Runoff Victory Puts Majette in Line for Historic Campaign

Posted August 11, 2004 at 12:00pm

As expected, Democrats nominated Rep. Denise Majette in Georgia’s open-seat Senate race Tuesday, setting up a historic November matchup between the one-term Congresswoman and Rep. Johnny Isakson (R).

With her runoff victory, Majette becomes the first woman and first black Georgian ever nominated for Senate, but she now faces an uphill battle against Isakson, who won the GOP nomination last month.

Also on Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Price (R) and state Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) were victorious in their bids to win Georgia’s two open House seats. The two former leaders of their respective chambers are expected to win easily in the fall.

In the Senate runoff, Majette topped millionaire entrepreneur and political novice Cliff Oxford (D) by almost 20 points, as a paltry 10 percent to 12 percent of the state’s voters turned out. The two led a field of eight Democrats in the July 20 primary, when no candidate got 50 percent of the vote.

While Oxford poured more than $1.8 million of his own money into the race, and spent heavily on television advertising, Majette could not afford to run TV ads during the primary and runoff.

Instead, she largely ran a low-profile grassroots campaign since entering the race in late March and focused on getting out the vote in the Atlanta-area during the final hours of the race. She stumped on Monday with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin (D). Her biggest obstacle in the general will be to raise enough money to stay competitive with Isakson

But national Democrats long ago took Georgia out of their equation for winning a majority in the chamber this fall.

Meanwhile, in the suburban Atlanta 6th district runoff, Price overcame conventional wisdom and a geographical disadvantage to beat fellow state Sen. Robert Lamutt for the GOP nod to succeed Isakson. Price is unopposed in the November general and will be the next Congressman to represent the staunchly Republican district.

Lamutt poured more than $1.5 million of his own money into the primary and runoff, but in the end he garnered 46 percent to Price’s 54 percent.

Price had the backing of several members of Georgia’s GOP delegation, including Rep. John Linder, who recorded a phone message for Price that played to voters throughout the district in the final days of the campaign.

Price, 49, a physician and former state Senate Majority Leader, is the first non-Cobb County resident to represent the 6th district. He lives in north Fulton County but almost two-thirds of the voters in the district live in Cobb. Price got an overwhelming majority of the votes cast in his Fulton base while taking a healthy margin of the votes cast in Cobb, Lamutt’s home.

While the 6th district candidates spent the final stretch of the campaign debating a tax vote in the state Legislature, the 8th district runoff turned out to be a much more nasty and high-profile affair marked by prominent endorsements and racial politics.

In the end, Westmoreland handily beat back an aggressive challenge from former Bush administration aide Dylan Glenn, who was attempting to become the only black Republican in the House next Congress. The final vote margin was 55 percent to 45 percent.

Westmoreland, 54, topped Glenn in the first round of balloting last month but both campaigns had touted more recent polling that showed them well-positioned in the runoff.

Glenn, 35, was making his third attempt to win a seat in Congress, having run twice before in the neighboring 2nd district.

In the last week Glenn campaigned with former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who retired in 2002 and was the last black Republican to serve in the chamber.

Glenn left his job in the Bush administration and became a top aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in 2003. While Perdue had remained neutral in the race, many in his inner circle were supporting Glenn.

Westmoreland, meanwhile, was backed by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), four members of the state’s House delegation and much of the state’s GOP establishment. In his acceptance speech Tuesday night he thanked Gingrich for motivating his supporters.

Lamutt wasn’t the only Gingrich-backed candidate to lose Tuesday. The former Speaker also got behind Lamutt in the 6th district, territory he once represented.

The 8th district, currently represented by Rep. Mac Collins (R), is heavily Republican territory and stretches from the southern suburbs of metro Atlanta to Columbus. Collins gave up the seat to run for Senate, but he placed third in last month’s GOP primary.

Westmoreland will face little-known Democrat Silvia Delamar in November.