You have seen the signs, watched the commercials, maybe you have even attended one of the recent events in Athens from both the Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp campaigns. The race is on to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, and it seems to be in a dead heat as polls have shown.
To many, this may come as a surprise. Most people recognize Georgia as a devoutly red state.
However, it was only in the early 2000s that Georgia actually became a Republican state. Sonny Perdue’s election in 2002 was the first time a Republican won the Georgia gubernatorial race in 134 years.
The race to be Georgia’s next governor is one of the tightest in recent history, last polled by Ipsos at 46 percent for Abrams and 47 percent for Kemp among likely voters. While Abrams appears to have a lot in her favor, there is also a lot she must overcome as she faces Brian Kemp. Georgia bears a prominent, yet fickle potential to turn blue.
“The Republican party, from whatever dimension you look at it, has probably hit its high water point. It’s beginning to recede a bit.”
- Charles Bullock, UGA politica science professor
Despite the race being neck and neck, the candidates have diametrically opposing ideologies.
A race as unique as this one begs for expert evaluation.
Charles Bullock, University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Chair in Political Science, helped write the book “Georgia Politics in a State of Change,” and offered valuable insight into the election.
On the topic of juxtaposing ideological positions and polling results, Bullock said the close scores have been a long time coming.
“It’s something we haven’t seen for a while. The last time a non-incumbent Democrat won a statewide election was 20 years ago, 1998,” Bullock said. “This has not been a good generation for Democrats. Abrams being within a point or two, that is a change.”
Some may find Abrams’ popularity out of the blue, but some recent occurrences may reveal it was inevitable.
“We’re all now coming of age to be able to vote. We have new ideas, we’re a new generation, so I think that incoming voters’ pool will have a big change.”
- Cammie Chavez, a freshman history major
Social media sites such as Twitter yield thousands of results for “Blue Wave,” the term for a national movement to elect Democratic leaders on all levels of government. Some students think this trend will play to Democrats’ advantage.
Cammie Chavez, a freshman history major from Nicholson, said Democrats have utilized social media more effectively than Republicans.
“I think the people on the liberal spectrum have more access to social media and can have their voice heard, so I think they represent a lot,” Chavez said.
In addition, Abrams started the New Georgia Project in 2014, an organization dedicated to registering thousands of people of color to vote in Georgia. On the subject, her website has a page dedicated entirely to teaching viewers how to vote, whereas Kemp’s does not.
"...The Republican party is going to have to fight harder to retain its position as it goes into the future.”
- Charles Bullock, UGA politica science professor
Bullock said Abrams’ traction may also be attributed to the loss of the Republican party’s momentum.
“The Republican party, from whatever dimension you look at it, has probably hit its high water point. It’s beginning to recede a bit,” Bullock said. “That doesn’t mean it’s on the verge of necessarily becoming the minority party, but the Republican party is going to have to fight harder to retain its position as it goes into the future.”
There is another contributing factor toward the potential of a blue Georgia. Political scientists have observed a trend that the president’s party tends to lose support at the polls, meaning the minority party picks up steam in midterms.
Bullock thinks the Blue Wave coming to Georgia is improbable but not impossible.
In spite of this push to register millennial voters, who overall trend toward Democrats, Bullock discussed two other things necessary for Abrams’ success.
“[The election] has to have a relatively high black turnout … Blacks probably have to turn out in higher rates than whites, and that’s a challenge,” Bullock said. “Obama in years 2008-2012 saw blacks and whites turn out at about the same rate … I think she’s got to have blacks casting 30 percent of all votes, maybe more than that.”
In addition, Bullock said Abrams needs strong support from white women.
“We’re all now coming of age to be able to vote,” Chavez said about the youth vote. “We have new ideas, we’re a new generation, so I think that incoming voters’ pool will have a big change.”
The question remains if Abrams’ election would turn Georgia blue or if it would be a mere anomaly in electoral trends.
A Democratic trend has already started, Bullock said.
“If she wins, it helps accelerate that trend. And that as governor, she would be able to veto over a Republican-friendly redistricting plan,” Bullock said. “She’d be able to encourage quality Democrats to run for other offices, she’d be able to raise money to help Democrats win, so yeah, if she wins, it would be an accelerant.”