Much like his predecessor eight years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal heads into his re-election summer and fall bolstered by an improving economy, extra money to spend on schools, campaign checks flowing in from big statehouse interests and an unquestioned dominance of state government and Republican politics.
But unlike his predecessor, Sonny Perdue, Deal goes into the final five months of the campaign battling ethics questions that have persisted for years, politically active teachers and retirees angered by costly changes to their health care, and a fresh-faced Democratic opponent with a famous name who can raise money from Georgia millionaires, D.C. lobbyists and Hollywood big shots.
While Perdue held a substantial lead going into his final campaign against the Democratic nominee he eventually routed on Election Day — Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor — polls suggest Deal faces a tighter race against state Sen. Jason Carter, a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
June to November can be a geological era in politics, so Carter may yet meet the same fate as Taylor, particularly in a Republican-leaning state. Or maybe not.
“This has the potential — the potential — to be a tight race,” said Steve Anthony, a Georgia State University political science lecturer and former aide to legendary Democratic House Speaker Tom Murphy.
After last Tuesday’s primaries, both campaigns confront challenges on their road to the November election. Carter must win over minorities and other newcomers who are slowly changing the state’s electorate while enticing enough conservative-leaning independents to abandon Deal.