Georgia’s 2010 Primary Election is history. In the Democratic gubernatorial race there were no real surprises. Call him “Hammering Hank,”—Congressman Hank Johnson handily beat his Democratic challengers without a runoff. No surprise there either. But among the Republican candidates for governor, it was a complete shuffle.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes, who consistently polled in the mid to high 50 percentiles, trounced his six rivals for the Democratic nomination with a whopping 66 percent of the vote. Attorney General Thurbert Baker was Barnes’ closest competitor at 22 percent. Even with an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton and some forward-thinking ideas like Bingo and solar energy, Baker couldn’t move beyond Genarlo Wilson.
Wilson is the teenager sent to prison for having consensual sex with a girl a year younger than him. His case became a national cause celeb when Baker, citing the law, refused to help in the youngster’s release. The Black votes Baker might have received went in huge numbers to Barnes, who throughout his campaign ran with the zeal and determination of an underdog. He took nothing and no one for granted up to election day when he made the surprise but erroneous prediction that he would be in a runoff with Baker.
Now on the Republican side, the “good ole boys” as Karen Handel called her Republican opponents, took her for granted, especially John Oxendine. Oxendine held the frontrunner position for nearly a year but within weeks of the primary suffered a total melt down. Political observers say his fourth place finish among the field of six was the result of arrogance and sheer bonehead stupidity, not the least of which was thumbing his nose at University of Georgia officials for the unauthorized use of the UGA logo. Handel was the lone woman among the GOP candidates and it was a colossal tactical error for Oxendine and the others to attack her. It hurt them and helped Handel. A big boost to Handel’s fortunes was the endorsement she received from Sarah Palin. Say what you will, Palin packs a powerful punch among GOP conservatives.
So instead of Oxendine in a runoff with Handel or Deal, it is Handel who came out on top and finds herself in a runoff with Nathan Deal. The winner of the August runoff will face Barnes in November. There will be plenty of GOP fireworks in the coming months. But Democrats better get real busy. Republicans voted in the primary in numbers three times greater than Democrats. That means Democrats’ chief November strategy has to be to get the voters to the polls—and don’t attack the “little lady,” who I predict will be the eventual GOP nominee.
A final thought on the primary and the 4th District of congressional race, the outcome which was predicted in this space. Hank Johnson was a shoo-in to win the Democratic nomination without a runoff against Vernon Jones and Connie Stokes. He had incumbency working for him, a good record of being responsive to the district and an unprecedented endorsement from a sitting president. Though a formidable campaigner, former CEO Jones just could not shake his negative image, despite protestations that he was a new and improved version. Connie Stokes ran a good race and campaigned hard but the “legislative experience” and gender cards were not enough to give her a winning hand.
On the GOP side, businesswoman Liz Carter took it without a runoff in the 4th. She will be a worthy opponent this fall. Former State Representative Stan Watson will take over the 7th District County Commission seat held by Stokes. He gave newcomer Kathryn Rice a shellacking. No surprise there either. For now it’s on to November and watch the GOP fireworks.
Steen Miles, The Newslady, is a retired journalist and former Georgia state senator. Contact Steen Milies at Steen@dekalbchamp.com.