The names Nunn and Carter were familiar to Georgia voters a while back, and they are making a comeback, thanks to a new generation of political offspring.
Michelle Nunn, the daughter of Sam Nunn, is running for the U.S. Senate seat her father held for 24 years. State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) is thinking of running for governor, the office occupied by his grandfather, Jimmy, in the early 1970s.
There were some encouraging numbers for both Nunn and Carter to consider last week.
Nunn’s campaign talllied the money raised during the first 10 weeks of her candidacy and announced she had $1.7 million in contributions.
By comparison, two of the leading candidates on the Republican side of the race, Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah and businessman David Perdue, each raised about $800,000 for the period ending Sept. 30.
For Carter, the meaningful numbers were contained in a statewide survey by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina firm with a good record of calling state races. PPP’s latest poll showed that in a hypothetical matchup between Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Carter, Deal held a 44-40 percent advantage among likely Georgia voters. PPP Director Tom Jensen said Deal’s approval numbers have also dropped a little in recent weeks, from 44 percent to 34 percent.
“Much of this negative trend is due to Deal’s ethics scandal, as nearly half (48 percent) of those polled felt the state ethics commission’s call for an independent investigation of Deal’s last campaign is a convincing reason not to vote for his re-election,” Jensen said.
Carter will have more numbers to consider in a few weeks when the Democratic Governors Association, which wants him to run, has another poll conducted in Georgia.
“Yes, I’m thinking about it, but I don’t have any comment yet,” Carter said.
Carter could decide to stay out of the governor’s race. A promising member of the Georgia Senate, he is establishing a career in law and has family obligations with a wife and two young sons.
Even with ethics questions dogging him, Deal still holds the power of incumbency and will be able to raise huge amounts of money from corporate sources and Republican PACs. That’s a political juggernaut that would be difficult for any challenger to overcome.
For a student of Georgia’s political history, however, there are some interesting parallels between Jason Carter and his grandfather.
In 1966, Jimmy Carter ran for governor as he was finishing up his second term in the Georgia Senate. Jason Carter is wrapping up his second full term as a state senator.
Jimmy Carter was 41 when he ran that first race for governor. Jason Carter will be 39 during next year’s campaign period.
Jimmy Carter didn’t win that 1966 race, but he ran an energetic, upbeat campaign that ended in a third-place finish in the Democratic primary. He won the governor’s office in 1970.
Jason Carter would be the underdog if he decided to run next year, but a credible showing along with the continued growth of Georgia’s minority population could position him for a stronger run at statewide office two or four years down the road.
At the end of the day, Georgia is still a conservative state and Republicans will continue to hold firm control of state government after the 2014 elections.
The emergence of Nunn and Carter will not change that.
On the other hand, there is now the possibility you’ll have a couple of competitive races amidst all the blowouts next year. That will be entertaining.
(Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)