Georgia state house
The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr

While most of the attention from yesterday’s election has been focused on what happened in Virginia, the results of three special elections that were held in Georgia might be even more telling. The results flipped three seats in the state legislature from red to blue.

In HD 117, Democrat Deborah Gonzales beat Republican Houston Gaines by 6 points. To give you some idea of how red the district has been, Mitt Romney won it 54-44 and Donald Trump beat Clinton 49-46. That means that Gonzales did seven points better than Clinton. The district includes about half of the city of Athens, a liberal bastion, but also conservative territory in nearby rural areas.

Even more surprising was that Democrat Jonathan Wallace won a four-way race with 57 percent of the vote against three Republicans in HD 119.

He dominated the Athens sliver of that district and won a plurality of the vote in Oconee County, which Trump carried with two-thirds of the vote in November.

The importance of those two races is that the districts have been considered so red that in 2016 there wasn’t a Democratic candidate in either one.

Finally, in Georgia state SD 06, Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan will compete in a runoff in a newly drawn district that has been held by Republican Hunter Hill.

None of these races changes the fact that Republicans still hold overwhelming majorities in both the state house and senate. But they could be a harbinger of what is to come in the 2018 midterms, particularly in the governor’s race. Democrats Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans will compete in the primary to face off against four Republican contenders who “are already engaged in a race to the party’s conservative flank on ‘religious liberty,’ illegal immigration and other hot-button issues.”

The two Democrats are espousing very different strategies in their plans for the general election. While Abrams wants to energize the Democratic base, Evans aims to win over disaffected Republican voters. From start to finish, that one will be interesting to watch.

Keep in mind that Georgia has been inching closer to becoming a swing state, with Donald Trump winning there by only five points. To the extent that these special elections are any indication of where things are headed, a Democratic Governor coming out of the 2018 midterms would be a huge victory and a bulwark for that state’s redistricting efforts following the 2020 census.

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