Once trailing by nearly 40 points behind U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Midtown native Jim Martin had closed the gap to within the margin of error of most polls a week before the Nov. 4 election.
Martin, who championed gay causes during the 1980s and ’90s in the Georgia House, went from a long shot after soundly defeating DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones in an Aug. 5 runoff to put him the position of credible challenger as Election Day draws close.
An Insider Advantage/Poll Position poll of 637 likely voters on Oct. 27 put Chambliss at 46 percent and Martin at 44 percent. An Oct. 22 Rasmussen Reports poll of 500 voters on Oct. 22 had Chambliss with 47 percent of the vote and Martin with 45, compared to a similar Rasmussen poll on Sept. 16 showing Chambliss at 50 percent and Martin at 43.
The popularity of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and the growing disdain for President George W. Bush has likely caused Republican incumbent Chambliss’ lead to narrow significantly.
Gay leaders credit Martin with derailing anti-gay legislation when he chaired the House Judiciary Committee. As commissioner of the state Department of Human Resources, Martin drew praise from HIV activists and gay organizations for his strong support for HIV funding and gay-inclusive hate crimes and civil rights bills.
Some pundits are predicting Georgia could be a swing state and may even vote for Obama, which would make it the first time the state has gone for a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992. But others say Georgia is likely to stay tied to its red roots and go with Sen. John McCain. But the race between Chambliss and Martin may put the state in the middle of a perfect storm for Democrats anyway.
“I think in the end McCain will probably carry Georgia — narrowly — but it may well be that the Senate race goes into a runoff,” said Merle Black, a professor of politics and government at Emory University who is considered an expert on politics in the South.
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