What the 2014 elections mean for DeKalb County
Democrats did pretty well in DeKalb County on Nov. 4, but that’s the thinnest of silver linings on what was an otherwise brutal night for the party.
At the federal level, Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate and Republicans maintained their majority in the United States House of Representatives.
In Georgia, that translated into decisive victories for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican Senator-elect David Perdue, races that were expected to be much closer than they were.
Decaturish caught up with members of DeKalb’s legislative delegation today to get their reaction to the Nov. 4 election results.
State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, easily won reelection against Democrat Tamara Johnson, with 62.6 percent of the vote. Millar said that Michelle Nunn, the Democratic senate candidate, “ran a pretty darn good campaign.” He also said Jason Carter, who lost his bid to unseat Gov. Deal, “has a bright future not just because his name’s Carter. The time just wasn’t right.”
Millar said the story of this election is pretty simple. Democratic voters didn’t show up in this election, and Republican voters did.
A little over 1.2 million voters backed Democrats in the race for governor and U.S. Senate. Republicans received support from about 1.4 million voters. Former Decatur Board of Education member Valarie Wilson lost her bid to become the next state school superintendent to Republican Richard Woods, receiving 1.1 million votes to Woods’ 1.4 million.
The Libertarian candidates, who were expected to push the closer races into a runoff, were barely a blip on the electoral radar this year. Libertarians received about 49,000 votes in the race for U.S. Senate and 60,000 votes in the governor’s race.
“I don’t think they got the turnout they expected,” Millar said of the Democratic candidates. “I think the Democratic Party did a great job getting people registered to vote.”
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, who was unopposed Nov. 4, said the Democrats put up good candidates this year. She said the losses were in part due to, “National mood and a strategy of nationalizing all elections based on the popularity of the president and the fact that we continue to be in Georgia racially polarized in our voting.”
Elena Parent, a former state representative who lost her seat due to redistricting, was elected to represent Senate District 42. She will replace Sen. Carter. She defeated Republican Greg Williams, receiving 39,761 votes to Williams 13,693 votes. Parent, one of the few Democrats with a reason to celebrate Wednesday morning, compared the 2014 results with the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats lost control of the U.S. House.
“We thought it could never be as bad as 2010,” Parent said.
Parent said Democrats did “20 percent” better this year than they did in the 2010 election, with “50,000 fewer votes separating our candidates from the winner.”
State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, said the Republican candidates did a better job of getting their voters to the polls.
“I think that on the Republican side of the equation we ran a very good ground game across the state and managed to turn out voters in a very substantial way and it showed in the election results,” Jacobs said.
Millar and Jacobs were careful to compliment the opposition. Both said there’s still a lot of work ahead in upcoming session of the General Assembly.
“Obviously I am elated about the election results, but this really isn’t a time for any gloating,” Jacobs said. “It’s a time to be thankful to the voters and then move on to the more difficult task of governing.”
Jacobs said the elections won’t change the status quo for DeKalb County.
“I don’t think it changes the equation much in the upcoming session from where we were at the end of the last session,” Jacobs said. “The players are all exactly the same, both in the legislature and in the governor’s office. I tend to think we will at some point see one or more cityhood proposals move forward. That dam is going to break at some point. I would hope that we all ultimately agree that some fundamental change is needed in the DeKalb County government. I think there is a high level of voter dissatisfaction all across DeKalb County with our county government that ought to compel us to act.”
Oliver said she’s not sure what to expect from the upcoming session because Gov. Deal’s energy has been focused mostly on his reelection bid.
“I know there are people talking about ways to make expanded Medicaid and Obamacare work for Georgia in a limited way,” Oliver said. “Hospitals are strategically working behind the scenes. I expect a little movement on that front.”
Millar thinks the assembly will take another look at paying for transportation improvements, three years after Metro Atlanta voters overwhelmingly rejected a penny sales tax to pay for road-improvements.
“We’ve got to do something on this transportation situation,” Millar said, noting that Cobb County voters approved a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on Tuesday.
Parent agreed that resolving Atlanta’s transportation problem is something that should be a priority this session.
“We still have a lot to talk about with transportation,” Parent said.