Opinion Columns & Blogs

The next big race

Republican and Democrats in Georgia have already begun the 2018 campaign for governor. The Democrats primary is going to be the most interesting and perhaps the most entertaining. As of now it is the battle of the two Staceys — Abrams and Evans. Evans is white and suburban. Abrams is black and urban. Evans has a blue collar background she is pitching as relatable to voters Democrats lost. Abrams has an activist, liberal background she is pitching as relatable to the voters Democrats need.

It is safe to say that the battle of the Staceys will determine the future of the Georgia Democratic Party. Truth be told, the GOP is hoping the Democrats go with Abrams. Stacey Abrams was, until she stepped down a few weeks ago, the Democrats leader in the state House. She has more than once worked across partisan lines, but has also rallied the left several times against Republicans. She led several high profile efforts to register voters in Georgia, but some Democrats are skeptical of her success.

A vote for Stacey Abrams is a vote for a Democratic Party that is urban, liberal, and homogenous in ideas. Gone will be people of faith, blue collar workers, and law and order Democrats. In will be urban, wealthy, white liberals, along with a coalition of minority voters united against the GOP, but increasingly out of step with their own party on social issues.

Stacey Evans, also in the state Legislature, is a vote for a Democratic Party willing to engage voters who voted for Donald Trump. Democrats will still get social liberalism, but it would not be as in your face as it would be with Stacey Abrams. It will come with a smile. It would also be more suburban, technocratic, and open to blue collar voters who feel left behind as Atlanta has grown. Abrams and Evans are both of the left, but if the Democrats go with Evans, she won’t make you feel like you have to be a social liberal, too. Evans will make the HOPE scholarship a central point of her campaign. Abrams had voted to restrict it. Evans wants to expand it.

Democrats want a small primary with few candidates. The GOP does too, but will not be given that luxury. The GOP has four candidates now and more coming. Gov. Deal is not overwhelming popular, but is liked. Casey Cagle, who has loyally stood in Deal’s shadow, would presumably be the heir apparent. He is, due to being in Deal’s shadow, hindered on selling himself. All the major accomplishments Cagle could claim are Deals’. Brian Kemp, who is seemingly the front runner, is the alternative to Cagle. Kemp has managed the Secretary of States office. There have been a few bad headlines, but Kemp can credibly argue the release of voter information was not his fault. Unlike Cagle, who stood in the governors shadow presiding over the Senate, Kemp has been a fairly visible face with his own accomplishments.

Then there are state senators Hunter Hill and Michael Williams. Both have compelling personal stories. Their runs are a reflection of a lack of Senate enthusiasm for Cagle. Hill has a military background. Williams has a small business background. They have both challenged their own party and are both to the right of the party leadership. With lower name ID they will struggle. But with a lot of Republicans still wanting more than they have, Hill and Williams may be able to take advantage of that. The party leadership and Republican base are not exactly aligned these days and conservatives in the General Assembly are lining up behind Hill.