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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bellweather Counties in Georgia Elections



Georgia. It is seen as being one of these states(along with Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas) which is trending toward the Democrats because of the changing demographics. In no other area is such population growth more prevalent than in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. For the most part, the Suburban Atlanta counties(Cherokee, Cobb, Coweta, Fayette, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Henry, and Spalding) vote Republican, while Clayton County, DeKalb County, and Fulton County are fairly reliably Democratic. Republicans usually do well in the largely rural Northern and Southern(save Macon) areas, while Democrats run up the score in Eastern(Augusta) and, to some lesser extent, Southwestern(Albany and Columbus) Georgia. The real fight has been fought in the Suburban Atlanta counties. Having taken some time to comb through GA elections from the past few decades, I have determined that the 3 counties which have historically tended to give us an idea of who is winning in state and federal elections in the modern era(1960 onward) are the Suburban Atlanta counties of Douglas, Newton, and Rockdale(though this one has become decidedly less swingy in the past several rears). Granted, these 3 counties have been known to sometimes get it wrong on Election night(sometimes 1 of the 3, sometimes 2, and sometimes all), so this isn't by any means a perfect means of gauging how an election is going. Carrying counties in a statewide and federal election is just as significant as carrying a state in a Presidential election. Perhaps even more so, as one has to carry certain counties in order to win a state in a Presidential contest. As they say, "All politics is local." It is my hope, though, that this(perhaps lengthy) rundown will help one to perhaps understand the dynamics at plat and to get a feel for how things might go on Election Night.

To gauge how a county might vote in a state and federal election, one does have to consider the demographics of said county. A county which has a majority of blacks and/or hispanics and a lower median income and percentage of married couples is exponentially more likely to vote Democratic than is a county which is majority white and has a higher median income and percentage of married couples. With all of that in mind, here are the demographics of the counties of Douglas, Newton, and Rockdale, as calculated by the 2010 Census and with the addition of some recent(upward) population projections.

Douglas County: 52% White, 39% Black, 8% Hispanic/Latino, 1% Native American. 28% of residents are under age 18, 9% are from ages 18 to 24, 33% are from ages 25 to 44, 22% are from ages 45 to 64, and 8% are age 65 or older. Douglas County's median age is 34. 59% of households consist of a married couple, while 24% have co-habitating partners and 13% have a female as the primary breadwinner. The average household income in Douglas County is around $51K. Median family income is $54K. Males have a median income of $38K, versus $28K for females. Douglas County's per capita income is $21K. 6% of families and 8% of the population is presently below the poverty line. Douglas County has a estimated population of 134,000.

Newton County: 54% White, 44% Black, 2% Hispanic/Latino. 28% of residents are under age 18, 9% are from ages 18 to 24, 32% are from ages 25 to 44, 21% are from ages 45 to 64, and 10% are age 65 or older. Newton County's median age is 33. 59% of households consist of a married couple, while 22% have co-habitating partners and 14% have a female as the primary breadwinner. The average household income in Newton County is around $45K. Median family income is around $50K. Males have a median income of $37K, versus $26K for females. Newton County's per capita income is $19K. 7% of families and 10% of the population is presently below the poverty line. Newton County has an estimated population of 102,000.

Rockdale County: 46% Black, 41% White, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 2% Asian. 28% of residents are under age 18, 9% are from ages 18 to 24, 31% are from ages 25 to 44, 24% are from ages 45 to 64, and 9% are age 65 or older. Rockdale County's median age is 35. 62% of households consist of a married couple, while 22% have co-habitating partners and 12% have a female as the primary breadwinner. The average household income in Rockdale County is $54K. Median family income is $60K. Males have a median income of $41K, versus $29K for females. Rockdale County's per capita income is $22K. 6% of families and 8% of the population is presently below the poverty line. Rockdale County has an estimated population of 86,000.

Having touched on present demographics, I will now get into the past election results which have led me to my conclusion of these 3 counties being historical bellweathers for how the state will go. I'll start off with the Georgia Presidential elections from 1960-2012 and then go to statewide elections from 1988-2012(I tried, but I could not find any county-by-county map of the election results for the years previous). The statewide offices which I will choose to cover are those of US Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Public Service Commissioner, State Judgeships, and, in only one instance, the race for Insurance Commissioner.

