TOPICS > Politics

Ga. Voters Cast Ballots in Senate Run-off Election

BY Admin  December 2, 2008 at 1:20 PM EST

Sen. Saxby Chambliss speaks in Atlanta; AP photo

Incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss won 49.8 percent of the vote in the general election on Nov. 4 compared to Democrat Jim Martin’s 46.8 percent, according to official results from Georgia’s Secretary of State.

But in Georgia, a candidate must win 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to avoid a run-off, the only state with such a requirement.

With Democrats vying for a big majority in the Senate, both parties have campaigned hard.

On Nov. 4, Democrats picked up at least seven Senate seats held by Republicans, bringing their lead to 58 to 40, counting two independents that caucus with them. If Democrats win seats in Georgia and Minnesota, they will have a filibuster-proof majority that will make it easier to pass legislation.

On Monday, Alaska Gov. and former GOP vice presidential
candidate Sarah Palin hit the campaign trail again, accompanied by prominent
Georgia Republicans Sen. Johnny Isakson, Gov. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Rep. Phil
Gingrey.

Republicans needed to “walk the walk as well as talk
the talk” and work toward returning the party to a “pro-working
class, conservative cause” to revive its fortunes, she told several
thousand people at a rally in Duluth, north of Atlanta.

But the Democrats countered Palin’s star power with Maryline Blackburn. The 1984 Miss Alaska beat Palin for the title and was called upon to sing the national anthem at a rally for Martin on Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Martin held a rally on the steps of the state capitol
in downtown Atlanta with hip-hop artist Ludacris and civil rights leaders.

Earlier campaign stops brought in top political names, including former President Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore on behalf of Martin and Republican presidential candidate John McCain for Chambliss.

President-elect Barack Obama has not visited Georgia but he did record a radio ad for Martin, kept his state field offices open and directed his campaign workers to help out in the run-off, according to the Baltimore Sun.

During the rematch campaign, Chambliss has said that electing Martin, and possibly handing control of the Senate to the Democrats, would give Democrats a “blank check.”

“Jim Martin, my opponent, is committed to doing everything that the president-elect wants him to do. And I’m simply not going to do that… Within the legislative, we’ve always had a check and balance by design,” Chambliss said on Sunday in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “And if we give him a blank check, then I think it will not be in the best interests of the country and I will continue to promote that over the next 72 hours.”

But Martin’s supporters and surrogates have urged voters to continue the “change” started with the Nov. 4 election of Mr. Obama and defeat Chambliss.

“It’s time for him to go,” former vice president Al Gore said at a rally in Atlanta on Sunday, according to the Journal-Constitution. “The Bush-Cheney-Chambliss philosophy has been tried and has not only found out to be wanting, it has been found out to be a catastrophe.”

The run-off will turn on which party can get more voters to
the polls as much as on the issues, Alan Abramowitz, a professor of
political science at Emory University in Atlanta told Reuters.

“Georgia is still a Republican-leaning state. It will
be difficult for the Democrats to reproduce that large African American turnout
that we had in the first election,” Abramowitz said in reference to black
turnout on behalf of Obama, who will be the first black president.

But Abramowitz argued that the presence of Palin in Georgia
could prove a double-edged sword.

“When you bring down a polarizing figure such as Sarah
Palin it brings out the other side as much as your own base,” he said.

Chambliss was elected in 2002, when he unseated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in another heated race.

In last month’s election, McCain won the state’s 15 Electoral College votes, but the normally reliable state for the GOP turned into a last-minute battleground. The influx of new voters, including many more young people and a higher black turnout, threatened to tip the political balance toward President-elect Obama. Mr. Obama did garner 5.7 percentage points more of the vote in Georgia compared to the 2004 Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Obama lost Georgia with 47 percent of the vote, compared to McCain’s 52.2 percent.

Several polls leading up to Tuesday’s run-off gave a slight lead to Chambliss, with an average by RealClearPolitics showing the incumbent up by 5.3 percent.

The second match-up in Georgia will not include Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley on the ballot. He won 3.4 percent of the vote on Nov. 4.

In Minnesota’s Senate race, the outcome between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken also remains unresolved as the state continues its recount.

According to Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Coleman won the Nov. 4 vote by 3,893 votes out of more than 2 million cast — a slim-enough margin to require a mandatory recount under state law.