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Crawford: Some interesting numbers might shake up the races

POSTED: October 16, 2013 1:00 a.m.

The names Nunn and Carter were familiar ones to Georgia voters a while back and they are making a comeback today, thanks to a new generation of political offspring.

Michelle Nunn, the daughter of Sam Nunn, is running for the U.S. Senate seat her father held for 24 years. State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, is pondering the idea of a race for governor, the office occupied by his grandfather, Jimmy, in the early 1970s.

Numbers mean everything in politics and there were some encouraging numbers for both Nunn and Carter to consider last week.

Nunn’s campaign finished tallying up the money raised during the first 10 weeks of her candidacy and announced she had solicited the impressive amount of $1.7 million in contributions.

By comparison, two of the leading candidates on the Republican side of the race, Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah and businessman David Perdue, each raised about $800,000 for the period ending Sept. 30. Perdue also is putting $1 million in personal money into his campaign account. It’s impossible to know if Nunn can maintain that early fundraising momentum but even so, she is in a position to put away some money while the Republican challengers fire away at each other in a bitterly contested primary.

For Carter, the meaningful numbers were contained in a statewide survey by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm with a good track record of calling state races.

PPP’s latest poll showed that in a hypothetical matchup between Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Carter, Deal held a 44-40 percent advantage among likely Georgia voters. PPP Director Tom Jensen said Deal’s approval numbers have also dropped a little in recent weeks, from 44 percent to 34 percent.

“Much of this negative trend is due to Deal’s ethics scandal, as nearly half (48 percent) of those polled felt the state ethics commission’s call for an independent investigation of Deal’s last campaign is a convincing reason not to vote for his re-election,” Jensen said in a polling memo.

Carter is looking at those poll numbers and he’ll have some more numbers to consider in a few weeks when the Democratic Governors Association, which would like to see him run for the state’s highest office, has another poll conducted in Georgia.

“Yes, I’m thinking about it, but I don’t have any comment yet,” he said during a brief conversation.

Carter could ultimately decide to stay out of the governor’s race. He’s a promising member of the Georgia Senate, is establishing a career in law, and has family obligations with a wife and two young sons.

Even with the ethics questions that have been dogging him, Deal still holds the power of incumbency and will be able to raise huge amounts of money from corporate sources and Republican PACs. That’s a political juggernaut that would be difficult for any challenger to overcome.

For a student of Georgia’s political history, however, there are some interesting parallels between Jason Carter and his grandfather.

In 1966, Jimmy Carter ran his first race for governor as he was finishing up his second term in the Georgia Senate. Jason Carter is wrapping up his second full term as a state senator. Jimmy Carter was a relatively young politician at 41 when he ran that first race for governor. Jason Carter will be 39 during next year’s general election campaign period.

Jimmy Carter didn’t win that 1966 race, but he ran an energetic, upbeat campaign that ended in a third-place finish in the Democratic primary. That campaign provided the foundation for Carter to come back and win the governor’s office in 1970.

Jason Carter would be the underdog if he decided to run next year, but a credible showing along with the continued growth of Georgia’s minority population could position him for a stronger run at statewide office two or four years down the road.

At the end of the day, Georgia is still a conservative state and Republicans will continue to hold firm control of state government after the 2014 elections. The emergence of Democrats like Nunn and Carter will not change that.

On the other hand, there is now the possibility you’ll have a couple of competitive races amidst all the blowouts next year. That will at least be entertaining.

Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report. His column appears Wednesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.


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