Opinion Columns & Blogs

May 24 election was the night of the incumbent politician

More than 1.2 million people voted in Georgia’s Republican presidential preference primary. For Democrats, 757,000 voted in their presidential primary. On Tuesday night in Georgia, incumbents across the state, with few exceptions, had an excellent night because the voters who were galvanized for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, men willing to disrupt the system, barely showed up to vote.

Roughly 575,000 Republicans voted and only 306,000 Democrats voted. For perspective, Donald Trump got almost as many votes in March as total Republicans who showed up this past Tuesday and Hillary Clinton got 240,000 more votes in March than the total Democratic vote this past Tuesday. Across the state, from the local to the federal level, that meant incumbents kept their jobs.

Sen. Johnny Isakson garnered 77 percent of the Republican vote. Jim Barksdale, the Democrat whom the party rallied behind, got 53 percent of the vote. In the heavily contested congressional primaries in North Georgia, incumbents Barry Loudermilk and Doug Collins both got more than 60 percent despite strong challenges. In Middle Georgia, Rep. Austin Scott matched Isakson’s percentage at 77 percent.

In Bibb County, Mayor Robert Reichert handily won re-election with no opposition, but Lonzy Edwards managed to still get 3,335 votes despite both his public withdrawal from the race and his untimely death. Sheriff David Davis crushed his opposition and arguably is the most popular politician in Bibb County now. Sure, Mayor Reichert managed to get 18,906 votes to Davis’s 16,963, but Davis had to run in a partisan election where Republicans could not vote while Reichert appeared on every ballot regardless of party.

Wade McCord saw Republicans rush to his aid. He was blessed to have former Mayor C. Jack Ellis running against him. You will never see Republicans run to the Democratic ballot as quickly as they did when Mayor Ellis’ name appeared on it. Perhaps had the former mayor changed his name to Bob Smith he could have given McCord stiffer competition. Make no mistake about it, Republicans crossed over. Only about 1,720 voted in the Republican primary in Bibb County.

The most interesting local race moving forward will be between Bob Easter and Jason Downey. Certainly the runoff between Joe Allen and Ed Defore will be fun to watch. They are both gentlemen and fantastic local politicians. Both men know how to shake hands and kiss babies. But that race will be overshadowed by the Easter and Downey runoff.

Downey, a friend of mine, is the incumbent. I gladly supported Downey and, to my surprise, I was bombarded with complaints for daring to say so publicly. I had not realized the level of “throw the bums out” sentiment that existed in this year’s school board race. Multiple close friends of mine who had supported Downey in the past decided to support Easter this time. The school board remains a divisive issue and a lot of parents in north Macon still want some fundamental changes. They will probably get them.

The outsiders together got 59 percent of the vote in that race compared with Jason Downey’s 39 percent. Given the level of motivation of parents I have encountered over the past few weeks, I suspect Easter will not have a problem crossing 50 percent in the runoff.

At the state level the games can now begin in earnest for 2018. The legislative incumbents all find themselves secure and will arrive in Atlanta next year with Nathan Deal having only two legislative sessions left. The jockeying over agendas will begin in the Legislature as people start charting their course to higher office. No, unfortunately, campaign season is not going away.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.