GEORGIA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

In 1960, John F. Kennedy carried all 3 counties as he carried Georgia in his successful Presidential bid. In 1964, Douglas County backed Barry M. Goldwater on his way to a statewide win, while Newton and Rockdale Counties backed the ultimately successful re-election of Lyndon B. Johnson. 1968 saw Southern Son and notorious Alabama Governor George C. Wallace carrying all 3 counties on his way to an easy win statewide and regionally. Richard Nixon won all 3 counties as he rolled to a re-election victory statewide and nationally in 1972. Favourite Son Jimmy Carter carried these 3, not to mention every other county in the state, in his successful campaign against President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. Douglas and Rockdale Counties backed Ronald Reagan, while Newton County backed President Carter as he won the state while simultaneously losing in a national landslide. All 3 counties backed President Reagan, who won the state's electoral votes and re-election over Walter Mondale in 1984. All 3 backed George HW Bush, who would win the state and the election over Michael Dukakis in 1988. Douglas and Rockdale counties backed the unsuccessful 1992 re-election campaign of President Bush, while Bill Clinton won Newton County on his way to winning the state with a plurality. 1n 1996, Bob Dole won all 3 counties and Georgia's electoral votes in his ultimately unsuccessful campaign. George W. Bush carried all 3 counties and the state of Georgia in 2000, as well as in his 2004 re-election campaign. All 3 counties voted for Barack Obama's successful 2008 campaign and 2012 re-election campaign, even as John S. McCain and W. Mitt Romney won statewide.

STATE & FEDERAL ELECTIONS

1988

In race #1 for the Public Service Commission, Democrat Bobby Pafford carried Douglas and Newton counties on his way to victory over Republican John F. Collins, who carried Rockdale County. In race #2, Newton County backed Democrat Bobby Rowan in his successful campaign against Republican Jerry Brittingham, who carried Douglas and Rockdale counties. In race #3, Douglas and Newton counties backed Democrat Cas Robinson in his victorious effort against Republican Horace Hartley, who carried Rockdale County.

1990

In the race for Governor, Democrat Zell Miller carried Douglas and Newton Counties on his way to victory against Republican Johnny Isakson, who carried Rockdale County. All 3 counties backed Democratic Lieutenant Governor Pierre Howard in his landslide win against Republican Matt Towery. In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Democrat Mac Barber swept all 3 counties in his successful bid against Republican Jim West. In race #2, Democrat Bob Durden swept all 3 counties in his landslide win against Libertarian Elizabeth Goldin.

1992

General Election-In the US Senate race, Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler carried Newton county on his way to finishing first in round 1 against Republican Paul Coverdell, who carried Douglas and Rockdale counties. In the race for Public Service Commissioner, Republican Bobby Baker carried all 3 counties on his way to finishing first in round one against R-turned-D John F. Collins.

General Election Runoff-In round 2 of the US Senate race, Republican Paul Coverdell again carried Douglas and Rockdale counties in his successful bid against Democratic Senator Wyche Fowler, who again carried Newton County. In round 2 of the race for Public Service Commissioner, Republican Bobby Baker again carried all 3 counties in his winning effort against R-turned-D John F. Collins.

1994

In the Governors race, Incumbent Democrat Zell Miller carried Newton County in his tight re-election bid against Republican Guy Millner, who carried Douglas and Rockdale counties. All 3 counties backed Democratic Lieutenant Governor Pierre Howard, Democratic Secretary of State Max Cleland, and Democrat-turned-Republican Attorney General Mike Bowers over their respective opponents(Republicans Nancy Schaffer and Keith Maloney and Democrat Wesley Dunn). In the race for Insurance Commissioner, Republican John Oxendine carried all 3 counties in his narrow win over Democratic incumbent Tim Ryles. All 3 counties backed Republicans David Baker and Stan Wise over Democrats Earleen Sizemore and incumbent Bobby Rowan.

1996

Democratic Primary Election-In the Secretary of State Special Election Primary, Lewis Massey carried all 3 counties in his landslide win against Marion Freeman. In race #2 for the Public Service Commission Primary, Tim Ryles carried all 3 counties in his win over Donna Blackwood.

Republican Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Guy Millner carried all 3 counties on his way to a first place finish in round 1 against Johnny Isakson. In the Secretary of State Special Election Primary, David Shafer carried all 3 while narrowly coming in second place to Willou Smith in round 1. In race #1 for the Public Service Commission Primary, Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican John F. Collins carried Newton and Rockdale Counties in his Primary win over Bill Hembree, while getting trounced in Douglas County. In race #2 for the Public Service Commission Primary, incumbent Democrat-turned-Republican Bob Durden carried all 3 counties in his Primary win over Franklin Barnes, Bobby Burns Sr, and Bill Reedy.

Republican Primary Election Runoff-In the US Senate Runoff, Guy Millner carried all 3 counties in his win over Johnny Isakson. In the Secretary of State Runoff, David Shafer carried Douglas and Newton counties in his win over Willou Smith, while narrowly losing Rockdale County.

