Midterm election takeaway is coastal Georgia Democrats shifting focus

Rep. Buddy Carter easily won re-election despite a strong performance by the challenger in Chatham County.


This is the City Talk column from Bill Dawers, a longtime contributor to the Savannah Morning News.

Although the US Senate race is headed for a runoff, Republican candidates in Georgia did very well in the general election.

Gov. Brian Kemp beat Stacey Abrams by nearly 300,000 votes for a 53.4% ​​to 45.9% win that never felt close in recent months. Charlie Bailey, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, slightly outperformed Abrams but lost to Republican Burt Jones by 51.4% to 46.4%. Republicans won other races for state office by similar numbers.

The 2022 election highlighted deep divisions in the state’s electorate. Georgia obviously isn’t the only state with islands of deep blue surrounded by red seas, but the divide seems particularly severe here for a number of reasons.

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Incumbent US Rep. 1st Circuit Buddy Carter easily defeated Democratic challenger Wade Herring by nearly 50,000 votes, making the final score 59.1% to 40.9%, despite Herring receiving nearly 58% of the Chatham County vote received.

Herring, a well-funded and hard-working candidate, got 2,000 more votes than Abrams in Chatham County, but that strong showing in the district’s most populous county didn’t bring Herring anywhere near a win in a district that’s tilting so far to the right.

Even as Herring surpassed Abrams, he struggled to get a third of the vote in most wards in the district. Herring took up only 30% in Bryan County, 31% in Camden County, and 34% in Glynn County.

I should note that incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock drew more voters than Herring and other Democrats, but this race was an outlier. If a mainstream candidate had emerged from the May primary in place of Trump-backed Herschel Walker, Republicans would almost certainly have taken Warnock’s seat.

Sure, Herring would probably have done better in the general election than in the midterms. But with a right-leaning bias of almost 7% according to Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project, the odds are good for any Democrat, especially against a longtime incumbent like Carter.

In this politically polarized environment, coastal residents seem more likely to meet on specific issues than candidates.

For example, voters across the political spectrum have concerns about protecting the fragile coastal environment. As the region’s population increases, there will inevitably be increasing concerns about transportation, housing costs and quality of life.

The recent vote on expanding Medicaid in ruby ​​South Dakota provides even more evidence of a clear divide on the issue between conservative voters and conservative elected officials.

I’m not suggesting Democrats will stand a chance against Carter in 2024, but focusing on widespread concerns could offer a political path forward.

Continued efforts to build consensus on issues could eventually lead to the implementation of better public policies, even if it doesn’t turn the coast from red to blue.

Bill Dawers can be reached at @billdawers on Twitter and [email protected]