- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

Four years after Republicans swept up control of every statewide office in Georgia, GOP incumbents seeking re-election to down-ballot offices from lieutenant governor to insurance commissioner have raised piles of cash to defend their seats.

Democrats looking take back any part of the state government they controlled for more than a century have for the first time five black women running statewide in the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Their best shot appears to be the open seat for state school superintendent, an office no Democrat has held in 20 years.

While fierce campaigns for the U.S. Senate and governor have demanded the most attention this election season, Georgians will also vote in nine other statewide races. Here’s a look at how they’re shaping up.

___

SCHOOL CHIEF

With no incumbent on the ballot, the race for Georgia school superintendent gives Democrats their best odds of taking back a statewide office. There’s some irony in that, considering Republicans have held the superintendent’s seat since Linda Schrenko won the job in 1994.

The current GOP superintendent, John Barge, passed on seeking re-election so he could mount an unsuccessful primary challenge to Gov. Nathan Deal. If taking on a sitting governor didn’t create enough friction between Barge and his fellow Republicans, he’s now publicly endorsed Democrat Valarie Wilson in the state school superintendent’s race.

Wilson, a former chairwoman of the Decatur School Board and former president of the Georgia School Boards Association, faces Republican Richard Woods, a former Irwin County school administrator and social studies teacher. As of Sept. 30, Wilson had raised $147,414 , more than three times as much money as Woods to run for the seat.

The clearest difference between the two candidates has been their positions on Common Core, a set of national math and English standards developed by the National Governors Association and adopted by Georgia lawmakers. Wilson says she plans to move forward with implementing the standards, a position she says teachers and parents support. Woods has opposed Common Core, saying Georgia should decide which educational standards are best for its students rather than adopt them from national groups or the federal government.

___

DEMOCRATIC FIVE

Wilson is also among a group of candidates making Georgia history this year - five black women, all Democrats, who are on the same ballot seeking statewide office.

Former state Sen. Connie Stokes of Decatur is running for lieutenant governor. Doreen Carter, a former member of the Lithonia City Council, is campaigning for secretary of state. Robbin Shipp, who has served as a state lawmaker and prosecutor, is seeking the job of labor commissioner. And Liz Johnson of Statesboro, who once sat on the Democratic National Committee, is running for state insurance commissioner.

While their candidacies may represent shifting demographics in Georgia, most of these women face tough odds of getting elected. Except for Wilson, each of them faces a well-funded Republican incumbent.

“Incumbency is still very strong and, in a midterm election like this, it should favor the Republican candidates,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “It’s just a hard time for a Democrat statewide.”

Those GOP incumbents happen to all be white men.

___

SEVEN-FIGURE INCUMBENTS

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and four other Republicans seeking re-election statewide in down-ballot races have this in common: the ability to raise money in excess of $1 million.

Cagle reported $2.5 million in total fundraising - with $1.5 million still in the bank - on Sept. 30 as he seeks a third-term. His Democratic opponent, Stokes, had less than $87,000 in total fundraising. Cagle’s money has allowed him to buy slick campaign commercials and whatever TV time he can buy that hasn’t been taken up in the ad wars for governor and the Senate.

Attorney General Sam Olens raised a whopping $3.4 million for his first re-election campaign, giving him roughly $6 to spend for every $1 in the campaign account of his Democratic opponent, former state lawmaker Greg Hecht of Jonesboro.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black reaped a respectable $1.5 million as he runs for a second term. His Democratic opponent, Christopher James Irvin of Toccoa, is the grandson of Tommy Irvin, who served four decades as Georgia’s agriculture commissioner until he stepped down at the end of 2010. The younger Irvin’s pedigree hasn’t translated into much financial support. He reported raising less than $52,000.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp raised $1.2 million while Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens brought in just over $1 million. Their Democratic rivals reported less than $30,000 apiece.

___

UTILITY REGULATORS

Rounding out the statewide ballot are two Republican members of the Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia utilities.

Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald faces Democrat Daniel Blackman and Libertarian Robin Aaron Gilmer. No Democrat is challenging GOP Commissioner Doug Everett, though he still faces Libertarian John Monds.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide