The 2018 Georgia Governor’s Race

 

When one election cycle ends, another begins. This has been true since election cycles began and it is true again now in 2017 leading to the November 2018 elections.

At the federal level, 2018 will be the first opportunity for voters to weigh in on the job performance of now President Donald J. Trump. All 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 Senators will be on the ballot.

1994’s huge swing when former Speaker Newt Gingrich led the first political revolution has been followed by several more that shifted control of the House.

In the Senate, the 2018 numbers favor Republicans because many more Democrats are up for re-election. Yet in the past, voter discontent with the current administration has protected, and in some cases even rewarded, the party in control.

It is far too early to tell whether 2018 will be one of those years. After all, President Trump has just taken office and his full cabinet is not even in place yet. Only time and performance will determine whether the 2016 change election will trigger another change election in 2018.

At the state level, what a difference just a few months can make! Heading into the 2016 cycle, candidates were lined up for the opportunity to run for the gubernatorial vacancy created by Georgia’s term limit on Gov. Nathan Deal. In many ways, it was similar to what had happened when term-limited Gov. Sonny Perdue left office eight years earlier.

For the Republicans, the list was as long as the list of GOP presidential candidates vying for the Republican nomination to seek the presidential vacancy created by term limited President Barack Obama. But, then things started to change.

Democrats saw a Hillary Clinton presidency as an alternative path to higher office. And so, while many remained interested in pursuing the Georgia governor’s mansion, they kept their principal focus on getting the best possible position in a new Clinton administration.

Republicans, anticipating the same outcome and the corresponding federal appointment shutout, kept their focus on state races — especially the governor’s race. And so, the field looked crowded — especially on the GOP side.

But then, on the way to the ball, the most unpredictable thing happened — Donald J. Trump won. The political world got turned upside down, and Georgia was no exception.

Just months ago, many considered Congressman Tom Price a top contender for the Georgia governor’s race, but now he was headed to the cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Others thought that one of the Perdues — either Senator David Perdue or former Georgia Gov. Perdue — might, just might, take a shot at the governor’s race.

However, with his close relationship with President Trump, Senator Perdue will now become one of the most influential lawmakers in the Senate. And, former Gov. Perdue has been named the next Secretary of Agriculture.

Others considered Congressman Doug Collins from Gov. Deal’s neck of the woods as a serious contender for the GOP nomination for governor. Now, he has been elected as part of the GOP-controlled House leadership and will play a prominent role in pushing through President Trump’s legislative agenda.

Former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens was also considered a top prospect to make the GOP gubernatorial run. But, even before the election, he opted instead for president of Kennesaw State University. Effectively, the GOP thinned from a crowded affair to an intimate few.

On the Democratic side, the hopes for elevation to federal position quickly dissipated, leaving Georgia Democratic hopefuls now focusing on Georgia’s highest office. While Democrats may not have gotten the shot at the federal positions that they had hoped for, they have many good reasons to remain hopeful about their prospects in 2018.

As Cobb and Gwinnett went blue in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats must undoubtedly feel better about their prospects in 2018. Political pundits may have a myriad of explanations for the change, but the bottom line is that Democrats carried these once reliable Republican strongholds in the 2016 presidential race.

Indeed, in Douglas County, Democrats swept every race including the school board, the county commission and every county elected office. Such results can only cause Georgia Republicans to cast a nervous eye toward the 2018 state elections. In 2018, every Georgia constitutional office (including the governor), the entire legislature (both House and Senate), and a host of local races will be at play.

But then, as the last few months amply prove, a lot can happen between now and November 2018. To sound like a broken record from last year, anyone who thinks they know what is going to happen is simply delusional.

Voters want results, not rhetoric. And if they do not get results, they are more than willing than ever to use the power of the ballot to bring about change. Don’t believe it? Just look back to last November.

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