The 1998 Georgia Republican Primary Runoff Results

The two main stories of the August 11th primary runoff were the dismal turnout, with only 11% of registered Georgia voters bothering to cast a ballot in either the Republican or Democratic runoff, and the incredible number of very tight contests. Yet, the results of the GOP runoff were quite encouraging for Log Cabin Republicans and other gay voters. The candidates of the Religious Right were defeated in virtually every runoff from statewide to local office. The Georgia Republican Party has nominated a largely pragmatic conservative ticket to go against the Democrats this fall. This is a ticket that will have appeal to moderate Republicans, independents and crossover Democrats in November.


Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis defeated former State Senator Clint Day by a margin of 52%-48%, racking up huge margins in metro Atlanta while losing in much of rural Georgia. Day, a favorite of the Christian Coalition, attacked Skandalakis early and often during the campaign for Skandalakis' past outreach to gay voters. Unfortunately, Skandalakis responded by distancing himself from gay Georgians by opposing issues of importance to the gay community: domestic partnership benefits, repeal of the sodomy law, non-discrimination legislation, etc. We can only hope that with the primary and runoff behind him, Skandalakis may avoid this type of pandering and expediency in the general election.


State Senator David Ralston of Blue Ridge won by a landslide, 62%-38%, over former State Representative Kip Klein of Marietta, a favorite of the far right. Ralston, a mainstream conservative, won by large margins in every region of the state, losing Klein's home county, Cobb, by only a few hundred votes. Ralston will be one of the GOP's most formidable candidates in November as he seeks to retake the attorney general's office for the Republicans.


In what was truly the most satisfying result for Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, virulently anti-gay Cobb County Commissioner Gordon Wysong was trounced 59%-41% by attorney Sam Olens. Wysong was the commissioner who introduced the notorious anti-gay "Community Standards" resolution, which led to Olympic events and numerous economic opportunities being diverted from Cobb County during the past five years. In contrast, Sam Olens stated his support for non-discrimination in a well publicized article in Atlanta's gay newspaper, Southern Voice. Olens was attacked repeatedly by Wysong during the campaign for being "pro-gay", but Olens held to his non-discrimination stance and, memorably, attacked Wysong as "rampantly homophobic." Sam Olens will be the new commissioner for eastern Cobb County, as no Democrat filed to run in November's general election.


In suburban Gwinnett County, Renee Unterman, the mayor of Loganville, won a heated runoff for an open House seat against religious right favorite Terry Milton. Unterman, a well respected local official, was attacked as being insufficiently conservative on moral issues. Several members of Gwinnett's House delegation endorsed Milton on these grounds, but Unterman prevailed 51%-49% on election day.

In Fayette County, south of Atlanta, State Representative Dan Lakly, a favorite of the right-wing, lost his Republican runoff race by 51%-49% to political newcomer Kathy Cox. Cox was effective at pointing out the negative effects of having "Crazy Dan" and his wacky agenda representing Fayette County under the Gold Dome.

Two State Senate runoffs offered a mixed bag for former Christian Coalition executive director and present political consultant Ralph Reed. In Southeast Georgia, Reed's candidate, businessman Tommie Williams of Vidalia, crushed former State Representative Willou Smith of Brunswick 67%-33%. However, in the southern suburbs of Atlanta, Reed's candidate, Don Johnson of Clayton County, lost to Bill Bonner of Fayette County 51%-49%. Bonner will replace one of the Georgia Senate's most anti-gay members, GOP incumbent Pam Glanton.