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THE POLITICAL PULSE: ELECTION 2022 ANALYSIS
The president’s party does not undergo significant losses in Congress.
It is a rare midterm election when the president’s party does not undergo signif icant losses in Congress, however this November’s national elections ended with far less damage to Democrats in D.C. than was expected. Blame it on faulty polling, the Trump effect, or just bad candidates, but Democrats largely bucked the trend and fought off the predicted “red wave” that turned out to be barely a ripple.
These results buoyed Democrats in much of the country, but Georgia – which many had predicted would turn blue – remained red. The GOP maintained control of the Governor’s Office, General Assembly, and every statewide constitutional office –dashing progressive hopes for a blue wave in the Peach State following 2020’s strong Democratic showing.
While the United States Congress did not experience the previously predicted dramatic shift in political power, Republicans did recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives, though by much slimmer margins than projected. Republicans picked up nine seats in the House, while Democrats will retain a razor thin majority in the Senate, regardless of how the Sen. Raphael Warnock/Herschel Walker runoff election concludes. (Editor’s note: at the time of publication, we do not know who has won the U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia)
In contrast to the narrow division of power at the national level, voters in Georgia placed their confidence in the GOP. Over the course of the pandemic, the state has fared better than most thanks to strong leadership on the economy, a booming business environment, and a commitment to balancing lives and livelihoods without the hyper-partisan gamesmanship seen in other states. These ongoing successes ultimately led to November’s GOP victories.
All statewide constitutional offices were defended and maintained by Republicans, with incumbents leading the way. Those winners include Governor Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr. Further, Georgia’s congressional delegation picked up one new Republican seat with Congressman-elect Rich McCormick’s win in Congressional District 6.
Additionally, the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King won his bid for the office after being appointed by Gov. Kemp. King replaced former Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck who was suspended following an indictment for fraud. Commissioner Beck was eventually found guilty and formally removed from office in July of 2021. It was this situation that led to constitutional amendment #1 on the November ballot regarding the suspension of certain state officials’ salaries who are facing felony indictments.
Newcomers on the statewide stage beginning in January will include several former Georgia State Senators: Lieutenant Governor-elect Burt Jones, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Tyler Harper, and Labor Commissioner-elect Bruce Thompson.
While there will be many familiar faces in the state’s highest offices, the Georgia General Assembly’s make-up will look quite different when members are sworn in come January. Though Republicans maintained their majorities in both chambers, 54 members of the state’s 236-member General Assembly will be newly elected. The 2023 incoming freshman class, as well as the 42-person freshman class of 2021, represents a total four-year turnover rate of nearly 40% of the state’s lawmaking arm.
And in a seismic leadership change in the legislative branch, longtime Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, David Ralston, announced the week before the midterm elections that he would not be seeking another term as speaker; however, a few weeks following this announcement, on November 16, 2023, Speaker David Ralston passed away. Ralston’s legacy as speaker has had a massive influence on Georgia’s economy and the state’s perennial standing as the #1 state in the country to do business. His passion for Georgia and his positive impact cannot be overstated, and he will be sorely missed.
Following the speaker’s announcement, but preceding Ralston’s death, the House Republican Caucus nominated Majority Leader Jon Burns to succeed him as speaker. Burns has served in House leadership as majority leader for seven years and is seen as the natural successor to build upon Speaker Ralston’s pro-economic development and business friendly policies. Burns has earned the reputation of a trustworthy negotiator who has many friends on both sides of the political aisle. His personality, background, and experience will give him a strategic advantage and allow him to continue to move Georgia forward.
The Senate has also experienced significant leadership turnover. Lt. Governor-elect Burt Jones will succeed one-term Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. Sen. John Kennedy was nominated by the Republican caucus to succeed Butch Miller as President Pro Tem, while longtime transportation advocate Sen. Steve Gooch was elected Senate Majority Leader.
We also want to congratulate the three ACEC Georgia members who currently serve in the General Assembly: former State Representative and now State Senator-Elect Ed Setzler (Vice President with Croft Architects & Engineers); State Representative Houston Gaines (Director of Business Development at Carter Engineering Consultants); and State Representative Brad Thomas, P.E. (Co-Founder and Principal Engineer at Capital Projects). Additional congratulations are in order for Rep. Gaines, who was elected to serve in House leadership as Vice-Chairman of the House Majority Caucus.
While there is a degree of uncertainty with the exceedingly large turnover in the General Assembly and its leadership, Georgia continues to be in the capable hands of proven leaders who have been longtime friends of the engineering industry.