What’s Happening in the Suburbs? Part 1 – DeKalb in 2022

Having been sidelined by the flu in the two weeks leading up to the election (it really is quite bad this year – harder than the original version of COVID on our family), my planned series of pre-election articles looking at Republican voting in the Atlanta suburbs is going to become a series of post-election articles looking at Republican voting in the Atlanta suburbs.

Fortunately (?) we live in “interesting” times, in the alleged-Chinese-proverb sense, and there’s even more to learn from the latest election returns, if anyone is willing to pay attention. We’ll look into the trends over the past few decades in subsequent posts, but first, a quick overview of where we stand now. If one is keeping score on a strictly team red/team blue basis, last night could be summarized as follows: not great nationally, quite good in Georgia, basically awful in DeKalb.

Nationally, the “red wave” didn’t materialize the way many expected. The Democrats flipped the governor’s seats in Massachusetts and Maryland, and the GOP lost gubernatorial races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and even New York that had seemed within reach just prior to the election. The Senate remains undecided, but the loss in Pennsylvania means control may come down to a runoff here in Georgia, contrary to some expectations before yesterday of a comfortable 52- or 53-seat GOP majority.

Georgia, along with Florida and Texas, bucked this national trend. All our statewide Constitutional officers were reelected by wide enough margins that the outcome wasn’t in doubt by 11PM or so on Election Night. We picked up a Congressional seat, an almost-inevitable result of redistricting that redrew Newt Gingrich’s old seat into a solid bastion of red, but a pickup nonetheless. Our statewide ticket wasn’t able to pull Herschel Walker across the finish line last night, but the Senate seat is one of just a couple still in play thanks to our “50%+1 or runoff” election laws.

But the results in DeKalb were quite the opposite. Brad Raffensperger led all statewide GOP candidates in DeKalb with just over 20% of the vote. In local legislative races, our best-performing state Senate candidate finished with barely 38%, in a district held by a Republican just four years ago. The most successful candidate for state House managed just shy of 43%, and we had several candidates who finished in single digits. There were Soviet satellite states with more competitive elections[citation needed].

This is not a criticism of our candidates. It’s hard work running for office, and we should be grateful for those who are willing to serve, and to do the hard work of campaigning for seats that were likely to be uphill battles even in a “red wave” year. I hereby thank all our Republican candidates for their efforts.

But it does mean that DeKalb, which just a few cycles ago had elected Republicans to several state legislative seats, one Congressional seat, and even a county commission seat, is now out of what I call the “margin of accountability”. Democrats are winning here by such wide margins that there is essentially nothing any elected Democrat in DeKalb could do to lose a general election. There may be contested primaries in the future, but it’s going to take a massive political realignment for Republicans to become relevant, let alone competitive, in elections here.

This is bad news for me, of course, and I think it’s bad news for DeKalb. The recent domination of local government by Democrats has not historically led to responsible government here, and absolute single-party rule is likely to make things even worse. In future posts, I’ll get into the data showing how we got here, how we compare to other suburban Atlanta counties, and what has to happen for us to change course.

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