Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ralph Reed vanquished

Your blogstress's good friend (and certified hottie -- see photo #5) Hans Johnson, president of the data and strategy firm Progressive Victory, writes to remind us of a little-celebrated victory enjoyed by progressives this week: the defeat of GOP strategist and former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed in his primary race for his once-certain spot on the ballot as the Republican candidate for the office of lieutenant governor of the great State of Georgia. Seems that progressives were able to leverage the unravelling story of Reed's role in the Jack Abramoff scandal to liberal advantage. Herewith, Mr. Johnson's missive:

It is with relief and some reflection that we can all celebrate the defeat of Ralph Reed, purveyor of prejudice and candidate for Lt. Gov. in Georgia, in yesterday's GOP state primary.

His trouncing by a nearly 4-3 margin statewide in a primary vote -- where a late poll showed him running neck and neck with his opponent -- is testimony to 2 important dynamics:
1. The combined charges of intolerance, influence-peddling, and his corrupt profiteering through Abramoff schemes dented his moralistic armor. Evidence and journalistic exposé do indeed have an impact; they dissuaded even conservative GOP primary voters.

2. The hordes of allegedly malleable right-wing voters over which he enjoyed supposed dominion failed to materialize on his behalf. The notion of a spoon-fed, easily-led religious conservative voting bloc is a stereotype, fostered by lazy reporting, against which Reed has often railed. Yet he has also fed this myth when convenient, and sought to exploit it throughout his career.

On Tuesday, it exploded in Reed's face. A group of crossover Democratic voters who deliberately took a GOP ballot to vote against Reed may have played a role in the margin of his loss. Credit for this bump in anti-Reed votes goes in part to savvy Georgia activist Christie Ayotte; her wry encouragement to dump Reed through strategic voting ricocheted around the Web in the 48 hours before the vote.
The vote totals in the Georgia primary races should also give Democrats some heart -- and an added kick in the pants - heading into the fall. "D" total primary turnout in several bellwether races exceeded "R" turnout by 5 and in some cases 10 percent. At the very least, this shows Democrats to be viable against conservatives' operation in a state that many national progressives have wrongly written off for dead (Zell Miller rants still echoing in their memories). Democrats should not have to rely on such small margins for consolation in the state that sent Jimmy Carter to the White House, and which did not have a post-Reconstruction GOP guv till '02. But so it is. In short, the state is still competitive.

National Democrats neglect the Peach State at their peril. Republican strategists are eyeing it as another laboratory for redrawing state congressional lines. In the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling allowing mid-decade redistricting, their knives and scissors are sharp, should the GOP capture the state House of Reps. this fall and retain the state Senate and guv seat.

Dems have now moved back to near parity (seven R, six D) in the federal House delegation, after having sunk to just three seats before 2002. An '07 DeLay-mandering of the state might once more reduce them to that level. That would be a loss of three House seats, so the stakes are high. For progressives, there are strong federal and state grounds for keeping Georgia on our minds -- and in our contribution plans -- this election year.

In solidarity--


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