General Election-In the US Senate race, all 3 counties backed Republican Guy Millner as he narrowly lost to Democrat Max Cleland. In the Secretary of State Special Election and in race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Democrats Lewis Massey and incumbent Mac Barber carried Newton County in their successful campaigns against Republicans David Shafer and John F. Collins, while losing Douglas and Rockdale Counties. In race #2 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican incumbent Bob Durden carried all 3 counties in his narrow win over Democrat Tim Ryles.

1998

Democratic Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Michael Coles swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Jim Boyd. In the Gubernatorial Primary, Roy Barnes carried all 3 counties in his first place finish in round 1 against Lewis Massey. In the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Mary Oliver carried all 3 counties in her first place finish in round 1 against Mark Taylor. In the Public Service Commissioner Primary, Anna Hargis carried Douglas and Rockdale counties in her narrow win over Hal Crawford, while losing in Newton County.

Republican Primary Election-In the Gubernatorial Primary, Guy Millner carried Douglas County on his way to victory over Mike Bowers, whilst losing Newton and Rockdale counties. In the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Mitch Skandalaks carried all 3 counties on his way to first place in round 1 against Clint Day. In the Secretary of State Primary, John McCallum swept all 3 counties in his Primary win against Charlie Bailey. In the Attorney General Primary, the counties broke in 3 directions. Douglas County backed first place finisher David Ralston, Newton County backed third place finisher Stephen Boswell, and Rockdale County backed second place finisher Kip Klein. The election advanced to a Runoff(round 2) between Ralston and Klein. In the Public Service Commissioner Primary, incumbent Bobby Baker swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Dan Carpenter.

Democratic Primary Election Runoff-In the Gubernatorial Runoff, Roy Barnes swept all 3 counties in his landslide victory over Lewis Massey. In the Lieutenant Governor Runoff, Mark Taylor carried all 3 counties in his successful campaign against Mary Oliver.

Republican Primary Election Runoff-In the Lieutenant Governor Runoff, Mitch Skandalaks carried all 3 counties in his narrow win over Clint Day. In the Attorney General Runoff, David Ralston swept all 3 counties in his win over Kip Klein.

General Election-In the US Senate race, Republican incumbent Paul Coverdell carried all 3 counties on his way to re-election over Democrat Michael Coles. In the Governors race, Republican Guy Millner won all 3 counties over Democrat Roy Barnes, even as he convincingly lost statewide. In the races for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State, Newton County backed Democrats Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox in their landslide wins over Republicans Mitch Skandalaks and John McCallum, respectively, who both carried Douglas and Rockdale counties. In the Attorney General race, all 3 counties backed Republican David Ralston over Democrat Thurbert Baker, who narrowly won the election. In the race for Public Service Commissioner, Republican incumbent Bobby Baker carried all 3 counties in his successful campaign against Democrat Anna Hargis. In the Special Election for Public Service Commissioner, 'Bubba' McDonald carried all 3 counties in his first place finish in round 1 against Jim Cole.

General Election Runoff-In the Public Service Commissioner Special Election Runoff, 'Bubba' McDonald swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Jim Cole.

2000

Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary-Vice President Al Gore swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.

Georgia Republican Presidential Primary-Texas Governor George W. Bush swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Arizona Senator John McCain.

Democratic Primary Election-In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, David Burgess carried all 3 counties in his successful Primary ouster of incumbent Mac Barber. In race #2 for Public Service Commissioner, Jim Boyd swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Michael DiPietro.

There were no contested statewide Republican primaries.

General Election-In the US Senate race(which opened up as a result of the death of Senator Paul Coverdell), Democrat Zell Miller swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Mack Mattingly. In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Democrat David Burgess carried Douglas and Newton counties in his successful campaign against Republican Al Bartell, who carried Rockdale County. In race #2 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican incumbent Stan Wise carried all 3 counties in his successful campaign against Democrat Jim Boyd.

2002

Republican Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Saxby Chambliss swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Bob Irvin. In the Gubernatorial Primary, 'Sonny' Perdue carried all 3 counties in his Primary win over Linda Schrenko and Bill Byrne. In the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Mike Beatty carried Rockdale County in his first place finish in round 1 against Steve Stancil, who carried Douglas and Newton counties. In the Secretary of State Primary, Charlie Bailey carried all 3 counties on his way to finishing first in round 1 against Vernadette Broyles.

