Saturday, July 28, 2018

Georgia's Gubernatorial Race - Will Georgia Follow Virginia?

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia,
would become the nation’s first female African-American governor if elected.
Virginia has received much attention in the media as it has moved from a reliable Republican state to a state where no Republican has been able to win state wide election for nine years.  Part of that result has been the GOP's selection of horrific candidates - e.g., Ken Cuccinelli and now, Corey Stewart who is expected to lose to Tim Kaine - and campaign platforms repulsive to non-knuckle dragging voters.  The other factor is the growth of population in Virginia's urban and close in suburban areas as rural areas, now the GOP base, see a continuing declines in population.  But, as a piece in the New York Times notes, similar things are happening in Georgia and this year's gubernatorial election pitting a black Democrat against a mini me Trump style racist Republican.  One can only hope that the Democrat mirrors Ralph Northam's 2017 ground game and pulls off a victory sending shock and terror throughout the GOP.  Here are story highlights:
The Republican won the nomination Tuesday after branding himself a politically incorrect conservative who would “round up criminal illegals” and haul them to the border in his very own pickup. The Democrat all but opened her campaign by demanding that the iconic carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson be sandblasted off Stone Mountain.
Almost overnight, Georgia’s captivating governor’s race between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams has taken on the dimensions of a defining moment, one that will, regardless of outcome, determine what the state represents and how it is perceived. That voters chose these two candidates reflects how Americans are embracing politicians on the basis of culture and identity, and how Georgia’s politics are catching up with its rapid demographic change: The nonwhite population has grown to 40 percent from 29 percent since 1990.
But Georgia’s political middle, long the dominant force behind the state’s thriving commerce and pragmatic leadership, suddenly finds itself all but abandoned.
More starkly than in most midterm campaigns, the contest between Mr. Kemp, the two-term Republican secretary of state, and Ms. Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the State Legislature, has come to mirror the disorienting polarization of the Trump era and expose the consequences of a primary system that increasingly rewards those who appeal to the fringes.
[T]he 2018 campaign is a point of demarcation. In the five decades since the death of legal segregation, the image-conscious state has been led by a succession of white male centrist governors — first moderate Democrats, then, for the last 16 years, right-leaning Republicans. They have more often than not been steady and bland, focused on improving education, corporate recruitment and job growth.
The race has come to be seen, in the words of Mr. Kemp at a Republican unity rally near Atlanta on Thursday night, as a battle for “literally the soul of our state.”
Ms. Abrams, 44, a brainy Yale Law graduate from Atlanta, has leveraged the prospect of becoming the country’s first female African-American governor to nationalize her campaign and its fund-raising. By contrast, Mr. Kemp, 54, is a drawling agri-businessman from Athens who has revived a populist style that has lain dormant in Georgia since the late 1960s. Both campaigns say they are committed to maximizing turnout by their most rabid supporters rather than moderating in order to broaden their appeal to centrists and independents.
Mr. Kemp, the Democrats fear, will take Georgia the way of North Carolina and Indiana, which were tarnished by recent legislative battles over issues like gay rights and the use of public restrooms by transgender people.
Former Gov. Roy E. Barnes, the last Democrat to hold the office, mourned what he depicted as the disenfranchisement of the state’s political center. . . . Mr. Barnes asserted that neither he nor his two Democratic predecessors, Zell Miller and Joe Frank Harris, could have won their party’s nomination today. Nor, he speculated, could the state’s center-right senior United States senator, Johnny Isakson, win in a Republican primary if he were running without the benefit of incumbency.
Ms. Abrams streaked into the general election after taking 76 percent of the vote in a two-person primary in May. The results seemed to validate her strategy of registering thousands of young and minority voters and exciting them with an unapologetic appeal to the left. Turnout in the Democratic primary was two-thirds higher than in 2014, nearly equaling that in the Republican primary for the first time in a dozen years.
The state’s demographics are shifting rapidly in Ms. Abrams’ favor. Over the last 20 years, when the state’s population ballooned nearly 30 percent to 10.4 million, the share of registered voters who are not white increased to 46 percent from 27 percent, state election data shows. Two of the suburban Atlanta counties that fueled the Republican rise — Cobb and Gwinnett — are now so populated by immigrants and African-Americans that they voted for Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump.
[T]he question for Ms. Abrams will be whether the electorate has changed enough that a well-funded ground operation can transform a trend into victory.
Mr. Kemp tied himself inseparably to Mr. Trump. And with shotguns, chain saws and a Ford F-350 as props, his ruthlessly effective ads transformed a man largely unknown into a swaggering defender of restricted borders and the Second Amendment.
It is an image, once cemented, that may be tough to soften for female suburban swing voters, a potential opportunity for Ms. Abrams. She said on Friday that she would not be “engaging in divisive culture arguments about who’s angrier or who’s meaner.”
Mr. Kemp reiterated his support for state legislation that would replicate a federal law providing legal protection to individuals and businesses who tailor business practices to their religious beliefs. Opponents of the laws, which exist in several neighboring states, argue that they allow discrimination against serving or employing homosexuals and transgender people.
That pledge, and the countrified image Mr. Kemp created for himself in his ads, has prompted nervousness among some business leaders, particularly in Atlanta. . . . Concerned about condemnation and boycotts, business leaders convinced Mr. Deal to veto so-called “religious freedom” legislation in 2016, but some wonder whether they would have the same success with Mr. Kemp. A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown business group, said industries that normally support Republicans were waiting to learn more.
“The main thing is, let’s not do anything to mess up our historic business environment, particularly discriminatory practices of any kind,” Mr. Robinson said. “People have seen what it’s done in other states.”
State Representative Brenda Lopez, a Democrat from Gwinnett County, said voters needed to consider the long-term consequences of the campaign and November’s vote.
“It’s not just about one election cycle of the next governor,” she said. “It’s about what the image of Georgia is going to continue to be nationally and internationally.”
Virginia's image has been enhanced nationally and internationally by the rejection of GOP hate, bigotry and focus solely on the wealthy and religious extremists.  Georgia has an opportunity to do the same. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for Ms. Abrams.

No comments: