Georgia's Non-Stop Elections

In March, GOP Rep. Nathan Deal resigned from Congress to run full time for governor of Georgia. That set into motion an election schedule spinning the heads of Georgians.

In May, there was a special election with numerous candidates on ballot that led to the runoff Tuesday where former State Rep. Tom Graves beat former State Sen. Lee Hawkins, becoming the congressmen from Georgia’s 9th Congressional District for the rest of Deal’s term.

Both Lee and Hawkins were forced to resign their state positions to participate in the special election which led to special elections for their seats. There will be a primary for those seats and the congressional seat in July and a possible runoff in August. Whew!
Graves was endorsed by the Atlanta Tea Party LLC, Club for Growth PAC, Freedom Works and most of the Republican House Leadership. Now he begins, along with at least four opponents including Lee Hawkins, the march to the primary on July 20 where the winner will gain the nomination for the November general election.

Graves won 56.5% of the vote Tuesday and will have to defend that in just a few weeks.

Will this be a march to victory? It’s likely there will be another runoff after the July 20 primary.

Runoff elections are dirty business and this one was no exception. Club for Growth PAC weighed in with direct mail linking Hawkins to President Obama and Obamacare. Hawkins responded with attacks on Graves’s credentials, and in a highly unusual move, enlisted Georgia Rep. John Linder in a “robo-call” in support of Hawkins and disputing claims Graves made regarding his support of Linder’s signature issue, the FairTax.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the next meeting of the Georgia Republican delegation with newly elected Graves in the same room with outgoing Rep. Linder. 

Regarding the Hawkins campaign, the complaint from many was that he didn’t seem to work hard enough. Hawkins skipped many opportunities to appear with his opponents, citing scheduling conflicts. He remained optimistic, saying Tuesday night, “This isn’t over. Tomorrow we start again and go hard. We didn’t quite make it tonight but we will make it in July.”

Round One goes to the Atlanta Tea Party favorite, Tom Graves. 

Round Two is the state primary on July 20. Many of the candidates from the special election are running in the primary. Steve Tarvin, a businessman from the Western part of the district, came in third in the May special election. Tarvin’s supporters believe he will benefit from the mud-slinging in the runoff and will have the opportunity to be the “real” Tea Party candidate.

Graves was endorsed by the Atlanta Tea Party LLC, but Tarvin maintains there are many other Tea Party groups and that he is the one most involved in the Tea Party movement.

He thinks Graves is a “TINO” (Tea Party in Name Only).

Dr. Chris Cates, who came in fourth in the special election, and State Rep. Bobby Reese will round out the candidates for the July 20 primary. There may be other names on the ballot due to the multiple deadlines caused by the resignations of Deal, Graves and Hawkins, but most have suspended their campaigns and have endorsed Graves.

The conventional wisdom says Tom Graves will win the primary either outright or in the runoff. However, there is nothing conventional about this election year or this election. The 9th District has only been an open-seat three times in more than 50 years. Couple that with the emerging Tea Party movement and you’ve got a horse race. 

Steve Tarvin is the one to watch. He’s a Washington outsider and a conservative businessman. He performed well in all the candidate forums and he’s involved in the Tea Party movement. He’s banking on Hawkins and Graves going after each other so strongly that he can come in and win the primary and, with no Democrat opposition in November, he’d be the next congressman.

It is bear-knuckled Southern politics with a little Tea Party thrown in. The Tea Party may be a movement, but there are many moving parts. Each Tea Party group is independent and the key to the success of the movement will be how they work together. The 9th District in Georgia will test whether Tea Party folks who support different candidates in primaries can get behind the winner if it’s not their guy?. That will be the test of the longevity of the movement. 

The Tea Party movement will not be a short-lived thing. We have big fiscal problems in this country and we’ve got to take our country back and solve those problems. Congratulations to Tom Graves, congressman from Georgia. Get your running shoes on; it’s going to be a long summer.