Balfour, Thompson ousted from Senate; Parent wins bitter Democratic primary

The longest-serving members from the two party caucuses in the Georgia Senate were removed from office Tuesday by voters in their own primaries.

Gwinnett County voters put an end Tuesday to the political career of Sen. Don Balfour, the longest-serving Republican in the Georgia Senate.

Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta), the senior member of the Georgia Senate with 24 years service in the upper chamber, also ended his legislative career with a close loss in the Democratic primary.

Balfour, who has been battling allegations of ethical miscounduct and criminal charges for the past two years, finished third in a three-man Republican primary race behind former county commissioner Mike Beaudreau and former Lawrenceville city council member P. K. Martin.

Beaudreau pulled 38 percent of the vote, Martin 33 percent, and Balfour had less than 27 percent support, an unaccustomed position for a politician who for years was one of the most powerful members of the Senate as chairman of the Rules Committee.

Beaudreau and Martin will meet in the July 22 runoff to determine which one runs against Democrat Tim Swiney in the general election.

Thompson lost to Michael Rhett, a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, by a 51-49 percent margin in the Democratic primary. A close friend of former governor Roy Barnes, Thompson served 10 years in the Georgia House in addition to 24 years in the Senate.

With the losses of Thompson and Balfour, the senior state senator will be Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), who was first elected in 1990 as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party in 2003.

Balfour’s attention was diverted in the final days of the campaign as his son, Trey, a Georgia National Guardsman serving in Afghanistan, was hospitalized in Germany for medical treatment.

Balfour, a Waffle House executive, was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and assumed the Rules Committee chairmanship after Republicans gained control of the Senate in 2003.

He lost that chairmanship after he was fined $5,000 for ethics violations and he later was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury for filing inaccurate expense reports with the state.

Balfour was acquitted of all criminal charges after a jury trial last December, but his ethical issues brought out the opposition in his own primary.

In a bitterly contested Senate race in DeKalb County’s District 42, former legislator Elena Parent beat attorney Kyle Williams by nearly a two-to-one margin in the Democratic primary. Parent finished with 66 percent support to 34 percent for Williams.

Jason Carter is vacating this seat to run for governor and Parent will be heavily favored to beat Republican nominee Greg Williams in the general election.

Although Parent and Kyle Williams are both liberal Democrats, in keeping with the nature of the district, they both ran mud-slinging campaigns in which each slammed the other for voting a conservative position on legislation or for being endorsed by a Republican organization.

While Jason Carter stayed out of the hard-fought race to choose his successor, his wife, Kate Carter, endorsed Parent.

Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), a 10-year Senate veteran from Forsyth County and a committee chairman, was pushed into a Republican runoff with businessman Mike Williams.

Murphy drew 37 percent of the GOP primary vote to 34 percent for Williams and 29 percent for funeral home director Lauren McDonald III, the son of Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Don Balfour , elena parent , Jack Murphy , Jason Carter , State senate races