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.