Will the ‘Georgia Five’ Reenergize Black Voters?

Five black female candidates, dubbed the 'Georgia Five' have already made history, but their involvement could have broader implications.
While most media attention has rested on the governorship and Georgia’s State Senate, 5 other statewide races have the potential to create a ground-swell with the state’s African-American community. Five black female candidates, dubbed the ‘Georgia Five,’ have already made history, but their involvement could have broader implications.

In 2008, then-candidate Obama was at the top of the 2008 presidential ticket and African-American voter participation in Georgia exploded. Over 350,000 new black voters turned out to vote; a 42 percent increase from 2004. Consequently, Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss couldn’t escape a runoff against his Democratic opponent, Jim Martin. The two advanced with 49.8 percent to 46.8 percent, respectively.

Whether or not the Georgia Five can provoke the same turnout among African-Americans remains to be seen. However, even marginally similar results may serve candidates further up the ballot, like gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter or U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn.

Meet the Georgia Five:

georgia-five

Four of the five hail from various levels of public service: Stokes is a former state senator; Shipp’s a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives; Wilson joined the School Boards Assn. in 2009 and became president in 2012. Doreen Carter was elected to the Lithonia City Council in 2007 and went on to serve as president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Johnson touts a background in the insurance industry and was elected to the Democratic National Committee.

Most of the Georgia Five have steadily climbed in the polls:

Connie Stokes has made the largest leap. She’s up to 42 percent against her Republican opponent, Casey Cagle, who is at 49 percent. In August, Stokes was around 36 percent, according to Survey USA.

Doreen Carter has managed significant gains against Republican Brian Kemp. Since August, she has closed a 17-point gap by 10, and now trails Kemp 41 percent to 48 percent.

Liz Johnson has struggled to narrow Republican Ralph Hudgens’ 8-point lead. Since October, both the frontrunners have chipped away at undecided voters and the latest WBRL poll shows Johnson trailing Hudgens 37 percent to 45 percent, respectively.

Valarie Wilson stood at 40 percent 3 weeks ago, with Republican incumbent Richard Woods at 46 percent. While polling data is limited, Wilson has seen a boost from State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge’s endorsement, which he made earlier this week. Dr. Barge lost to Governor Nathan Deal in the closed Republican primary. Unfortunately, polling data for the labor commissioner’s race has been scarce.

The bump in African-American turnout would need to be substantial for Carter or Nunn to see a serious result.
Perhaps the rising Georgia Five tide could help the top of the Democratic ticket. A recent CNN poll shows the gubernatorial challenger, Jason Carter, just ahead of incumbent Republican Nathan Deal by 2 points, within the margin of error. Polling from September showed Deal ahead by an average of 2 points. Likewise, since the May primary, Carter has managed to slowly narrow Governor Deal’s initial 6-point lead.

The same CNN poll showed U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn (D) with a 2-point edge over Republican David Perdue (R).

The phenomena of down-ballot races turning out the vote for top-ticket seats is counter to typical electoral dynamics. Usually a big name at the top of the ballot, like Obama in 2008, is what fuels the turnout fires. The bump in African-American turnout would need to be substantial for Carter or Nunn to see a serious result.