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Saba Long

Open U.S. Senate seat could have a domino effect on Georgia politics

By Saba Long

For a few politicians and political advisors, the past few days have been filled with rapid fire text messages and battery-draining cell phone calls about the biggest news to impact metro Atlanta in quite a while —  the 2014 election to replace retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

The first — and only to date — polls released jointly by political consulting firms H.E.G. and Apache just hours after the announcement already has Georgia Republicans and Democrats strategizing on how to ensure their party secures the open seat.

With 1,126 individual surveyed, those who have voted in at least two of the last four primary elections, former presidential candidate Herman Cain leads the pack of credible Republican candidates by a comfortable 39.3 percent.

Following Cain — who stated on Twitter he is not interested in running — are U.S. Congressman Tom Price, former Gov. Sonny Perdue and Congressman Jack Kingston at 8.5, 7.3 and 6.8 percent, respectfully.

The far-right U.S. Congressman Paul Broun, listed first in the survey, polled at 6.6 percent ahead of former gubernatorial candidate and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Undecided voters equated to 22.6 percent of those surveyed.

Crosstabs showing regional support compared to the rest of Georgia show Broun and Kingston with the widest spread with 83.8 and 93.5 percent of their votes coming from outside the region. Cain, Handel, Kemp and Perdue all polled at 30 percent and above in both metro Atlanta and the rest of the state.

First listed on the Democratic survey is State Representative Stacey Abrams who has received accolades in national and regional press for her pragmatic approach to legislative issues. Yet, Abrams is second to last in the poll results with a mere 3.8 percent of the vote amongst likely voters.

While State Senator Jason Carter polled at a mere 4.9 percent of the vote, he has yet to tap into his family name which could bring in considerable fundraising and involvement from national Democratic heavyweights.

It should be no surprise that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed rests atop the ladder at 25.6 percent of the vote. Also, it is striking that there is more consensus among Republicans than among Democrats, with what can be described as a 13.7 percent “excitement gap” between Cain and Reed.

Following Reed are former Secretary of Labor Michael Thurmond and former Attorney General Thurbert Baker at 14.5 and 11.9 percent, respectively. Undecided Democratic voters polled at 21.2 percent.

Lead pollster Fred Hicks of HEG noted, “Elections are as much about who decides not to run as who does.  Cain says he’s out, so the Republican field is wide open.  Reed can be the candidate or the heavy, whichever he chooses. He is in the driver’s seat.”

It is also noteworthy that Reed, a municipal office holder, is running ahead of two previous statewide elected officials in Baker and Thurmond.

With Congressman Tom Price strongly signaling his intent to run for the Senate, H.E.G. and Apache conducted a similar poll over the weekend of potential Republicans in the 6th Congressional District.

The top three contenders are State Senator Judson Hill (20 percent), Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (11.1 percent) and Roswell Mayor Jere Wood (8.8 percent). Roswell City Councilperson Betty Price, wife of Congressman Tom Price, polled at 7.8 percent.

All politics is local and if we experience competitive Congressional and Senatorial campaigns, the effects could result in open seats for Atlanta City Council, Georgia House and Senate and committee chairmanships and hierarchy at the Gold Dome.

As Bert Brantley a Republican strategist and former press secretary to Gov.Perdue, observed: “This one decision by a sitting U.S. Senator could end up affecting more than two dozen elected positions once all the dominoes have fallen.”

Saba Long

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.


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  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 28, 2013 7:14 pm

