A post-mortem on Georgia's midterm elections
With Tuesday’s election ending with clear victories in all of Georgia’s major races, the silly season will end as spin doctors and politicos alike hibernate through the winter holidays.
PolitiFact Georgia will stay on the case of any claims that make their way through the quiet, of course.
In the meantime, here’s our selection of fact checks in the two big statewide races – for governor and U.S. Senate – that helped define the contests.
Democrat Jason Carter, a state senator from Atlanta, came up short in his effort to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
The race at times took on a personal tone, as the pair battled over their sharply different ideas for the state’s future.
Carter focused mostly on education, trying to tie education cuts to sluggish economic indicators. He criticized Deal for underfunding education and pledged to restore full funding to schools based on the state’s education funding formula.
John Padgett, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, took issue with Carter’s attack. He noted that Carter, as a state senator, had voted for three of the four Deal-recommended budgets that included $1 billion-plus in austerity cuts to education.
Our research showed Padgett was correct. Though Carter had raised concerns over education funding, he only voted against the current state budget.
The Truth-O-Meter ruled Padgett’s claim True.
Deal, meanwhile, focused his campaign on first-term accomplishments. As the biggest piece of the state budget, education was also a central part of his message.
The state GOP issued a press release this summer, saying Deal had increased education spending every year, even as other state agencies suffered cuts during the economic downturn.
State budget records confirmed spending on education went up since Deal took office in January 2011. Of the $867 million increase over four years, the biggest chunk came with the budget that began July 1, a $399 million jump.
However, beyond the numbers, it was not policy decisions that prompted the growth. Enrollment growth, rising health care costs and pension expenses were the biggest drivers.
Moreover, while most state agencies did see cuts in those four years, records showed it was an overreach to suggest every department saw decreases in funding.
We rated the statement Mostly False.
Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue, vying for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat were far more focused on specific attacks that seemed to resonate with voters.
Nunn went after Perdue’s business record as an outsourcer of jobs. Perdue has zeroed in on Nunn’s shared beliefs with President Barack Obama.
Nunn had gone after Perdue’s record as a former Fortune 500 executive but found new traction when a 2005 deposition surfaced, of him saying that he "spent most of my career" outsourcing.
Our research indicated the quote is drawn directly from the sworn statement. He was referencing work in industries such as footwear and textiles, where entire plants shuttered and thousands of American jobs were lost.
But it neglected to mention that some of those jobs, rather than ending up overseas, simply vanished. It also oversimplified his business career – which went on to include a tenure as CEO of Dollar General and adding 19,000 part-time and full-time jobs.
We rated the claim Half True.
Perdue, meanwhile, repeated a claim that appeared in other races where GOP candidates won: that as a Democrat, Nunn was handpicked by Obama and would be a rubber stamp for his policies.
Published reports suggest that Democratic power brokers, if not the president himself, wanted Nunn to be the party’s nominee.
A victory could have helped Democrats keep control of the Senate, which will tilt Republican come January.
But the very reasons Nunn was thought to be Democrats’ best chance – as a moderate politician who had openly criticized the president and the party on some issues - were evidence that she would not be a rubber stamp.
For instance, Nunn advocated building the controversial and long-delayed Keystone Pipeline to pump oil from Canada. She also criticized military spending cuts and Obama’s delay on funding work to deepen the Port of Savannah.
For that reason, the Truth-O-Meter ruled Half True.