Two state races coming up on Georgia’s ballot could crack the door open to the state losing its Republican majority and becoming much more Blue.
Two “legacy” candidates running as Democrats are on November’s ballot and either one could eke out an upset victory, a situation that would be the first crack in the Republican foundation.
Michelle Nunn, progeny of one of the state’s most beloved national public officials, former Sen. Sam Nunn, is making a serious run to replace the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the Senate. She has money. She has savvy. She has the name.
In the governor’s race, Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is making a bid against incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Although the Carter name may not carry as much weight with Independent voters as Nunn, observers expect a close race. Deal has been dogged throughout his first term with various ethics complaints. How much of that will stick remains to be seen.
But there’s much more at work here than just legacy political names. Georgia is changing, its population shifting. And Republicans are on the losing side of that tidal wave of change.
No matter how one wishes to slice the data, in Georgia party politics, race and ethnic background matters. White voters tend to vote Republican; black and Hispanic voters vote Democratic.
Today, non-whites make up over 44 percent of Georgia’s population and those numbers are growing. Most of the state’s population growth over the last decade has been in increases from black and Hispanic residents.
Add to that the fact that the GOP here and around the nation has done a horrible job in attracting non-white voters into its fold. Part of that is simple policy issues and the impact of having a black president on the Democratic side of the aisle.
But Republicans have also shot themselves over and over by electing xenophobic nuts to public office. Republican in the Georgia House and Senate are made up of a large number of intellectually shallow, populist blowhards who appeal only to the most extreme elements in their communities. They say and do stupid things, actions that turn off both black and Hispanic voters.
Latino voters are not going to gravitate to the GOP where so many public officials foam at the mouth about illegal immigration. Nor will black voters join a party where some lawmakers make it clear they aren’t welcome.
If not in this election, then certainly very soon, the demographics will reach a tipping point and the Democratic base of black, Hispanic and liberal white voters will begin to oust incumbent Republicans. And as older whites, the most loyal Republican voters, die off, the younger more ethnically mixed generations will move the state’s politics solidly to the left and Democratic.
These trends also have implications in other arenas as well. In Gwinnett and Cobb counties, once the bastion of white suburban sprawl, the percentage of white students is now at or below 50 percent. That reflects the huge changes in those communities, but it also has implications for issues beyond just politics.
Will those demographic changes create another round of white-flight into ex-urban counties like Jackson and Barrow? If so, will that be educated whites who move, or will it be the more economically marginal white populations?
Demographics is destiny and there’s no arguing with the changes taking place in Georgia’s population. It will continue to be more diverse, less white and more Democratic in its politics.
That may not happen this election cycle, but it’s coming soon.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.