State Senator Jason Carter’s announcement that he is running for governor in 2014 is already having a ripple effect on the ballot. Former state Senator Connie Stokes announced she will drop out of that race to make room for Carter’s campaign.
Stokes, who announced her gubernatorial bid in September, will instead run for Lieutenant Governor.
"Connie Stokes is my friend and one of the first people I called as I made my decision to run," said Carter. "While we don't agree on every issue, I support her and I am confident she and I can work together to move Georgia forward."
In a press release, Stokes said she has joined Carter to seek a “new direction” for Georgia, especially on the issues of education and the state economy.
"We need state leaders who have the right priorities. We need leaders who are focused on hard-working Georgians. We need leaders who want to get people back to work and train for good paying jobs," said Stokes.
She served in the state legislature from 1995 to 2004 before being elected as a Dekalb County Commissioner, where Stokes remained until 2010.
Despite that experience, University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said Carter has a better shot at the gubernatorial campaign than Stokes because of the political legacy attached to his name. Carter’s grandfather, Jimmy Carter, served as Georgia’s Governor and later as the President of the United States.
“Connie Stokes, while she’s been very active in Dekalb County politics [and] served in the state Senate, would not be known once you got very far away from Dekalb,” said Bullock. “So, for her to step back and say, ‘Well, I’ll run for Lt. Governor,’ makes a lot of sense rather than Democrats themselves spending some of their scarce resources fighting over who’s going to carry the Gubernatorial banner forward.”
Bullock said while Georgia’s demographics are changing, Democrats have found themselves in a difficult political climate over the last decade and he does not expect Carter or Stokes to win.
“I’m sure Democrats are delighted to have a person like Jason [Carter] come forward to run, but they’re naïve to think that it’s not going to be a very uphill climb for him. There’s no evidence of anything other than that Georgia remains a very red state,” Bullock reasoned.
The qualifying period for the Lieutenant Governor’s race has not opened yet, but current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle hinted he is ready for the challenge.
"While she and I have very different philosophies about the role of government, I welcome former DeKalb County Commissioner Stokes to the race and look forward to seeing her on the campaign trail,” Cagle said in a statement issued by his campaign.
In 2006, Cagle became the first Republican Lieutenant Governor in Georgia’s history. He defeated Democrat Jim Martin with 54.1 percent of the vote. Cagle beat Democratic challenger Carol Porter by a similar margin in 2010.
“Connie Stokes might be a little bit better, might be a little bit worse. But at this point, I would not think Casey Cagle would be particularly concerned,” said Bullock.
Currently, the qualifying period for the Lt. Governor’s race is set to begin April 28, though the legislature could vote to change the state’s election calendar to align with the federal government.