In the May primary contest, the vast majority of Georgia incumbents staved off challengers. In Tuesday’s runoffs, the few who didn’t were in for a rough night.
The headliner was the ouster of Cobb County commission chair Tim Lee, the architect of the Atlanta Braves move to the suburbs who was dumped in what’s widely viewed as a referendum on his handling of the deal.
Several veteran state lawmakers were swept from office as well.
State Rep. John Yates, a 94-year-old Griffin Republican who was the last World War II veteran serving in the Georgia Legislature, succumbed to a GOP challenger. So did Republican state Rep. Tom Dickson, a Dalton GOPer who fell to a conservative rival. And long-serving Democratic state Rep. Darryl Jordan of Riverdale was given the boot.
The misery extended to another office-holder, state Sen. Mike Crane, who was soundly defeated by former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson in the race for an open U.S. House seat vacated by retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.
And DeKalb commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, plagued by allegations of ethical conduct and race-baiting campaign literature, was tossed by challenger Steve Bradshaw.
This was no Donald Trump-style anti-incumbent insurgency at the polls. All but a handful of incumbents secured their seats two months ago, including one candidate facing a DUI charge and another who praised the Ku Klux Klan. Tuesday’s contests were low-turnout affairs dominated by candidates who could convince the same voters who backed them in May to turn out again.
It is Lee’s defeat, though, that may hold the most lessons for office-seekers.
Around the nation, his thrashing at the polls could be seen as a warning shot to other elected officials considering negotiating a stadium deal behind closed doors.
And locally, it could influence more politicians to hold referendums to let the voters make dicey decisions for them – lest they follow Lee out the door.