May 23, 2022

Finally, it’s here

On primary eve, most signs point to a high voter turnout in Georgia on Tuesday, especially by energized Republicans casting ballots in the party’s marquee race for governor. Rain is forecast for much of the coast. It is also the last day of school for many K-12 students, leading to scrambled schedules for many parents.

Still, there’s no mistaking the enthusiasm — and the cases of some voters, the sense of urgency and desperation — fueling interest in the primary. So far, 859,224 people have voted statewide. At this point in the 2018 primary, that number was 320,692. Total turnout for the 2022 primary is 168% higher.

The two frontrunners in the race for the Republican nomination for government were making last-minute pitches for votes on Monday. Three days after a former vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, appeared in Savannah alongside Donald Trump endorsee David Perdue, former Vice President Mike Pence was set to attend a get-out-the-vote rally for Brian Kemp in an airport hangar in Kennesaw. Meanwhile, Trump was scheduled to dial in for a “tele-rally” for Perdue at the Wild Wing Café in Dunwoody.

In a race widely viewed as a barometer of Trump’s grip on the state and national GOP, and his viability as a presidential candidate in 2024, a spokesman for the former president turned up the scorn, describing Pence as a man “desperate to chase his lost relevance . . . parachuting into races hoping someone is paying attention.” Locally, the three Democrats vying for the Democratic nomination to face Rep. Buddy Carter in November— Joyce Marie Griggs, Wade Herring, Michelle Munroe — were making a final push, too. They were scheduled to field questions at a meeting of the Appling County Democratic Committee at 6 p.m. at the Progressive Resource Center in Baxley.

What we’re watching

Here is what we at The Current will be watching as primary day unfolds:

Editor in Chief Margaret Coker:

  • Coastal Georgia counties have lagged behind the rest of the state in early voting. Will that trend continue Tuesday? If so, whose supporters will be energized enough to turn out for the GOP gubernatorial primary? Kemp’s or Perdue’s? 
  • Money has poured into the race for Savannah Chatham County school board president, giving first time candidate Roger Moss an overwhelming fundraising advantage. But rival Tye Whitely has garnered blue-ribbon endorsements. Which will prove pivotal?
  • Coastal Georgian politicians historically have faced an uphill battle moving from local to statewide office. Longtime Savannah-area state Sen. Lester Jackson is trying to change that with his run for the Democratic nomination for state labor commissioner. Will he break out? 

Managing Editor Susan Catron:

  • I’m watching voter reactions to the new rules at polling stations. Will voters even notice? I also want to know how many outstanding absentee ballots arrive at polls today and if there are many skirmishes over changes in precincts or ballots due to redistricting. That might take a few days to shake out.
  • There are so many perceptions of the power of the Chatham County Board of Elections, but it’s really a policy and procedure board to ensure the process is fair. It isn’t there to influence elections. There’s value for everyone in having an election board that is independent and one whose members are committed to a fair process, so I’m curious how the voters will view those seats.
  • Many of my thoughts are local, but I to see how national influences play out across the state. I’m not just talking about individual influences but philosophical ones that have been injected into state politics from outside like teaching racial history or “divisive concepts.”
  • One last thing: teachers. How will they see this year’s elections and how they’ve been treated over the past year? In past Georgia elections — specifically, the 2002 election that elected Sonny Perdue governor — teachers were said to influence as many as eight voters in their circle. What message will teachers send at the polls?

Environment Reporter Mary Landers:

  • Two vocal opponents of Spaceport Camden are running for county commission seats in Camden County. Republicans Jim Goodman and Steve Weinkle have both made the spaceport a campaign issue in the races for their respective seats. With no Democrats running in this deep red county, Tuesday’s winners are likely the next commissioners. The races’ margins will also be a good temperature check on how county residents are feeling about the controversial spaceport plans. 
  • In the race for the 1st District Congressional seat, Democrat Wade Herring has made climate change a front and center issue, connecting it to flooding in the coastal region over the last decade. The Yale Climate Opinion map shows 70% of Georgia’s 1st District residents are worried about climate change, but only 49% think it’s caused mostly by human activity. Will Herring’s criticism of Republican incumbent Buddy Carter’s record on the environment translate to votes in the primary? 
  • In the statewide races for two seats on the Public Service Commission, watch for turnout. These races often fly under the radar, but the five-member commission regulates Georgia Power and so makes decisions that directly affect voters’ pocketbooks. The Republican incumbents Tim Echols and Fitz Johnson are running unopposed in the primary. The real race is in District 3, where Democrats Shelia Edwards, Chandra Farley and Missy Moore are competing.

In case you’re stumped . . .

As you weigh your vote and watch the results roll in, see the latest in our political coverage:

Cash pours in for Savannah-Chatham school board races by Margaret Coker

“Officially, school board races are nonpartisan. However, donor information as well as locations of campaign events indicate that the purported frontrunners to lead the school board — Moss and Whitely — are pulling support from different segments of Chatham voters.”

Perdue, Palin touch down in Savannah to rev the base by Craig Nelson

“[Conservative talk show host John Fredericks] described the stakes in Georgia’s primary as nothing less than ‘MAGA Armageddon.’ He predicted that the Republican establishment in Washington, D.C., which he said is trying to crush Trump’s movement, would be shocked at the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. The primary, he said, will be ‘their Waterloo.’”

Griggs fights off legal history with counterattacks by Craig Nelson

“Far from viewing her disbarments as a political liability, [Griggs] touts them as a reason why she is the best qualified candidate to represent Georgia’s First District in U.S. Congress.”

Q&As with candidates for the 1st District Seat in U.S. Congress by Craig Nelson

Democrats Joyce Marie Griggs, Wade Herring, and Michelle Munroe, and Republican incumbent Earl “Buddy” Carter.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...