Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

Geography was destiny in some political races

When the U.S. Senate race got underway last year, the conventional wisdom among the political pundits was that Jack Kingston would be hampered by the fact he was not well-known to Georgia’s voters outside the coastal counties he represented in the 1st Congressional District. He was seen as just a “regional candidate.”

Kingston would be running at a disadvantage to former secretary of state Karen Handel, the thinking went, because she was more familiar to voters in the Republican-rich suburban counties of Metro Atlanta.

In the May 20 Republican primary, geography did turn out to be destiny for Kingston, but not in the way the political experts had initially predicted.

There was a spirited campaign to pick a successor to Kingston in the 1st Congressional District, and that primary election generated a stronger turnout of voters in the coastal and southeastern counties than in the Metro Atlanta area.

In fact, it was the strong support for Kingston in the state’s southeastern quadrant that enabled him to hold off a late-charging Handel and secure a spot in the runoff against businessman David Perdue.

In some of the more populous counties along the coast, Kingston ran way ahead of Handel by margins of as much as 10-to-1 and 11-to-1.

In Chatham County (Savannah), Kingston’s home base, he won 13,988 of the 17,859 votes that were cast in the Senate GOP primary. Handel only received 1,232 votes.

If you look at some of the more populous counties along the coast, you’ll see Kingston running ahead of Handel by margins of as much as 10-to-1 and 11-to-1.

In Chatham County (Savannah), Kingston’s hometown, he won 13,988 of the 17,859 votes cast in the Senate GOP primary. Handel had 1,232 votes.

That trend was repeated in counties throughout South Georgia –

Glynn County (Brunswick): Kingston got 5,655 out of 8,853 votes, while Handel got 994.
Wayne County (Jesup): Kingston got 2,865 out of 3,651 votes, Handel 185.
Bulloch County (Statesboro): Kingston got 3,325 out of 4,375 votes, Handel 296.
Lowndes County (Valdosta): Kingston got 3,649 out of 5,176 votes, Handel 617.
Liberty County (Hinesville): Kingston got 1,132 out of 1,412 votes, Handel only got 90.
Effingham County (Rincon): Kingston got 3,221 out of 4,284 votes, Handel 371.
McIntosh County (Darien): Kingston got 1,520 out of 1,980 votes, Handel 117.
Ware County (Waycross): Kingston got 2,579 out of 3,319 votes, Handel 210.

Handel ran well in Metro Atlanta, as she was expected to, but the turnout in those counties was not as robust, on a percentage basis, as the counties in Kingston’s old district. She also was not carrying them by 10-to-1 margins as Kingston was down south –

Cobb County: Handel got 14,682 votes to Kingston’s 6,320.
Gwinnett: Handel 14,625 to Kingston’s 5,792.
Fulton: Handel 14,221 to Kingston’s 5,482.
Forsyth: Handel 6,762 to Kingston’s 3,005.
Cherokee: Handel 6,894 to Kingston’s 2,881.

That’s why Kingston made it into the runoff with Perdue, while Handel was sent packing into political retirement.

Geography was also destiny in a couple of the state’s congressional races.

Donna Sheldon, who was once the chair of the Georgia House Republican Caucus, and state Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), who was the House Majority Whip, gave up influential positions in the legislative leadership to make a try for the U.S. House.

Sheldon ran in the 10th District, where Rep. Paul Broun was enticed to try for the Senate, while Lindsey was one of the candidates trying to replace Rep. Phil Gingrey in the 11th District.

Lindsey and Sheldon were both running in congressional races where the legislative areas they represented were located on the extreme outer edges of the U.S. House districts.

The 10th Congressional District covers a large swatch of territory in the mid-eastern region of Georgia. Gwinnett County, where Sheldon resides, accounts for a small slice in the northwest corner of that district.

The 11th Congressional District has the bulk of its voters residing in Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb counties. There’s a sliver of Fulton County at the southern extreme of the district, which takes in Lindsey’s legislative district.

Lindsey and Sheldon were obviously well-known and well-liked in their legislative districts, but those areas made up a small portion of the congressional districts where they were running. That meant they had more work to do to build up name recognition and support among voters who were not familiar with them.

In the end, that proved to be an impossible task and both of them finished out of contention for the runoff elections.

Sheldon received 15 percent of the vote in the 10th District primary and trailed behind Jody Hice and Mike Collins, who are headed to the July 22 runoff. Lindsey likewise could attract only 15 percent support in the 11th District and will have to watch as Barry Loudermilk and Bob Barr fight it out in the runoff.

In politics, it not only matters who you are – sometimes it matters even more where you came from.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: GOP primary , Jack Kingston , karen handel , Senate race

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