GA-GOV: John Oxendine, Outsider and Frontrunner

The Republican primary for governor of Georgia wasn't making much sense to me, until I tried something that, according to the history books I'...
by | June 19, 2009

The Republican primary for governor of Georgia wasn't making much sense to me, until I tried something that, according to the history books I've read, reporters used to do back in the 20th century: I called some people on the "tele-phone."

With Gov. Sonny Perdue term-limited, six candidates are running for the Republican nomination. It could have been more. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the early frontrunner, backed out because of health reasons.

Actually, it could have been less. Had Cagle stuck in the field, perhaps some of the other potential candidates would have decided the race wasn't worth running. For example, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal jumped into the race a couple of weeks after Cagle backed out. Now, we have an amorphous contest in which four candidates appear to have a reasonable chance to win.

What the sources that I spoke with told me is that Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel is the establishment candidate. Handel used to work for Perdue and she appears to have his tacit support. However, State Sen. Eric Johnson has also done a good jumping winning the backing of some Perdue partisans, making him a second establishment candidate.

So is Handel or Johnson the current frontrunner?

Neither. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has the early edge. You don't need fancy sources to know that. Just look at the way Handel is attacking him early on. Or, look at the way he's getting the most media scrutiny, for his campaign contributions and his relationship with the insurance companies he regulates. Or, best of all, look at the new Strategic Vision poll:

10. If the Republican primary for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote, Nathan Deal, Karen Handel, Eric Johnson, Ray McBerry, John Oxendeine, or Austin Scott? (Republicans Only)

John Oxendine 35%

Karen Handel 13%

Nathan Deal 12%

Eric Johnson 4%

Ray McBerry 2%

Austin Scott 2%

Undecided 32%

Why is Oxendine ahead? My best guess is that voters know him best. Oxendine has won statewide four times, while Handel has only won statewide once. At this stage of the game, that matters more than who has had the most success cultivating support from insiders.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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