The Georgia 1998 Republican Primary Wrap-Up

The big news of the July 21st Georgia Republican primary was the truly disappointing turnout which threw several races into somewhat different outcomes than the published polls had suggested. Basically, the most motivated voters were the ones who showed up on Tuesday, which often spelled good news for those candidates who had spent the most time actually getting their supporters to go out and vote. Many of the primaries had 3, 4, and 5 candidates and are, thus, headed to a runoff between the top two finishers. The Georgia runoff elections will be held on Tuesday, August 11th.


Businessman Guy Millner won the GOP nomination without a runoff, as expected. However, his vote percentage hovered at the magic 50% + 1 mark throughout the late evening and into the next afternoon. Former Attorney General Mike Bowers made a stronger than expected showing, 40%, with two minor candidates splitting the remaining 10%. Bowers' voters were apparently more energized than Millner's, and that turned what appeared to be an easy win into a squeaker for Millner. Having dodged the runoff bullet, Millner will now be able to concentrate his efforts at starting his general election campaign. Log Cabin Republicans hope to support Guy Millner in the general election if he continues to talk about real issues like crime, taxes, and education, and stays away from appeals to bigotry and exclusion. His record in past campaigns is promising in this regard.


The lieutenant gubernatorial race heads to a runoff between Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis and former State Senator Clint Day of Norcross. Unfortunately, all of the five major candidates in this primary appealed to anti-gay sentiment in their campaigns. Skandalakis had formerly been seen as friendly to Log Cabin Republicans and the gay community. However, after having been attacked on that issue by the other candidates in the race, Skandalakis resorted to rampant homophobia in direct mail pieces to likely GOP voters. Against veteran Religious Right candidate Clint Day, this is likely to intensify. Day turned up the volume on the issue immediately after learning of his slot in the runoff election. Day said of Skandalakis, "He's gone to the gay tea parties. He's wrong for the state of Georgia." Unfortunately, this runoff offers nothing positive.


State Senator David Ralston of Blue Ridge and former State Representative Kip Klein of Marietta will meet in a runoff after grabbing the top two spots in the attorney general race. Ralston has a reputation as a fair-minded mainstream conservative, while Klein is a darling of the Christian Coalition. This will be an easy choice for Log Cabin Republicans.


John McCallum, a former staff assistant to Speaker Newt Gingrich, easily defeated perennial candidate Charlie Bailey for the GOP secretary of state nod. McCallum, who just turned 28, is the husband of the former Miss America, Heather Whitestone. McCallum's political consultant is Ralph Reed. He took 60% of the GOP primary vote, but must be considered an underdog in the fall election against Assistant Secretary of State Cathy Cox.


Republican incumbent John Oxendine was unopposed in the primary and is a heavy favorite to defeat the Democratic nominee, State Representative Henrietta Canty.


Businessman Bob Greer captured 82% of the vote to defeat former State Senator Hildred Shumake for the GOP nod for agriculture commissioner. In November, Greer will face 29-year incumbent Tommy Irvin. Irvin, appointed by former Governor Lester Maddox, represents the worst of cronyism and the "good old boy" system. This should be an election to watch.


Unfortunately, perennial candidate John Frank Collins won this race with 52% against two much more qualified and electable candidates. His opponents were short on money for TV advertising, and the state GOP hierarchy paid scant attention to this race. Collins' past losing campaigns, which gave him name identification, and his alphabetical placing at the top of the list gave him a substantial advantage. He heads into the November election as a decided underdog against the eventual Democratic nominee.


Incumbent Linda Schrenko won the GOP nomination against a little known candidate, but with a less than impressive percentage (62%). This reflects her rocky tenure during the past four years when off the cuff remarks and intemperate statements got her into hot water with the media and the state educational establishment. However, the Democrats have chosen her dream opponent for the fall: former City of Atlanta School Board President Joe Martin. Martin will have to explain the appalling record of the Atlanta city schools during his 20 years on the school board versus Schrenko's successful if somewhat bumpy performance as state school superintendent.


PSC incumbent Bobby Baker easily dispatched a nuisance challenge in the GOP primary and is a heavy favorite in November to retain his seat on the Public Service Commission.


This election was non-partisan but offered a very positive outcome for Georgia voters. Incumbent Justice Leah Sears was attacked repeatedly in a series of negative TV ads by challenger George Weaver as being, "supportive of same-sex marriage." Weaver based this claim on several of Justice Sears' rulings which have generally been fair to gays and lesbians. His ads were criticized by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission as "false, deceptive and misleading." Weaver's ads portrayed him as the "family values" candidate committed to upholding "traditional morality." He received only 27% of the vote. Justice Sears will continue to serve as the first African-American woman on the Georgia Supreme Court. METRO ATLANTA ELECTIONS OF INTEREST

Cobb County

Cobb County Commissioner Gordon Wysong, author of the anti-gay "Community Standards" resolution, was forced into a runoff with attorney Sam Olens. Wysong received 38% of the vote to Olens' 28%. However, the two other candidates in the race are likely to throw their support to Olens. This should prove to be a very interesting runoff.

Several mainstream GOP state representatives turned back challenges from right-wing opponents accusing them of being insufficiently conservative and not pushing the "family values agenda." State Representative Sharon Cooper of east Cobb was attacked as a "closet liberal." She received 82% of the vote! State Representatives Don Parsons and Kem Shipp also faced such challenges in north Cobb. Parsons was easily re-nominated (63%), but Shipp scraped to a 51% victory over well-funded opponent Roger Hines.

Fulton County

Former Atlanta Falcon and successful businessman Mike Kenn easily defeated former Democratic County Commissioner Lee Roach for the GOP nomination for county commission chairman. Kenn, who has welcomed the help of Log Cabin Republicans in his campaign, now faces former Atlanta police commissioner Eldrin Bell in this November's general election. Eldrin Bell has long been known for his hostility towards Atlanta's gay community. This sets up quite an interesting contrast for gay voters this fall. Log Cabin Republicans are proud to support Mike Kenn.

In the At-Large District 2 race, Roger Wise won a four candidate GOP primary with 53% of the vote, thus avoiding a runoff. Wise, who also welcomes Log Cabin Republican support for his campaign, will in November face the winner of the Democratic runoff. If both Mike Kenn and Roger Wise are elected to the Fulton County Commission, Republicans will take a majority for the first time ever on that board. What a change that would mean in the fiscal affairs of Georgia's most populous county!

Gwinnett County

Five term GOP incumbent State Representative Keith Breedlove was defeated by Bobby Reese, who had Ralph Reed as his consultant. Reese attacked Breedlove for not concentrating more of his efforts on "family issues" and "morality issues." Reese will be unopposed in November.

We hope you find these Candidates & Elections updates informative and useful. It is our goal to keep you informed throughout this election year on candidates and issues of importance to gay and lesbian voters. We welcome your input as well!