Turnout was bad enough in the primaries but historically it’s been worse in runoffs. In local races, it comes down to which candidate has more family and friends willing to go to the polls again, as the saying goes.
Voters in Cobb commission District 3 have a choice between JoAnn Birrell, who garnered 35.5 percent in the primary, and Earl Stine, close behind with 33.6 percent. Now the question is: whose supporters will be willing to make the trip back to the polls on Aug. 10? It’s not always the frontrunner that wins the runoff.
That should be of concern to Karen Handel, leader in the Republican gubernatorial donnybrook with 34 percent of the vote. She’s in a battle with Nathan Deal, the ex-congressman from Gainesville, who got 23 percent. Where will supporters of third-place Eric Johnson and fourth-place John Oxendine go? How many will vote in the runoff? Will Sarah Palin’s endorsement keep the momentum going for Handel? How big is the women’s vote factor in this race in which for the first time a woman has advanced to a gubernatorial runoff in Georgia?
Those are key questions, but there’s no question that attack ads will reach new lows during the runoff campaigns. Voters should do their homework on the candidates and rely on solid facts instead of rumors and dirty tricks.
Which brings us to another key GOP race, that for attorney general of Georgia. Sam Olens, former Cobb commission chairman, came in first with nearly 40 percent but he’s in a dogfight with state Sen. Preston Smith of Rome. Two big questions are: 1) will Cobb voters return to the polls in sufficient numbers to give Olens the edge he needs (he got 74 percent in the primary)? And 2) will Olens’ hard work throughout the state pay off in the runoff?
In the Republican runoff for state insurance commissioner, attorney Maria Sheffield of Cobb, a former insurance department staffer, is going head-to-head with state Sen. Ralph T. Hudgens of Hull after seven other candidates were eliminated. This one is really up for grabs since Hudgens had only 20.7 percent to lead the field, while Sheffield garnered 19.6 percent. Hudgens’ Senate District 47 includes Madison County where his hometown of Hull is located, Barrow and Oglethorpe and parts of Clarke (Athens), Elbert and Jackson. Sheffield has her Cobb base.
No candidate can afford to take anything for granted in the runoffs. Watch for the surprises.