Appearances can be deceiving. Even though the apparent winners in two GOP low turnout congressional runoffs in Georgia were the “establishment” candidates fighting perceived Tea Party Insurgents, the dynamics of the contests suggested as usual that there’s no percentage in moderation in today’s GOP.

In northeast Georgia’s 9th congressional district, a new and heavily Republican district, former radio talk show host Martha Zoller seemed to have the big-time right-wing mojo going into the runoff, with endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, the Tea Party Patriots, Sean Hannity, Erick Erickson, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, along with the coveted Mama Grizzly designation from you-know-who. But she lost narrowly to “establishment” Republican state legislator Doug Collins, who ran ads with clips from Zoller’s old shows raising suspicions that she had at one point been soft on abortion, homosexuality, and Loco Weed, and that seems to have made the difference.

In Eastern Georgia’s 12th congressional district, another state legislator, Lee Anderson, seems to have edged out contractor Rick Allen for the right to take on perpetually embattled Blue Dog Democrat John Barrow, though a recount could occur. National groups and personalities were not as prominent in this contest as in the 9th district, but Anderson, like Collins, voted for the dreaded Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) to be placed on the July 31 ballot in Georgia, and had to run a barrage of factually questionable (and racially suggestive) ads alleging that Allen had contributed to Democrats in the past to win government contracts.

Barrow supporters might be cheered by an Anderson win given the Republican’s rather notable difficulties in articulating his views (pointed to by Erick Erickson in endorsing Allen), viz. this fine peroration on “fair” versus “flat” taxes at a public forum in May:

YouTube video

Sounds like a voice Georgia’s horribly underrepresented conservatives need in Washington.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.