Last night’s defeat of state Sen. Mike Crane in the race for an open U.S. House seat was an enormous win for Georgia’s Republican establishment.
The Newnan Republican had all the trappings of an anti-establishment insurgent campaign. He was backed by tea party groups and Club for Growth, boosted by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and championed by state Sen. Josh McKoon, a thorn in the state establishment’s side.
At every turn, Crane attacked establishment forces, including an extraordinary outburst accusing his rivals of “gutter politics.”
The campaign’s victor, former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, indeed had the support of traditional Republican powerhouses. Many elected officials sided with Ferguson, as did the Georgia Chamber and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Outgoing Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, whose retirement left the seat vacant, and several of his aides helped Ferguson’s bid. In all, more than $2.1 million in outside money was spent on the race, much of it aiding Ferguson.
There was no love lost between most of Georgia’s ranking GOP forces and Crane. Recall that GOP activists at the Third District’s April meeting voted to “censure” Gov. Nathan Deal over his veto of the religious liberty legislation, and Crane led a brief charge calling for a special session to reverse the veto. Business groups also took particular delight in defeating a lawmaker who vigorously fought a 2015 transportation tax hike they championed.
One jubilant Republican operative texted last night that the media “inflates” fiery conservatives like Crane when we ink-stained wretches give them attention.
“That sound you heard last night,” the operative added, “was a harpoon letting the air out.”
Insider’s note: A version of this post appeared in the Morning Jolt.