Pardon Our Dust
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Aside from the outcome of the presidential race, the 2016 elections in Georgia changed the state’s electoral map very little. Following are brief summaries of the results:
At the top of the ballot, Sen. Johnny Isakson delivered a strong win at 14 points ahead of his challenger. The state’s congressional delegation was re-elected by similar margins on both sides of the aisle, and incumbent Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols was re-elected.
In the State Senate, one seat changed hands, with Republican Sen. Janice Van Ness losing in a strongly Democratic district that she previously won in a special election. In the state House, Megan Hanson defeated Democratic incumbent Taylor Bennett in a north Atlanta swing district. In Gwinnett County, incumbent Republican Valerie Clark was defeated by Samuel Park in a similarly competitive district and incumbent Republican Mike Cheokas narrowly lost a competitive southwest Georgia seat. Ultimately, however, none of this movement will fundamentally change the partisan balance of the state legislature here.
Four Constitutional amendments were also on the ballot. The first was a highly visible debate over whether the state should intervene to save failing schools, which was defeated by 60 percent, following major spending by the National Education Association. The other three amendments were largely uncontested and passed widely. They change the structure of our state’s judicial accountability mechanism, and earmark funds for trauma care and victims of sex trafficking.
Three important transportation initiatives in metro Atlanta enjoyed strong success on Election Day, with MARTA expansion in the city of Atlanta winning a resounding 72 percent, followed by 68 percent for a city of Atlanta TSPLOST (transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax) that would largely go to expanding the Beltline, and a 53 percent win for a TSPLOST in north and south Fulton counties for road expansion. ;Also in the Atlanta region, voters approved the creation of a new city of South Fulton, effectively making Fulton County completely incorporated into municipalities. Generally, local elections in metro Atlanta resulted in wins for incumbents.
In summary, beneath the presidential results, the electoral map in Georgia turned out generally as it has in recent presidential election years. To the extent there are shifts, they mostly relate to closer-than-anticipated races in some of the inner suburbs in Atlanta where Democrats are gaining some ground. At the same time, Republican margins in the outer suburbs and many rural areas continue to increase. This is largely a function of demographic shifts that have occurred since the last redistricting, rather than being indicative of any kind of discernable political tide.