Georgia Voters Could Make History in Senate Race, Block Republican Majority

The race for control of the Senate may not end on November 4. If none of the candidates hoping to replace retiring Georgia U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) garner 50 percent plus one of the vote, the Peach State will hold a runoff between the top two on January 6, 2015.

So far, neither the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, nor the Republican, David Perdue, who holds a slight edge over Nunn, have polled above 50 percent. Part of the reason may be Amanda Swafford, the Libertarian candidate, who is polling at about 3 to 4 percent. 

The other part could be that the major party candidates cannot seem to broaden their appeal anymore.

Nunn is the daughter of Sam Nunn, who served as a senator for 25 years. Her career background is uncommon, as far as politicians go: she is a nonprofit executive, serving as CEO of the Points of Light charity foundation. She’s hoping her years of social service will move voters to give her a shot at elected public service. 

However, it is not easy being a Democrat in Georgia and David Perdue at least knows that. His campaign’s primary (maybe only) tactic has been to corral Nunn into Obama Ranch. It’s become something of a joke that, were you to only hear the campaign ads, you would think Perdue is running against Harry Reid or President Obama.

But Perdue would be happy if the focus remained on unpopular Democratic officials because his career as a high-power, for-profit business executive is doing him no favors. The former boss of Reebok and Dollar General has publicly boasted about outsourcing American jobs and tried to make light of the 2,000 female workers at Dollar General who sued the company on grounds of sexual discrimination during his tenure.

Outside of straight-ticket Republican voters, it doesn’t seem Perdue has made much of an effort to broaden his appeal. 

Nunn, in an attempt to distance herself from Reid and Obama, has tried to balance herself on the wobbly stool that is “the center.” Her fear of association is palpable and translates to her constantly reminding Georgians just how much she disagrees with Obama and Democrats. She points out that Points of Light was started by former President George H.W. Bush and that she has worked closely with the Bush family, which, she says, demonstrates her ability to reach across the aisle.

However, it doesn’t seem Nunn wants Georgians to think she’ll be any further than arm’s length from her Republican colleagues. This may end up hindering Nunn’s campaign more than helping it since the outcome of the race will ultimately come down to the turnout of minority voters, whom Georgian Republicans seem keen on keeping away from the polls because of their tendency to vote for Democratic candidates.

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court scratched out Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in its Shelby County v. Holder decision, Republican lawmakers quickly passed a restrictive voter identification law, eliminated voting sites, changed voting dates, and attempted to slash early voting from three weeks to one week before Election Day.

Minorities got the message and attempted to do something about it through the New Georgia Project, which hoped to register 800,000 unregistered African-American, Hispanic, and Asian eligible voters in Georgia. However, they only succeeded in registering 85,000.

The applications were submitted to Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, but according to The Nation Institute, instead of congratulating them on their efforts, “Kemp subpoenaed the group’s records and accused them of voter registration fraud.”

“It turned out that only 25 of the forms were fraudulent and the group was required by law to turn them in regardless. Despite the scant evidence of voter fraud, 40,000 new voter registration applications have yet to be processed in the state, according to the New Georgia Project. Civil rights groups sued Kemp and voter registration boards in five heavily populated urban counties, but on Wednesday a Fulton County judge dismissed the lawsuit.” – The Nation Institute

The restriction of those 40,000 voters, and the 700,000 unregistered minority voters, may prove to be the difference between victory and defeat for both candidates. Despite legal obstructions, however, African-Americans have put together a robust showing in early voting.

According to polling by Better Georgia, “31.2% of early voters were African American, and 54.9% were women.” This is good news for Nunn who, according to Daniel Malloy, the Washington correspondent for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, would need 30 percent or more of the electorate to be African-American to have any hope of winning outright and avoiding a runoff. 

Photo Source: AP