Less than a month after a Democrat with national fundraising possibilities entered the race for U.S. Senate, Republicans in the state Capitol have begun discussing a move that could keep their side of the contest from edging too far right – and thus increase GOP odds of holding onto Saxby Chambliss’ seat.
Here’s the idea that rose up at a meeting called last week by Gov. Nathan Deal and attended by House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp: Move next year’s primary vote to May 20, a spring-time date that would be the earliest in Georgia history.
That’s an important two weeks earlier than the June 3 date for congressional races ordered by a federal judge this summer — before the end of the school year and the beginning of vacation season.
Historically, primaries in Georgia have been conducted in mid-July or later, during the dog days when many families check out of their daily routines. A pre-Memorial Day primary would ensure a larger GOP turnout with a voting population more akin to a November general election, and less likely to be dominated by the GOP’s most fervent and conservative activists.
A more centrist audience, the thinking goes, would result in more tempered rhetoric – and not just among U.S. Senate candidates. With state School Superintendent John Barge considering a challenge, Deal could have two opponents looking to rip away the GOP nomination for governor.
Further, a mid-May primary runs directly counter to a push by some Georgia Republicans, which surfaced this year, to give activists a greater say by putting nominations in the hands of delegates to the party’s statewide, election-year conventions.
Michelle Nunn’s July entry into the U.S. Senate race was a Democratic bet that a tea party-fueled, mid-summer GOP primary would produce a hard-right candidate similar to Todd Akin, the Republican from Missouri whose 2012 Senate campaign blew up after he stated that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely become pregnant.