Tea Party en­er­gized vot­ers, buoyed lo­cal can­di­dates

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­news.com

Austin Scott was one of dozens of Repub­li­can con­gres­sional can­di­dates swept into of­fice on a wave of party sup­port and en­ergy ap­par­ently in­fused into the elec­tion by the Tea Party move­ment.

Vot­ers turned out in solid num­bers across the nation, in­clud­ing 52.9 per­cent of Newton County vot­ers, and sent a clear mes­sage that they wanted to see change in their rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“The vot­ers kind of un­der­stood that change was nec­es­sary and our cam­paign did a good job of reg­u­lat­ing the mes­sage that our fo­cus is jobs and the econ­omy and to stop spend­ing,” said Sam Ray, a spokesman for Scott’s cam­paign.

While it it’s im­pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine how much the Tea Party move­ment af­fected cer­tain races, sev­eral lo­cal groups made oust­ing Demo­cratic

in­cum­bent U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim Mar­shall a pri­or­ity.

Fred Wheeler, a found­ing mem­ber of the Pa­tri­ots’ Ta­ble, a grass­roots con­ser­va­tive group formed this year, said that at least 80 per­cent of the Scott po­lit­i­cal signs were placed by his group.

“While there was gen­eral dis­con­tent in the nation be­cause of the poor econ­omy, the Tea Party folks were a very im­por­tant ad­di­tional fac­tor be­cause they helped to or­ga­nize these dis­con­tented peo­ple at the grass­roots level, and gave them di­rec­tion. Many of these peo­ple had never par­tic­i­pated in a cam­paign be­fore,” Wheeler said in an e-mail.

“Many felt as though our govern­ment was to­tally out of con­trol and not in­ter­ested in lis­ten­ing to the peo­ple. We now have a cadre in place com­posed of peo­ple who not only par­tic­i­pated in cam­paigns, but now are on a first name ba­sis with our con­gress­man and state leg­is­la­tors. We feel they will be re­spon­sive to our con­cerns be­cause they re­al­ize that we helped put them in of­fice.”

Even though most lo- cal groups didn’t en­dorse can­di­dates, Ray said the Tea Party en­er­gized vot­ers. In 2006, 45.7 per­cent of Newton County vot­ers cast bal­lots, and that in­creased by more than 7 per­cent in 2010, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal Board of Elec­tions. Given the growth in voter rolls, nearly 9,000 more peo­ple voted in Newton County this time around.

Repub­li­can Rick Jef­fares won his bid for the State Se­nate 17 seat, gar­ner­ing 64.1 per­cent of the vote, and said his vic­tory was buoyed by high turnout.

“Henry County has been no­to­ri­ous for not vot­ing, but we set records last night, with al­most 50 per­cent vot­ing,” Jef­fares said Wed­nes­day. “That’s never hap­pened, not even in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

While the groundswell tended to lean Repub­li­can, Demo­crat Pam Dick­er­son, who ran for the District 95 state rep­re­sen­ta­tive seat, cap­tured nearly 60 per­cent of the vote in her race.

“Once I saw the fi­nal re­sults, I was re­ally ec­static,” she said af­ter the elec­tion. “I’m just try­ing to take it one day at a time, just try­ing to get some rest. I’m look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge.”

Jef­fares is fac­ing sev­eral meet­ings in At­lanta and a three-day ses­sion in Athens to help get up to speed on the bud­get and his other du­ties as a state sen­a­tor. Scott will be at­tend­ing a week­long fresh­man ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion, set­ting up of­fices around the Eighth district and work­ing with Mar­shall’s of­fice to tran­si­tion.

On the other end of the spec­trum, Tues­day’s night losers were pre­par­ing for a fu­ture out­side of elected of­fice, though Mar­shall was one of the few lo­cal in­cum­bents to lose.

“I think that you should take a look at na­tion­wide re­sults; we did very well com­pared to other Democrats,” said spokesman Doug Moore. “He’s got a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties and op­tions and will spend time think­ing about those and pick­ing the best one.”

Sev­eral Tea Party mem­bers said they will keep an eye on vic­to­ri­ous leg­is­la­tors to make sure they’re keep­ing their prom­ises. Ray said they won’t be dis­ap­pointed with Scott.

“(Scott’s) bet­ter for Ge­or­gians be­cause Austin is go­ing to do what he says he will do. He won’t vote to in­crease debt or spend­ing,” Ray said. “You might not al­ways agree with him, but he will tell you what he’s go­ing to do and do it. They’re bet­ter off be­cause he’s a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their in­ter­ests and that’s what you need in Congress.”

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