Low voter turnout frustrates local leaders
A seesaw night across Georgia races has ended with wins for most Republicans, including Gov. Brian Kemp, who beat challenger Stacey Abrams in their rematch and a December 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Gabriel Sterling of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office said on Twitter that “it is safe to say there will be a runoff” between Warnock and Walker.
As of press time, five counties had not yet completed their count: Fulton, Fayette, Chatham, Peach, and Grady.
While slightly more voters turned out than in 2018, Abrams seems to have fared worse this time than last. In 2018, Abrams got 48.83% of the vote statewide. This year, with five precincts still out, she has 45.85%. That may improve once the heavily Democratic counties of Fulton and Chatham come in, but not nearly enough to put her in a runoff with Kemp. Abrams conceded the race last night.
See all statewide returns from the Georgia Secretary of State
See all Clayton County returns from the Georgia Secretary of State
Turnout was less than spectacular, both statewide and in Clayton County. While it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison, it should give Clayton County pause to know that 50% of residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 47.34% of eligible voters took part in this election. That point was not lost on members of the NAACP Clayton County Branch, who gathered for a watch party in downtown Jonesboro and who expressed frustration with local voters’ apathy on the heels of a TIME Magazine piece on efforts to get out the Black vote in Clayton County and in Georgia as a whole.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the county had upped their ground game, relying more on the personal touch and bringing in big names to small communities. But the grassroots effort was not enough for either party to get its people to the polls. While Clayton County is almost guaranteed to vote a straight Democratic ticket, that does not reflect most Georgia counties. The highly-populated, majority-minority metro Atlanta counties like Clayton and Fulton, along with Savannah’s coastal Chatham County, can tip a race to the Democratic side, but only if their people show up. Low voter turnout in those counties benefits Republicans at the statewide level.
On the Democratic side, the party faithful turned out to hear former President Barack Obama exhort them to get out the vote at a rally in College Park; Warnock, Abrams, Nguyen, Jordan, Bailey also took the stage. Most of those present were elected officials or party activists who were guaranteed voters, not those who needed prodding. Abrams came to Forest Park and Riverdale, as well as McDonough in Henry County. Warnock came to Forest Park. Also in Forest Park, actor Lin-Manuel Miranda showed up. None of the events were widely publicized and it’s not clear that new or less-engaged voters would turn out to hear a stump speech, much less go to the polls because of one. Most Democrats running for office in Clayton County ran unopposed, including State Reps. Sandra Scott in District 76, with 15,554 votes; Rhonda Burnough in District 77, with 14,398 votes; Demetrius Douglas in District 78, with 17,752 votes; and Yasmin Neal in District 79, with 11,999 votes.
Clayton County Republicans hosted a rally for Walker at Crane Hardware. Burt Jones, who was a member of Georgia’s fake elector slate that tried to illegally declare the 2020 Presidential race for former Donald Trump, and who was leading Charlie Bailey in the lieutenant governor’s race as of press time, held a meeting with Black business owners in Forest Park. County Republicans advanced candidates in races that they had little chance of winning and took a beating for their trouble.
In Congressional District 13, Caesar Gonzales ran against incumbent Rep. David Scott, who was rumored to have serious health issues, and whose absence from the campaign trail prompted CCGARP President Garrett Ashley to ask repeatedly “Where is Scott?” on social media. Gonzales even got the gift of debating an empty podium in the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk Debate. But the longtime member of Congress swept the vote, 65,474 (87.12%) to Gonzales’ 9.682 (12.88%). In Georgia House District 34, perennial candidate Tommy Smith lost to State Rep. Valencia Seay, who beat him by a 10-to-1 margin (34,199 to 3,790, or 90.02% to 9.98%). Della Ashley took a low-key run at State House District 75, where incumbent State Rep. Mike Glanton beat Ashley 8-to-1 (14,882 to 1,925, or 88.55% to 11.45%); her best showing was in Jonesboro 3 at 33.31% (184 votes). In House District 116, a race that drew the tiniest of turnouts, Bruce Bennington was clobbered by State Rep. El-Mahdi Holly (847 to 180, or 82.47% to 17.53%) in the Lovejoy 7 precinct.
In the statewide race for attorney general, with 97% of precincts reporting as of press time, local Libertarian Martin Cowen drew 1,746 or 1.66% of Georgia votes, as compared to Democrat Jen Jordan’s 58,907 (56.06%) and Republican incumbent Chris Carr’s 44,422 (42.28%). The vast majority of Cowen’s votes came from Clayton County (1,288, or 1.55% of the countywide vote). Jordan took 71,290 or 85.53% of Clayton County votes, while Carr got 10,777 (12.93%).
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Clayton County saw a large number of uncontested races, mostly for state legislative seats and the Clayton County Board of Education.
At the Gold Dome, those included longtime State Sen. Gail Davenport (40,870) and State Reps. Sandra Scott of District 76 (15,554), Rhonda Burnough of District 77 (14,398), Demetrius Douglas of District 78 (17,752), and Yasmin Neal of District 79 (11,999).
At the school board, those included Jasmine Bowles of District 1 (10,893), Victoria Williams of District 4 (6,527), Joy Tellis Cooper of District 8 (8,121), and Benjamin Straker of District 9 (8,907).
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners also saw two uncontested races: Alieka Anderson in District 1 (18,430) and DeMont Davis in District 4 (17,985).
Barbara Gibbs-Hodge also ran unopposed for reelection to the Clayton County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, winning 71,281 votes.
Voters in the City of Morrow passed the $80,000 homestead exemption, with 1,142 voting yes (78.81%) and 307 voting no (21.19%).