Republican Primary Election Runoff-In the Lieutenant Governor Runoff, Steve Stancil carried Douglas County in his narrow win over Mike Beatty, who carried Newton and Rockdale counties. In the Secretary State Runoff, Charlie Bailey carried all 3 counties in his victorious campaign against Vernadette Broyles.

General Election-In the US Senate, Gubernatorial, and race #2 for Public Service Commission races, Republicans Saxby Chambliss, Sonny Perdue, and Angela Speir carried all 3 counties in their ousters of Democratic incumbents Max Cleland, Roy Barnes, and Bubba McDonald. In the Lieutenant Governor race, Republican Steve Stancil carried all 3 counties whilst losing statewide to Democratic incumbent Mark Taylor. In the Secretary of State race, Democratic incumbent Cathy Cox swept all 3 counties in her landslide win over Republican Charlie Bailey. In the Attorney General race, Democratic incumbent Thurbert Baker carried all 3 counties in his statewide victory over Republican Shannon Goessling. In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican Doug Everett carried all 3 counties in his successful campaign against Democrat Earleen Sizemore.

2004

Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary-Massachusetts Senator John Kerry carried all 3 counties in his win over North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

Democratic Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Denise Majette carried all 3 counties in her first place finish in round one against Cliff Oxford. In the race for Public Service Commissioner, Mac Barber swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Mike Berlon.

Republican Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Johnny Isakson carried all 3 counties in his win against Herman Cain. In the race for Public Service Commissioner, incumbent Bobby Baker swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Roger Dozier.

Democratic Primary Election Runoff-In the US Senate Runoff, Denise Majette carried all 3 counties in her win over Cliff Oxford.

General Election-In the US Senate and Public Service Commission races, Republicans Johnny Isakson and Bobby Baker carried all 3 counties in their wins over Democrats Denise Majette and Mac Barber. In the Court of Appeals race, all 3 counties backed Howard Mead, even as he placed second to Debra Bernes statewide in round 1.

General Election Runoff-In the Court of Appeals Runoff, Debra Bernes carried all 3 counties in her win over Howard Mead.

2006

Democratic Primary Election-In the Gubernatorial Primary, Mark Taylor carried all 3 counties in his successful campaign against Cathy Cox. In the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Jim Martin carried Newton and Rockdale Counties on his way to a first place finish against Greg Hecht, who carried Douglas County, in round 1. In the Secretary of State Primary, Darryl Hicks carried all 3 counties, even as he finished second to Gail Buckner statewide in round 1.

Republican Primary Election-In the Gubernatorial Primary, incumbent Sonny Perdue swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Ray McBerry. In the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Casey Cagle carried all 3 counties in his win over Ralph Reed. In the Secretary of State Primary, Karen Handel carried all 3 counties on her way to first place against Bill Stephens in round 1. In the Public Service Commissioner Primaries, Chuck Eaton and incumbent Stan Wise carried all 3 counties in their winning campaigns against Mark Parkman and Newt Nickell.

Democratic Primary Election Runoff-In the Lieutenant Governor Runoff, Jim Martin swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Greg Hecht. In the Secretary of State Runoff, Gail Buckner carried all 3 counties in her win over Darryl Hicks.

Republican Primary Election Runoff-In the Secretary of State Runoff, Karen Handel carried all 3 counties in her win over Bill Stephens.

General Election-In the races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and Public Service Commissioner race #1, Republicans Sonny Perdue, Casey Cagle, Karen Handel, and Stan Wise carried all 3 counties in their wins over Democrats Mark Taylor, Jim Martin, Gail Buckner, and Dawn Randolph. Conversely, in the Attorney General race, Democratic incumbent Thurbert Baker carried all 3 counties in his win over Republican Perry McGuire. In Public Service Commission race #2, Democratic incumbent David Burgess carried Newton and Rockdale counties on his way to a first place showing over Republican Chuck Eaton in round 1. Both candidates were tied in Douglas County. In the race for Supreme Court Justice, incumbent Carol Hunstein swept all 3 counties in her landslide win over Mike Wiggins.

General Election Runoff-In the Public Service Commission Runoff, Chuck Eaton carried all 3 counties in his ouster of David Burgess.

2008

Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary-Illinois Senator Barack Obama swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Georgia Republican Presidential Primary-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee carried all 3 counties in his narrow win over Arizona Senator John McCain.

Democratic Primary Election-In the US Senate Primary, Vernon Jones carried all 3 counties on his way to first place in round 1 against Jim Martin. In the Primary for Public Service Commission race #1, Jim Powell swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Bob Indech.

