Wade Herring and Rep. Buddy Carter

Wade Herring and Rep. Buddy Carter will face each other in November.

Credit: The Current

Wade Herring, a Savannah lawyer whose first-time bid for public office was fueled by his anger over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, came from behind on Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination to run for Coastal Georgia’s seat in Congress in November.

In a startling turnaround, Herring defeated frontrunner and three-time candidate Joyce Griggs by nearly 5,000 votes, or 61.94% of the vote to her 38.06%, according to unofficial results. Griggs, daughter of North Carolina sharecroppers who became a decorated Army veteran, had defeated Herring by 4,773 votes in the first round of voting on May 24.

“The voters of Georgia’s First District have spoken,” the 63-year-old Herring said in a statement issued late Tuesday evening as the last votes were being counted. “Now it is time to look forward to November — we have a long road ahead to victory in the general election.”

Herring will face off in the fall against four-term Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, a fellow parishioner at Savannah’s Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The Democrat will be a definite underdog in the general election. While significant areas of the state are blue or purple, Coastal Georgia remains firmly red. Republicans have held the 1st District seat for nearly three decades, and district voters handed Donald Trump a 55% to 43% advantage over Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

At least for the moment, though, Herring and his supporters can savor victory, which looked unlikely following the initial round of primary voting last month, when Griggs won all of the district’s 15 counties, coming within only 1.41% of the vote, or about 635 votes, of winning outright.

But just as Griggs turned the tables on Lisa Ring in the Democratic Party runoff for the same race in 2020, so did Herring against Griggs on Tuesday.

From Georgia Secretary of State

From Georgia Secretary of State

After Griggs’ near-victory, Herring and the third candidate in the primary race, Michelle Munroe, conceded that Griggs had superior name recognition across Coastal Georgia — a testament, they said, to her attendance at community functions up and down the coast and her passionate advocacy of grassroots efforts to improve the lives of military veterans and people of color.

But Herring’s stepped-up effort in the final days of the campaign to get his supporters to the polls, along with his ads casting Griggs’ positions on abortion and gun control as out of the Democratic mainstream, appear to have paid off. How many of Munroe’s 6,043 votes in the initial round of voting went to Herring in the runoff wasn’t immediately clear. 

The get-out-the-vote effort push was crucial, since voter turnout on Tuesday was low. Only 20,642 votes were cast, less than half of the 45,052 cast in the primary’s first round.

In an interview with The Current last year, Herring described Jan. 6, 2021, as a day he thought he would never see and one of the saddest days in U.S. history. Elected officials like Buddy Carter were supposed to have told the rioters the truth about the election results but had not done so, he said. Instead, Carter stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and voted to overturn the election results in Georgia.

“I realized then that he had put politics above our country, our district and our families, but it wasn’t going to be enough to just talk about it,” he said, explaining his first step toward deciding to run for Congress.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Current, providing in-depth journalism for Coastal Georgia.