Taking it to the House: Local Dems grab seats from GOP

Democrats Jonathan Wallace and Deborah Gonzalez won two seats in the Georgia House of Representatives formerly controlled by Republicans in Tuesday’s special elections.

 

Both won in districts redrawn by the Republican Party six years ago to dilute Democratic strength in Clarke County. About half the voters in each district are Clarke County residents. But the result now deprives heavily Republican Oconee County of a Republican representative in the state House — though the two winners promise to represent all the people.

“I represent EVERY voter in this district,” Wallace, the District 119 winner, said in a prepared statement. “I may not see eye to eye with the people who voted for my opponents, but I know we share something in common: a love of this community and a hope that it will be an even happier, healthier and more thriving place to live in as years go by.”

Those voters who don’t see eye to eye with the two Democrats live mainly outside Clarke County, though Wallace showed surprising strength in Oconee County. Wallace got 38 percent of the vote there to turn back three Republican rivals: Tom Lord (28 percent), Marcus Wiedower (27 percent) and Steven Strickland (7.5 percent).

But 76.4 percent — three of every four voters — chose Wallace in Clarke County.

Wallace finished with 56.7 percent of the overall vote, while his three Republican opponents together tallied about 43 percent.

In the House 119 race overall, Wallace had 4,482 votes, more than the combined totals of Republicans Lord (1,573) Wiedower (1,368) and Strickland (483).

The District 117 results were similar. Republican Houston Gaines pulled in about two-thirds of the vote at polling places in Oconee County as well as small portions of Barrow and Jackson counties.

But Gonzalez was just as dominant in much larger Clarke County, taking 64 percent of the ballots. Gonzalez had 3,995 votes overall, or 53 percent, to Gaines’ 3,525 votes, or 47 percent. As in other races Democrats won around the country Tuesday, the victors viewed the results in part as a judgement of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“This election sends a clear message to the Trump administration and to his cronies at the Georgia State Capitol: We’re tired of one-party rule, and we want a government that puts people first!” Wallace wrote in his victory statement.

The winners will fill the unexpired terms of District 117’s Regina Quick, R-Athens, who stepped down after Gov. Nathan Deal appointed her to a Superior Court judgeship, and District 119’s Chuck Williams, R-Watkinsville, who became director of the Georgia Forestry Commission. Gonzalez and Wallace will represent their districts in the upcoming session of the General Assembly beginning in January, and both must run again next year for a full term.

The choice for voters in the House races was clear, with Republican and Democratic candidates predictably diverging on issues such as guns on campus, Trump, allowing local governments to decide about moving monuments and expanding Medicaid to cover more people.

The three Republicans running in District 119 had said in candidate forums they would vote for Trump again, but Gaines in District 117 didn’t answer that question. Republicans also stressed issues such as keeping taxes low and favored a law setting rules on where transgender people could use the restroom, while opposing expanding Medicaid or taking a wait-and-see approach.

The Republican candidates also said they favored guns on college campuses, unlike the Democrats and unlike Quick and Williams, who had voted against the new state law allowing guns on campus.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

 

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Wed, 2017-11-22 9:06am

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