Jack Kingston: Show Up and Vote Today


Jack Kingston: Show Up and Vote Today

Kingston Head Horizontal

via email from the Georgia Republican Party:

Winning competitors have one thing in common – they show up for the big game, match, or race, put on their uniform and take the field. Likewise, in politics, elections are won and lost based on who is able to excite their supporters and turn them out to the polls. Never is this more the case than special and runoff elections.

Despite all the talk over the last several election cycles about new technologies and new voters changing the landscape for elections, fundamentals still apply, every bit as much as the law of gravity. The most interesting political races this year are in some ways, a throwback to the 1990s, a time when the Republican party began building the infrastructure to turn the state red more than a decade later.

In 1991, Susan Weiner, a Republican and a transplant to Savannah, won that city’s mayoral election with 54% of the vote against John Rousakis, a five-term incumbent, shocking the political establishment. The election was won largely on the issue of violent crime, which was then at alarming levels.

Tom Barton recently wrote of this year’s Savannah Mayoral race, calling it “déjà vu all over again,” and harkening back to 1991, when “Weiner rode a tidal wave of voter disgust with the incumbent mayor over the city’s failure to address violent crime and the belief that the city’s leadership was complacent, arrogant and out-of-touch.”

In recent months, Savannah has been battered with headlines screaming about violent crime, as they did in 1991, and Mayor Edna Jackson was forced into a runoff against Businessman Eddie DeLoach, meaning that voters will return to the ballots on December 1, 2015 in a runoff election.

The next political lesson from that era comes from 1992, a breakthrough year in which Republican Paul Coverdell beat incumbent Democrat Wyche Fowler in a December runoff and Bobby Baker defeated John Frank Collins to become the first Republican elected state Constitutional officer since reconstruction.

Bill Clinton was elected that year, defeating incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush, but the runoff in Georgia would be won on the basis of discontent with the status quo in a state long dominated by Democrats. The lesson is that when voters are strongly motivated by discontent with the status quo, an embattled incumbent who is forced into a runoff is in a very precarious position.

That’s because voters who are tired of headlines about violent crime or excessive taxation and disenchanted with the incumbent are more likely to make the return trip to the polls in order to vote for new leadership.

By earning a spot in the runoff election, Eddie DeLoach has shown that a substantial percentage of Savannah voters want new leadership, especially with respect to fighting crime. In about two weeks, we’ll see if he’s able to turn his voters back out to the polls, but history suggests he has a pretty good shot.

In Senate District 20, six Republicans are vying in a Special Election on Tuesday, December 1 to replace former Senator Ross Tolleson, who resigned for health reasons. A recent story on WMAZ said that fewer than 1400 people voted early or absentee, while the November 2014 General Election saw more than 6500 voters cast ballots early in the same Senate District. That means that fewer than 1 in 4 voters who cast early ballots a year ago have done so for Tuesday’s election.

In the Savannah Mayoral race, voter turnout in November 2015 was reported as 37.6% of registered voters versus more than 51% in the November 2014 General Election.

In Senate District 43, where Republican JaNice VanNess came in first in the Special Election, fewer than 8100 people cast ballots, while one year earlier, nearly 39,000 voted in the General Election. Tuesday’s runoff election means that a Republican could carry the election in a district that the last Republican on the General Election ballot lost by an 80-20 margin. But the biggest issue is, once, again, getting voters to show up on Tuesday.

Soperton, in South Georgia, represents the closest possible outcome, where a 243-243 tie vote in November means that a single voter could have played a role in choosing their next Mayor but didn’t because they didn’t show up. Tuesday’s runoff election is not just a challenge for the candidates who meet in a rematch, but a challenge for the entire community.

These elections come at an inconvenient time, with early voting being shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas shopping and festivities competing with civic duties for people’s attention.

While many of us showed up early on Black Friday for bargain-shopping, too few will show up on Tuesday, when we shop for our next Mayor, City Council Member, or state legislator.

So today, I’m asking you as a personal favor, to check the Secretary of State’s website or call your local board of elections and find out if your area has an election on Tuesday, and take the time on Tuesday to show up and vote.


Jack Kingston
Foundation Chairman
Georgia Republican Party

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