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COLUMN: The Lieutenant Governor’s Race is Already Over for Me

OPINION: Contributor Jessica Szilagyi opines on the outcome of the Lt. Governor’s race on the Republican ticket and talks about why she found it to be the state’s most disappointing race.

The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.

I made some inflammatory statements this morning about the Lieutenant Governor’s race in Georgia and after perusing social media for a good portion of the day, I want to expound a little bit.

There is nothing I despise more than a negative campaign. Being an intern on a negative campaign is actually how I got my start with writing. I was so ashamed of how my candidate behaved that I wanted an outlet – after the election – to discuss politics. Since then, I’ve worked for campaigns that have been on the receiving end of negative attacks and I think that we can all agree that nothing is better when it’s all said and done: Not the candidates, not the communities, and not the policies.

I don’t care if I hate the person getting attacked. I believe people should win on their own merit. Talk about legislative records, your own plans, and what your character will bring to the elected office. If you can’t do that, in my opinion, you’re unfit to serve. Real leaders don’t have to tear someone down to lift themselves up. Leaders simply lead. I have no tolerance for the mudslinging in a campaign and I find it even more despicable when someone simultaneously touts the Christianity they embody. Matthew 7:12, y’all.

But alas, it happens every election cycle. Over and over again. And clearly, negative campaigning works. We tear down good people, prop up mediocre people, and then complain about the ‘system.’ And, of course, we see all the folks who are against negative campaigning until ‘their guy’ does it. It’s very…Stockholm Syndrome-esque. We hate the hamster wheel of a system but never stop supporting the system even when the system is toxic. We condemn the bad actors and then rush to support them, quickly forgetting the bad acts.

Geoff Duncan

It’s everything I hate and it drives people out of participating in politics. I won’t condone it.

But even knowing the system, knowing the game, knowing it works, I still genuinely want resolve, which is why I believe Geoff Duncan owes Georgians an apology. And I’m serious about voting for the Democrat in November. Not because I am a bleeding heart liberal who just happened to be meddling in the GOP primary, but because Geoff Duncan declined a 10-month opportunity to show us who he is. He spent $931,000 campaigning and no one knows what he wants to do as Lieutenant Governor.

To be upfront and honest, I voted for David Shafer on May 22 and on July 24th. I had the opportunity to sit down for 45 minutes and interview him and, at the end, he asked me to consider supporting him. Geoff Duncan never asked for my vote. We’ve known each other for four years, share a great deal of mutual friends, and even share many of the same values, but he never asked for my vote.

It wasn’t easy for me to commit my support to Shafer, for a number of reasons, but I ultimately did because he answered difficult questions, he answered them honestly, and I could walk away knowing I was voting for someone of whom I would know what to expect.

But it was hard for me because I know Geoff Duncan as a legislator and a person. I met him in 2014 while he was still a member of the conservative Appeal to Heaven caucus in the legislature. I quickly came to know him as a man of God, someone who voted for limited government more times than he didn’t, and a friend to several people in politics that I respect immensely. I classified him as ‘one of the good ones.’

Everything he did during this campaign, everything his campaign espoused, and everything he refused to denounce was the complete opposite of the Geoff Duncan I met in the legislature. He didn’t talk about all the conservative votes he cast, the quality people he aligned himself with, and he never mentioned the causes he felt were worthy. NOT ONCE. In fact, in many instances, he pretended like he never served at all. I’m still shocked that he didn’t feel his legislative record wasn’t worth shouting from the rooftops. Truly, the fact that he didn’t concerns me and makes me question whether or not he’s ashamed of how pro-limited government he truly was.

And don’t forget about his campaign’s refusal of an opportunity to showcase what he stands for.

In my capacity with AllOnGeorgia, I made an effort to sit down with as many candidates running for statewide office as possible so that I could interview them on their passions and their platform. I spoke with all of the GOP candidates during the primary – except Cagle and Duncan. I chose not to say anything, respecting candidates desire not to have a sit down and get in front of the thousands of readers who check AllOnGeorgia across 40 counties, knowing that they must have a reason. Though efforts were made by the Duncan campaign to see if AllOnGeorgia would be “covering” some of the negativity on Shafer, a commitment for a discussion on what Duncan was ‘for’ still couldn’t be arranged.

It went a step further, and culminated, when my interview with Shafer aired and the Duncan campaign went to my superiors and to me publicly asking why I wasn’t giving Geoff the same coverage. I asked again, and again, and again after Shafer’s aired and was told they didn’t have time. My employer also tried to schedule it directly with no avail.

I’m not mad about the lack of interview. I’m just frustrated that given the opportunity for FREE PRESS, to share who he is, what he believes, and his proposed solutions to Georgians problems…were declined and no one knows why. It’s not like he was sending out a different SOS message elsewhere.

Photo: Senator David Shafer – Georgia State Senate

No one is more disappointed in the Lieutenant Governor’s race than me. I can get over a Shafer loss, but my disappointment is rooted in the fact that a man toppled another to win the nomination and most of the state has no idea what he stands for. Part of me wonders what we’ll say at all now that he doesn’t have Shafer to attack.

Here’s the thing: Brian Kemp won overwhelmingly, by a margin of 70-30. Duncan can’t say that. He squeaked it out – literally – squeaked out a win by 1,700 votes in a race where 556,754 Georgians voiced their opinion. It’s the closest margin for a race in modern runoff history. Duncan needs those Shafer supporters – many of whom are simply disgusted by the way his campaign operated. And another 30,000 Republicans chose to vote in the Governor’s race but wouldn’t cast a vote in the Lt. Governor’s race on Tuesday – consistent Republican voters who turnout chose to skip that race.

When I wrote an endorsement piece on Brian Kemp, I made it clear that I wasn’t supporting him because I agree with everyone of his campaign initiatives – because I don’t. But I believe that character is a phenomenal foundation to a person in politics because views, circumstances, opportunities, and so much more change – but character, if it exists, never will.

I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians over the course of my voting career and I’ve yet to cast a vote for someone I’ve agreed with 100% of the time. But I’ve never cast a vote for someone I didn’t think would do the right thing. In 2016, I voted for the Democrat in my state representative race because he was consistent and direct in his views while my representative wavered on everything from attendance and sign locations to voting records and campaign mailer tag lines.

I feel strongly that votes are earned, not deserved or given. So if Duncan wants Shafer voters, independents, and those who don’t walk the Party line, he better stop giving the impression that he doesn’t have to do the work to garner the support.

The truth of the matter is that I support the kind of person Geoff Duncan was in the legislature and I believe he has a huge opportunity to shift the course of Georgia politics, maybe even add a dash of integrity here and there – because of who he is. But if he doesn’t return to that,  he’ll be up a creek without a paddle and 49% of Republicans will still think he’s just against everything else and for absolutely nothing.

If you’re a friend or an ally of the Duncan campaign, I encourage you to ask him to do better.

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. KarenLife

    July 26, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Who ran his campaign? Who are those PACs that did the mailers and ads?

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