First Time Candidates Can Win



In 2008, hardly anyone other than a few of his closest associates and a handful of idealistic, smart, energetic and committed folks (and certainly none of those who now talk about who can and cannot win in Georgia) thought then freshman Illinois Senator Barack Obama had any chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president. Even if he won the nomination certainly few (Rev. Joseph Lowery, myself and a few other Georgia politicos) put much faith in his likely election as President of the United States.

In my case, before I was elected mayor of Atlanta, every mayor for at least 30 years before was an elected official.  Some people discounted my candidacy for that reason alone  and others because my name recognition was so low.  Even more people thought I could not win without a runoff against two city councilmembers.  I did.

The other challenge for first time candidates is fundraising. Pundits will say that unknown candidates can’t raise the amount of money needed to win a major race. I disagree. As an unknown candidate I raised $800,000 over the first ten months of my campaign and raised a total of $3 million for the general election. This fundraising total surpasses any other Atlanta mayoral candidate in history and was the 2nd most expensive US mayoral campaign of 2001 behind Michael Bloomberg’s race in New York.

Just a year ago most national media predicted a tight Presidential race and some even predicted President Obama could lose the election due to a bad economy, slow recovery and perceived loses of confidence of his political base. The South was expected to be impossible to penetrate. Yet voters in Virginia, the heart of Lee’s confederacy and Florida—not once but twice voted in favor of this maverick candidate. In Georgia, Obama won 47% of the vote in 2008 and 46% in 2012. Women voted for him and the African American and other minority vote was solid.

I trust the majority of Georgia voters are like other American voters who want honesty, intelligence and a commitment to the common good in their candidates; they will open their minds and consider voting for those candidates who speak and act honorably. If a candidate has a clear message, experience that is relevant and an approach to government and policy that is solution focused, Georgia voters will respond favorably.

As usual we will not all agree but there is little doubt that this Senate race has already created political buzz and anticipation.

Ga. Democrats still wander political wilderness

Senate Democrats Starting On The Defensive

Georgia Rep. Barrow Won’t Run for Senate


  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    I agree that first time candidates can win. But the examples you give bear a bit more examination.

    Michael Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat who ran as a Republican. He sidestepped New York City’s limit on contributions by spending $73million of his own money in his first campaign (that’s 24 times what you spent in total), outspending his Democratic rival by more than 5-to-1. He also had the support of outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani plus the Independence Party. Even with these advantages, he won by only 50% to 48%.

    While you had not previously been an elected official, you had spent decades at City Hall, serving under Mayors Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, and Bill Campbell. You knew the ropes of City Government and you had the backing and endorsements of the right people. And you were running as a Democrat in a predominately Democratic city. Yet you only received 50% of the vote.

    You don’t mention Michelle Nunn, but it’s obvious the post is to promote her potential candidacy for the US Senate since her picture is between Bloomberg’s and yours. Her father and mother are wealthy, but not in Bloomberg’s class. But let’s agree she and her father can probably raise enough money to run a campaign, but she couldn’t buy it like Bloomberg. She and her father would have to do it on their own, because the state Democratic party has no money, no organization, and is not interested in fund raising; and the national Democratic party seems uninterested. Unlike you, she has no experience in government. Unlike both you and Bloomberg, she is unlikely to garner endorsements that will mean much outside metro Atlanta.

    She may get the Democrat nomination by default because no Democrat elected official is interested. Whether she could win the election is another matter. I wouldn’t place a bet on her. But it would be fun to watch, particularly if the General Election were between her and Karen Handel.

  2. Talking Points 4U says:

    The Georgia US Senate race will cost into the millions. Anyone wanting to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia will have to be self-funded or have the ability to raise a great deal of money. To be sure, the GOP will send tons of money to Georgia to keep the exited seat Republican. If Democrats are serious about gaining the seat in Georgia–they will have to pony up with huge dollars. However, DSCC will ensure whatever candidate becomes nominee has the capacity to raise their own dollars and have a fighting chance to win in Georgia before they send any money to campaign.


  1. […] Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin makes the case that first-time candidates can win major elections. […]

  2. […] Blogging While Blue attempts to encourage Georgia Democrats–all 15 of whom are resigned to a loss in the Senate race now that Barrow is out. […]