It’s finally over.
After a four-week runoff tacked on to a long election season, the U.S. Senate race in Georgia is over. It didn’t quite end the way gay Democrats in the state—or national Dems, for that matter—had hoped, with gay-friendly challenger Jim Martin getting thumped by incumbent Saxby Chambliss in a nearly 15-point win. But it’s done.
Also Tuesday, two candidates endorsed by statewide gay rights group Georgia Equality did win their runoff campaigns. Sara Doyle beat Mike Sheffield 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent in a Georgia Court of Appeals race. Tangela Barrie also defeated Johnny Mason for a Superior Court Judge slot in DeKalb County, 56 percent to 44 percent.
Georgia Equality gave its endorsement nod to Doyle for her pledge to treat gay and transgender people fairly in her courtroom. Sheffield was endorsed by Georgia Right to Life and other conservative supporters and said in a candidate survey that he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sodomy laws.
In the U.S. Senate race, the Chambliss win dashed the hopes of Democrats who wanted to reach a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. For gay supporters in metro Atlanta, the Martin defeat means a gay-friendly Democrat won’t represent the state when gay issues come before Congress next year. Those could include the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay members, the Employment Non-Discrimination Art, hate crimes legislation and funding of domestic AIDS prevention and treatment programs.
Martin supports gay issues (other than same-sex marriage) and campaigned with the backing of the Human Rights Campaign and the National Stonewall Democrats, an army of gay campaign volunteers, appeared proudly at gay events and supported gay issues as a state lawmaker. Chambliss received a failing score recently from HRC.
Chambliss, in his victory speech, framed the win this way:
“You have sent a strong message to the world that conservative Georgia values matter,” he said.
Why did he win? Black voters in the state didn’t turn out in the same numbers that they did on Nov. 4 for President-elect Barack Obama.
The runoff attracted more than $17 million in spending from both political parties and special interest groups from outside Georgia.