The election is over and we know who our president and members of Congress are going to be. Let’s take a few minutes and look at some of the other winners and losers in Georgia politics.
Winner: Gov. Nathan Deal.
After he took a beating on the T-SPLOST transportation tax, the governor recovered to lead the charge on the charter school constitutional amendment, approved by more than 58 percent of the state’s voters.
Besides the morale boost he received from winning that issue, Deal also set himself up to benefit handsomely when he cranks up his 2014 campaign for another four years in the governor’s mansion.
With a state commission to approve charter schools and spend millions of dollars in tax funds on them, you will see a gold rush of out-of-state companies signing lucrative contracts to manage the new schools.
These companies contributed heavily to the campaign to approve the charter school amendment, so I think they will be more than happy to help out Deal in his campaign for a second term.
Loser: State school Superintendent John Barge.
In opposing the charter school constitutional amendment, Barge was trying to uphold his constitutional duty to support the state’s public school systems.
Barge’s opposition to the amendment angered Deal and influential legislators like House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and House Majority Leader Ed Lindsey. They are going to come after him with a vengeance, and if they can’t abolish the office of state school superintendent, they will surely pass new laws stripping Barge of his administrative powers.
Barge will at least be able to ask Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for advice on what a public official does when his enemies have neutered him.
Winner: Georgia Republican Party.
GOP voters delivered the state’s electoral votes to Mitt Romney and it looks like Republicans will also have “super-majority” control of two-thirds of the seats in the General Assembly.
While Republicans are in good shape to command state politics for another eight or 10 years, election results show that they may have maxed out on how far you can go relying only on white voters.
There were several House races that Republican consultants figured they would take, only to see Democrats win surprising victories. A Republican incumbent, Rep. Mike Cheokas of Americus, also came within 208 votes of being upset by his Democratic challenger.
Winners: Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton.
The two incumbents on the Public Service Commission both won another term on the panel that regulates utility giants Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light.
Wise had token opposition and won with more than 65 percent of the vote. Eaton had more serious opposition from Democrat Steve Oppenheimer but still made it through with just over 52 percent of the statewide vote.
Their next term might not be quite as easy as the last one, however.
Georgia Power could have some sizeable cost overruns on the nuclear reactors it is building at Plant Vogtle. Wise and Eaton will have to vote on whether the utility can pass along these cost increases to its customers in the form of higher bills, or whether the utility’s shareholders should assume part of the financial risk.
If the commissioners decide in Georgia Power’s favor, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to angry ratepayers.
Possible Loser: Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Chambliss and his “Gang of Six” in the U.S. Senate have long been trying to work out a deal on reducing the massive federal deficit.
With the reelection of a Democratic president, it’s more likely that a deal would have to include some kind of tax increase – and that’s something a large number of Chambliss’ supporters would never forgive. He would find himself under attack on every talk show and conservative website in the country.
Chambliss would also be setting himself up for a strong Republican primary challenge in 2014 from Rep. Tom Price, who will have a ton of money he’s raised from the healthcare industry.
It may be that Chambliss is a genius who can work out a deficit deal and still hold off opposition from a challenger like Price. It’s more likely that the results of last week’s elections will eventually convince him it’s time to retire from elective politics.
(Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com.)