    Georgia Democrats have no shot at winning the open U.S. Senate seat, so they should not even waste their time getting their hopes up.
    Though Georgia Democrats may have the statewide demographic numbers to compete for the open U.S. Senate seat.
    After years of explosive growth in the Metro Atlanta region, the traditionally predominantly-rural state of Georgia has a racial demographic makeup that is very similar to Democrat-dominated Maryland.
    The population of Republican-dominated Georgia has a racial composition that is just under 45% non-white compared to Democrat-dominated Maryland, whose population has a racial composition that is just under 46% non-white.
    The trend of demographics that are rapidly-changing to Georgia Democrats favor can also be seen in some key outer-suburban Metro Atlanta counties which historically have been predominantly-white and over the last decade or so, predominantly Republican.
    Traditionally predominantly-white outer-suburban Metro Atlanta counties like Rockdale (59% non-white population), Republican stronghold Gwinnett (57% non-white population), Douglas (51% non-white population), Newton (48% non-white population), Henry (48% non-white population) and even traditional hardcore ultraconservative Republican bastion Cobb (44% non-white population) are overwhelming evidence of a massive demographic tide that is quickly shifting one of the reddest states in the union in Georgia towards the Democrat camp.
    Newly majority non-white outer-suburban Rockdale (59% non-white) and Douglas (51% non-white) counties and even slight majority-white Newton County (48% non-white population) each went for Obama and the Democrats in the 2012 Presidential Election.
    Rockdale County is notable because in the last few years county government office holders have quickly gone from being dominated by white Republicans to being dominated by black Democrats in a shockingly short period of time.
    Mike Hassinger over at Peach Pundit had a very-insightful article on the dramatic demographic changes and the dramatic political changes that resulted titled “To See The Republican Future in Georgia, Watch Rockdale.”, anyone who is involved in Georgia politics should absolutely take a look to see where the future of Georgia politics is heading.
    Building non-white populations in rapidly-diversifying outer-suburban Rockdale, Gwinnett, Douglas, Newton, Henry and Cobb counties will likely join with established non-white majorities in Fulton (59% non-white population), DeKalb (70% non-white population) and Clayton (85% non-white population) counties to eventually form a very-strong, possibly even dominant, future power base for Georgia Democrats.
    The problem for Georgia Democrats going into the 2014 Elections is not demographics as Georgia Democrats most definitely have the raw numbers in terms of racial demographics to compete in statewide elections.
    The problem for Georgia Democrats going into the 2014 Elections are a complete and total lack of organization and money.
    In a state whose demographic makeup is remarkably and shockingly similar to that of Democrat-dominated Maryland, Georgia Democrats have an unexplainable lack of resources in a state in which the demographic numbers are unquestionably going their way and should give them at least a slight advantage.Report

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 28, 2013 7:36 pm

    Charlie Harper over at Peach Pundit also remarked that the opening of the U.S. Senate seat due to Saxby Chambliss’ retirement will leave a power vacuum in South Georgia politics that will most-likely be filled by someone from North Georgia, likely the North Metro Atlanta suburbs.
    Harper remarked that the retirement of Senator Chambliss, who is from Moultrie in Colquitt County in South Georgia, will cause even more political power to shift to North Georgia, due to continued population stagnation and declines in South Georgia and continued explosive population growth in North Georgia.
    It is the explosive population growth of the Greater Atlanta region and surrounding North Georgia environs that is the reason why our Senior U.S. Senator (Johnny Isakson from Cobb County), the Georgia Attorney General (Sam Olens from Northwest Metro Cobb County), Georgia House Speaker (David Ralston from Blue Ridge), Georgia Senate Rules Chairman (Jeff Mullis from Chickamauga near Chattanooga), Georgia Senate Majority Leader (Ronnie Chance from Tyrone), Georgia Lieutenant Governor (Casey Cagle from Chestnut Mountain near Gainesville) and the Governor (Nathan Deal from Gainesville) all hail from North Georgia as opposed to past years when the political base of power resided in South Georgia below the Gnat Line.Report

  3. Burroughston Broch February 3, 2013 4:13 pm

    Saba, I don’t see any chance for a democrat to take this seat. As my grandfather said, “If wishes were horses then beggars might ride.”
    The mention of Michael Thurmond as a contender after his disastrous 58.3% to 39% loss against Johnny Isakson in 2010 demonstrates how bereft of viable candidates the democrats are.
    The national democratic party evidently agrees since, as I heard it, they supported no one in Georgia the last election cycle.
    Stacey Abrams has little pull outside metro Atlanta and has the luggage of the moribund state democratic party attached to her.
    The first step for the democrats should be to resuscitate the state party.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 3, 2013 8:40 pm

      @Burroughston Broch
       In addition to needing to resuscitate a dead state party, Georgia Democrats also desperately need to move back to the center and away from the far-left of the political spectrum where they have increasingly resided for much of the last two decades.
      Many of Georgia Democrats’ policy positions of neverending tax increases, strict gun control measures and the like are completely out-of-touch with the majority of likely voters in a state where most of the current electorate is center-right at its most liberal and hard-right to far-right at its most conservative.
      Until Georgia Democrats learn to financially and politically compete in a statewide political climate where the electorate is overwhelmingly dominated by suburban and rural conservatives, they will continue to wander around aimlessly in the political wilderness until the state’s demographics are completely in their favor, which will likely be sometime around 2030.Report


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