Last year, 83 percent of Georgia state House seats were uncontested, the highest rate in the nation, according to an analysis done by the Associated Press. This means Georgia voters in 149 out of the 180 House of Representative districts had only one party on their ballot for their district’s House seat.
Georgia voters deserve real choice. Instead, elected officials who defend the KKK and get arrested for driving under the influence and child endangerment easily sail into re-election because there is no one to challenge them.
Rep. Tommy Benton, who has defended the KKK and attempted to revise Confederate history, has been in office for over a decade, after first winning an uncontested race back in 2004. Benton faced a Democratic challenger — once — in 2006 and then never again in the five general election cycles since then. Benton represents a district that covers most of Jefferson county, nestled halfway between Athens and Gainesville.
Rep. Tom Taylor was arrested last year while driving with a blood alcohol level of .225, nearly three times the legal limit, with four children in his car. He was also going 72 miles per hour in an area with a speed limit of 45 mph, with an open container of alcohol in his lap and a gun holstered to his hip. Taylor ran against a Democrat back in 2010, when he was first elected to office, and has never seen a Democratic challenger in the general election since then. Taylor’s district includes Dunwoody, and parts of Doraville, Chamblee, and Peachtree Corners in north DeKalb county.
Voters in these districts deserve to have real options and better candidates. No one should be represented by a KKK-defender just because there is no other choice.
Better Georgia previously did an analysis showing that Democrats are not recruiting and supporting enough candidates, even in districts where Hillary Clinton performed favorably.
Per that analysis:
- Hillary Clinton won 69 State House districts and received 40 percent of the vote or better in a whopping 93 state House districts. Democrats currently only hold 62 House seats.
- Clinton won 21 State Senate districts and received 40 percent of the vote or better in 25 districts. Democrats currently hold 18 Senate seats.
Although map rigging still poses challenges in many districts drawn to favor only one party, having a challenger forces Republicans to defend their territory and either defend or moderate their terrible policies.
This was demonstrated by Jon Ossoff’s campaign challenging the Republican hold on the 6th Congressional District seat. Karen Handel could not be the staunchly anti-LGBT candidate that she was when running for governor while squaring off against Ossoff, a pro-LGBT candidate with centrist appeal, in the recent special election. Handel was also forced to defend her anti-choice politics; the issues of abortion, family planning and reproductive healthcare took center stage in the race because of how different the candidates were on these issues. Neither reproductive rights nor LGBT issues would have received as much attention as they did if that race had merely been two Republicans vying for the seat, as many candidates and commentators originally expected.
Running for office changes the political landscape and changes the conversations happening in your community. We need more progressive candidates if we want to be properly represented in state government.
If you want to challenge the status quo in your area, consider running for office or encouraging others in your community to do so. Better Georgia is running candidate recruitment outreach, so sign up at Better Georgia’s website to get more information on the first steps of running for office.