, while surrounding state’s population growth was greater. The population growth in CA is at the lower part of the socioeconomic range (read as non-taxpayers) while there has been a net emigration of those at the upper part of the socioeconomic range (read as taxpayers).

    My company has offices across the US, including both LA and SF, and they are the most expensive in which to do business, on a par with NYC. Why? Because of the cost of government and the government antagonism toward business. CA is owned lock, stock and barrel by the unions, the welfare recipients, and the government employees.Report

  13. Burroughston Broch says:

    A followup to my comment above. CA now borrows $40 million per day to pay extended unemployment benefits. That’s a rate of $14.5 billion/year. The people drawing unemployement in CA are staying put while the people who must pay for it are leaving.Report


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