My father, Newt Gingrich, ran for congress in rural, west, middle Georgia in 1974. At the time, Georgia was dominated by the Democratic Party, there were few Republicans in the state and Watergate was in full swing. Somehow, against this headwind, he managed to garner 49 percent of the vote. He never stopped running, waking up the day after the election to shake hands at the Ford Factory as their shift changed.
In spring of 1976, when former Georgia Jimmy Carter swung ahead in the Democratic Presidential Primary polls, my father knew that this would make his race tight.
Working hard through the spring, my father felt good about his potential win. That is until Election Day. He drove up to the Neva Lomason Memorial Library, his polling place, and noticed there were busses pulling up and unloading voters. He realized that they were not there to vote for some Army brat named Newt Gingrich, but for Jimmy Carter. Carter won that election, and my father once again lost a very close race.
The point of the story is that some elections can change the outcome of other elections. This year Georgia has two high-level races that are in play and have the potential to reinforce one another.
The first is the governor’s race with current Republican Gov. Nathan Deal against State Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter. The second is the open Senate, where there are seven Republican candidates running for the primary to then face off against Democratic front-runner Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn.
These races are not only important for Georgia, but have national implications. Last week Donna Brazile, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and political commentator, spoke at the University of Georgia, at the Mary Frances Early lecture, (Early was one of the early Georgia Civil Rights champions). Brazile was in Georgia not only to cheer our history but to influence our future.
“I think if any state in the South can turn from red to blue, it’s Georgia,” said Brazile. According to her, this transition from red to blue could occur in the next two to four years.
From a national perspective, according to Real Clear Politics, in the Senate there are 40 seats that are either safe Democratic or not up for election. There are also 41 safe, or not, up on the Republican side. Once you include the leans and likely states, the states are 46 Democratic and 47 Republican, with seven states that are in the tossup category.
This is going to be an interesting election season.
The states included in the tossup category are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina (all but one currently Democratic, and all but one with incumbents running).
Leans Democratic states are Iowa (open) and North Carolina are currently Democratic.
Leans GOP states are Georgia (Republican — open seat) and Montana (Democratic -- incumbent).
So what does this mean? That the stakes in the Georgia open Senate seat have national importance. Out of the 11 states in play, only two (Georgia and Kentucky) are currently Republican seats.
Winning Georgia would not only provide another Democratic seat but would also provide bragging rights to turning a red state into a purple (or potentially blue state if Jason Carter wins the Governor’s race). The backdrop would be an almost certain Republican House and a very possible Republican Senate majority. A win in Georgia would provide the National Democratic Party with the ability to save face after a potential disastrous midterm election.
Michelle Nunn, the Democratic frontrunner, has the advantage of watching her numerous potential Republican opponents attack each other during primary season. The primary will be held on May 20th, with the most likely result a runoff between the top two candidates (a candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote to win outright, which is highly unlikely with seven declared candidates). The runoff will be held July 22, 2014. The top Republican candidates based on RCP recent averages are David Purdue and Congressman Jack Kingston.
Have no doubt — the backdrop of the national stage means that that there will be a lot of outside money rolling into Georgia to influence the elections. My advice: turn off the TV, change to Sirius XM and don’t answer a telephone call from an unknown number.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers, visit www.creators.com.