Taylor Bennett Wins State House Run-off, Republicans Lose Supermajority
On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Democratic candidate Taylor Bennett–an attorney and former football player–won a runoff election for House District 80, defeating J. Max Davis, a Republican.
The district includes parts of Sandy Springs in Fulton County and Brookhaven in DeKalb County.
Bennett won by a wide margin of 54.35 percent to 45.65 percent.
Republicans in the House have held a de facto supermajority of 120 to 60. State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I – Milledgeville), the single independent representative, generally votes in lockstep with the GOP.
“Republicans didn’t need to ask a Democrat for a vote if they kept all the Republicans in line,” Bryan Long, Director of Better Georgia, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Now they will have to reach across the aisle for anything that requires more than a simple majority, like a constitutional ballot initiative,” he said.
But the most significant impact of Bennett’s election, Long said, is that it tipped the balance toward Democrats in the Fulton County delegation.
Legislation that pertains to Fulton County must pass through the delegation before it’s taken up by committee or the full House.
“Republicans spent years carefully crafting maps so they would have a majority of the Fulton delegation. On [Tuesday’s] election day, we tipped the balance back to Democrats, who are the majority in Fulton County,” Long said.
Republicans had secured a majority of thirteen representatives in the 25 member Fulton delegation by drawing a map that included many districts with only small slivers of Fulton County and larger portions of neighboring counties like Cobb, Douglas, and Coweta.
National media have covered Bennett’s win because he opposed the Religious Freedom bill that threatened to potentially legalize discrimination against LGBTQI people, during this year’s Legislative Session.
Bennett spoke in support of equality at many of his campaign events.
“It shows that Democrats can take a boldly progressive stance and win in districts drawn by and for Republicans,” Long said.
Several factors aided in Bennett’s success.
Catherine Bernard, an independent, ran a strong campaign that helped to split the Republican vote.
APN endorsed Bernard in the Primary, and endorsed Bennett in the Run-off.
And the Republican candidate, former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis, was a hot mess.
During his campaign, two Brookhaven city employees accused him of sexual harassment. Then, one of the employees claimed that Davis attempted to cover up records documenting the sexual harassment claims.
Even before these revelations, Davis had become unpopular for pursuing controversial litigation against Chamblee in one case, and the Pink Pony strip club in another. Davis was also unpopular about the nearly half of Brookhaven voters who did not wish to form a City in the first place; he had been part of the campaign to create Brookhaven.
Even with Gov. Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp stumping for him, and a campaign budget double the size of Bennett’s, Davis couldn’t recover.
How Bennett will fare as a legislator is a question even for his supporters. The 29-year-old former professional football player and lawyer has no experience as a politician.