Republican Primary Election-In the Primary for Public Service Commission race #1, Bubba McDonald carried all 3 counties in his win over Pam Davidson. In the Primary for Public Service Commission race #2, incumbent Doug Everett swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Rick Collum.

Democratic Primary Election Runoff-In the US Senate Primary Runoff, Jim Martin carried all 3 counties in his win over Vernon Jones.

General Election-In the US Senate race, Democrat Jim Martin carried all 3 counties in his narrow second place finish to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss in round 1. In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Democrat Jim Powell carried all 3 counties in his narrow first place finish against Republican Bubba McDonald in round 1. In race #2 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican incumbent Doug Everett swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Libertarian John Monds. In the Court of Appeals race, Tamela Adkins carried all 3 counties while finishing third to Sara Doyle and Mike Sheffield, who respectively advanced to the Runoff(round 2).

General Election Runoff-In the US Senate and Public Service Commission Runoffs, Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Bubba McDonald carried all 3 counties in their wins over Democrats Jim Martin and Jim Powell. In the Court of Appeals Runoff, Sara Doyle carried Newton County in her narrow win over Mike Sheffield, who carried Douglas and Rockdale counties.

2010

Democratic Primary Election-In the Primaries for US Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, Michael Thurmond, Roy Barnes, Carol Porter, and Ken Hodges swept all 3 counties in their landslide wins over RJ Hadley, Thurbert Baker, Tricia McCracken, and Rob Teilhet, respectively. In the Secretary of State Primary, Gail Buckner carried all 3 counties in her first place finish over Georganna Sinkfield in round 1.

Republican Primary Election-In the Primaries for Governor and Attorney General, Karen Handel and Sam Olens carried all 3 counties in their first place finishes over Nathan Deal and Preston Smith in round 1. In the Secretary of State Primary, Brian Kemp carried all 3 counties in his win over Doug MacGinnitie. In the Public Service Commission Primary, John Douglas carried all 3 counties whilst coming in second to Tim Echols in round 1.

Democratic Primary Election Runoff-In the Secretary of State Runoff, Georgeanna Sinkfoeld swept all 3 counties in her landslide win over Gail Buckner.

Republican Primary Election Runoff-In the Gubernatorial Runoff, Nathan Deal carried Newton County in his razor-thin victory over Karen Handel, who carried Douglas and Rockdale counties. In the Attorney General Runoff, Sam Olens carried all 3 counties on his way to victory over Preston Smith. In the Public Service Commission Runoff, John Douglas carried all 3 counties, even as he lost statewide to Tim Echols.

General Election-In the races for US Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Public Service Commissioner, Republicans Johnny Isakson(incumbent), Nathan Deal, Casey Cagle(incumbent), Brian Kemp, Sam Olens, and Tim Echols all carried Douglas and Newton counties in their victories over Democrats Michael Thurmond, Roy Barnes, Carol Porter, Georgeanna Sinkfield, Ken Hodges, and Keith Moffett, who all carried Rockdale County. In the race for Supreme Court Justice, incumbent David Nahmias carried all 3 counties in his first place finish over Tamela Adkins in round 1. In the Court of Appeals race, Antoinette Davis carried all 3 counties in her first place finish against Chris McFadden.

General Election Runoff-In the Supreme Court Justice Runoff, David Nahmias swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Tamela Adkins. In the Court of Appeals Runoff, Chris McFadden carried all 3 counties in his landslide win over Antoinette Davis.

2012

Georgia Republican Presidential Primary-Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives and Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich carried all 3 counties in his win over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Republican Primary Election-In the 2 races for Public Service Commissioner, incumbents Chuck Eaton and Stan Wise carried all 3 counties in their wins over Matt Reid and Pam Davidson.

General Election-In race #1 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican Chuck Eaton carried Newton County in his win over Democrat Stephen Oppenheimer, who won Douglas and Rockdale counties. In race #2 for Public Service Commissioner, Republican Stan Wise swept all 3 counties in his landslide win over Libertarian David Staples.


It will be interesting to see how these counties fall in the 2014 and 2016 elections, and whether or not any one of these counties will cast in with the winning candidate. That said, I feel I can say with certainty that Rockdale County is rapidly going in the same direction Clayton County went in the 1990s(hard left) and will soon be a Democratic stronghold a la Bibb(Macon), Clarke(Athens), Clayton, DeKalb, Dougherty, Fulton(Atlanta), and Richmond(Augusta) counties. I only mentioned Rockdale throughout this because it has historical significance as being, up until very recently, one of the swingiest counties in Georgia. I hope this has been an informative read, and it is my hope that I have, in fact, correctly identified the counties to watch for on Election night..

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