Rep. Doug Collins handily won the Republican nomination last night in a tense race for the ninth district congressional seat against Martha Zoller. Last night marked the end of a year-long contest for the two candidates. Over the course of both campaigns, the candidates battled in countless debates and gathered a host of endorsements along the way. While Zoller had the backing of national names such as Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin, Collins racked up a litany of local endorsements, such as Former Governor Zell Miller, House Speaker David Ralston and Governor Nathan Deal, to name a few. During a May Republican meeting in Fannin County, Speaker Ralston pledged his support for Collins.
“I’m telling you, not how to vote,”
“but just to tell you that I’m going to vote and do everything I can do to elect Doug Collins to Congress,”
while adding the caveat that he does not usually get involved in other people’s races. Governor Deal also did his part by sending out a robo-call this week in support of Collins. Is the Collins win, though, a rejection of national endorsements?
In addition to Cain, Gingrich, and Palin, Zoller was endorsed by Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rick Santorum. But, what do endorsements say? In a sense, they say,
“If you agree with my views, you will also agree this or that person’s views.”
Additionally, endorsements are a link of like-minds, a bridging of philosophies, and a strengthening of support through similarities. If this is true, then Collins voters last night voted for the current views of Legislature and leadership in Atlanta. Similarly, this means, perhaps, voters rejected some of the strongest conservative voices in the nation. The battle of endorsements, though, may also mean support for local rather than national voices.
Regardless, Collins ran a highly aggressive campaign, which consistently had more in its coffers than Zoller’s. As such, he had more resources for his grassroots forces (i.e. “boots on the ground”). At almost any given GOP meeting through out the district in the last few months, a Collins representative could be seen handing out literature and talking to folks.
He also made a decisive move in strategy. For the last several months, he forced social issues to the fore of the discussion, clearly questioning his opponent’s beliefs. While debates and discussions focused on a gasping economy, high unemployment (Georgia’s spiked to 9.3 in July), and TSPLOST (which Collins voted for), Collins questioned Zoller’s beliefs, relentlessly hammering away on her alleged views on civil unions and abortion, as perceived by Collins. The campaign then ramped up these efforts in the last few weeks, sending out weekly press releases claiming his opponent’s perceived views.
Runoffs typically have lower voter turn-out than regular elections. In fact, a political adage comes from this, which says, if a candidate can get the same amount of voters to come back out to the polls who voted for him or her the first time, that candidate could win the contest. If this is true, then Collins was able to motivate his voters to come back out to the polls for the runoff. So, what happened to Zoller’s initial voters? In light of this, a recent poll makes last night’s results perplexing. According to the poll taken between the July 31st election and last night’s runoff, Zoller was ahead of Collins 43 percent to 39 percent, with 18 percent undecided. The poll also showed Zoller ahead among self-identified Tea Party Conservatives, 48 percent to 31 percent. Using this poll as a basis, it seems the undecided decided on Collins,
Shortly after the polls closed last night, supporters started to gather on the ground floor lobby of Hunt Tower, just outside Luna’s Restaurant in Gainesville, where many were family, staff, and friends, decked out in coats and ties and evening dresses, to show their support and watch as the results appeared on the screen on the wall. Most supporters said they know Collins personally and were confident that Collins would represent the ninth district well in Washington.
“When he says he’s going to do something, he going to do it,”
supporter Lillian Smith asserted, who said she knew Collins personally, adding,
“He doesn’t back down from a fight.”
Another supporter and friend John Breakfield said Collins has never backed down to fight for something he believes in, also calling him straightforward and honest.
After Mrs. Zoller conceded, Collins delivered a grateful and energetic speech from the podium to cameras going off like lightning around him. He asserted confidence of another victory in the November election against Democratic Candidate Jody Cooley.
“It’s going to be the same consistent conservative message that we brought before,”
“of cutting taxes, of lowering spending and telling Mr. Obama that Obamacare has got to go!”
He thanked the support of friends and family and complimented Mrs. Zoller, saying she is a true leader in North East Georgia and a true leader in the conservative movement.
In a press release today, Mrs. Zoller also thanked her supporters, but said,
“We lost the battle but we can still win the war,”
avowing to continue the fight for the restoration of the nation through conservative principles.