Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle gets emotional as he speaks to his supporters. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

A bad night for ‘Capitol crowd’ in Georgia GOP runoff  

The text came shortly before 9 p.m. from a seasoned GOP operative: “If Geoff Duncan pulls this off, it’ll be the biggest turnover of the Capitol crowd since Roy Barnes lost to Sonny Perdue.” 

The politico was referring to state Rep. Geoff Duncan’s upset victory over state Sen. David Shafer in the GOP race for lieutenant governor, the second one-time front-runner to go down in defeat. (Shafer trails by only a fraction of the vote and may still demand a recount.)

The other one, of course, was Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s thrashing of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Although Kemp was favored to win coming into Tuesday’s contest, he was the underdog for most of the race – and Cagle considered Kemp so beatable he targeted others during the primary so he could face him.

And the “Capitol crowd” – the collection of well-connected lobbyists, industry groups and business associations – pumped small fortunes into both of their campaigns. Cagle raised more than $10.5 million, plus at least $2.5 million from outside groups. Shafer collected nearly $2.5 million for his bid.

That gave them a hefty financial advantage over their challengers. Kemp collected about half as much as Cagle, and a third-party group chipped in another $200,000. And Duncan reported raising about $1 million, plus help from a dark-money group that spent at least $1.5 million on anti-Shafer ads.

Expect many of those Capitol interests to start pouring money into Kemp and Duncan’s campaigns now - if they haven’t already done so since the last financial disclosure. We spotted a handful of Cagle supporters who had rushed to Athens in time for the end of Kemp’s party. 

One veteran lobbyist at Kemp’s victory party in Athens may have put it best.

“If you would have told me a year ago that Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan were at the top of the GOP ticket, I would have said you’re out of your mind.”

For the Georgia GOP, it was a mind-blowing kinda night. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.