Jason Carter will face many challenges in his run for governor of Georgia. There are all of the usual roadblocks: personal attacks; condemnation of his voting record; exhaustive research into his past. But perhaps the biggest obstacle will be the attempt to reverse recent voting trends in the Peach State.
For many years, Georgia tended to vote Democrat in Gubernatorial elections. Actually it was a bit more definitive than that, when you consider the fact that Georgia had nothing but Democratic governors from 1872-2003. You read that right. For over 120 years, no Republican held the state’s highest office.
The shift away from Democratic dominance began in 1996, when Bob Dole won a narrow popular vote victory over Bill Clinton 47%-46%. Since then, the Republican candidate has won Georgia in each presidential election, including Mitt Romney’s win in 2012.
The shift in statewide elections began with Paul Coverdell’s 1993 election to the U.S. Senate. Prior to Coverdell’s win, only one Republican had represented Georgia in the Senate since the 1800’s. Today both of Georgia’s senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, are members of the GOP.
Democrats held onto the Governor’s office for a little longer, maintaining control until 2003, when Sonny Perdue beat incumbent Roy Barnes, giving Georgia its first Republican Governor since Reconstruction. In much the same way that Al Gore lost favor with rural voters due to the gun control issue in 2000, Barnes suffered a backlash against his successful efforts to remove the Conferate battle emblem from the state flag.
Perdue would go on to win a second term, and his successor, Nathan Deal, beat a challege from Barnes to give Republican’s a third consecutive Gubernatorial win. As we approach election season once again, Democrats will look to regain control of the state, which is where Jason Carter comes in.
Carter, a State Senator and the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is expected to face Deal (provided the incumbent wins the Republican primary) in the upcoming election. While Carter’s positions on many issues, such as abortion, voting rights, education, and the environment, are in line with Democratic party lines, he has also been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and proclaims himself a fiscal conservative. His stand on these issues could help him appeal to undecided voters on both sides of the aisle.
A Carter win, along with a victory by fellow legacy candidate Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, in her campaign for U.S. Senate, could indicate a change in Georgia politics. The State is often seen as becoming a swing state, like Virginia of North Carolina, in which elections are hotly contested and either party could emerge victorious.
Whether or not any of this happens remains to be seen. But this election season will be closely monitored by both parties, and could be instrumental in the future of Georgia’s political climate.