Primary runoff preview: Georgia state executive official elections, 2014
|July 21, 2014 Election Preview|
ATLANTA, Georgia: Georgia voters faced six contested state executive primary races on May 20, two of which, the Democratic and Republican primaries for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools, prompted runoffs. Since neither field managed to produce a definitive victor—that is, no one received at least 50 percent of the primary vote—the top two vote-getters from each race must face off on July 22 to decide who will advance to the general election: state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan and former Decatur School Board Chairwoman Valarie Wilson for the Democrats; chief academic officer for the state Department of Education Mike Buck and veteran Irwin County educator Richard Woods for the Republicans. 
The superintendent seat is the only open seat out of the ten state executive offices up for election in the 2014 electoral cycle. Rather than seek a second term as superintendent in 2014, first term Republican incumbent John Barge chose to run for governor. He was defeated by incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary on May 20, 2014. Barge's term expires on January 12, 2015, at which time he will have to cede the superintendent's office to his elected successor.
The superintendent is charged by state law to "carry out and enforce all the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and the laws governing the schools receiving state aid." Additionally, he is directed to make recommendations to the board on matters related to the "welfare and efficiency" of the public school system.
Georgia election law requires a candidate to earn a majority (at least 50 percent) of the primary election vote in order to automatically move on with the party's nomination. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the two candidates with the highest number of votes compete in a runoff, which, effective in 2014, will take place "on the Tuesday of the ninth week" following the primary. The timetable was revised under House Bill 310 and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in January 2014; Prior to 2014, runoffs were regularly held three weeks after the preceding primary.
Georgia is one of 14 states that uses an open primary system, in which registered voters do not have to be members of a party to vote in that party's primary.
Below, Ballotpedia has put together a recap of the May 20 Democratic and Republican primaries for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools and a brief preview of the upcoming runoffs.
- See also: Georgia State Superintendent of Schools
As the sole open state executive seat of the 2014 elections, the superintendent race was expected to draw a substantial lineup of candidates hoping to succeed outgoing incumbent John Barge. Barge, a Republican first elected Georgia's state schools chief in 2010, decided to forgo a possible re-election bid this year and instead set his sights on the governor's race. Though a crushing defeat by current Gov. Nathan Deal in the GOP primary brought an early end to Barge's gubernatorial campaign, he is not allowed to enter the superintendent race after the fact. His deviation was unique among the ten-man, all-Republican roster of state-row incumbents, all of whom are considered likely to be re-elected, and has exposed the superintendent's office as a target for Democrats—and/or women—looking to gain an incipient foothold in the executive branch of Georgia state government.
The open seat race has attracted additional media attention for its relevance to the nationwide zeitgeist issue of Common Core. Like in most states, the Georgia State Superintendent of Schools plays a critical role in the implementation of the controversial new education standards set forth by Common Core. Unsurprisingly, each superintendent candidate has had to build his or her campaign platform around the issue and all four runoff candidates have faced heavy scrutiny for their associated stances.
Of the Republicans, Buck supports Georgia's persistent relationship with the standards, touting the stability Common Core can provide from year to year. Woods, however, has reservations about Common Core, saying if elected he would review both Common Core as well as the new Common Core-aligned "Georgia Milestones" testing regime currently deep in the development stage.
On the Democratic side, both Wilson and Morgan believe in staying the course on implementing Common Core. With that agreed upon, the candidates have sought to prove each has the stronger background dealing with education policy and more leadership experience. Wilson, who finished first in the primary, brings an established base of support among education authorities from her years as Decatur School Board Chairwoman and President of the Georgia School Boards Association. Wilson's campaign focused on her support of traditional public schools and her ample management experience. Wilson opposes school choice and voucher or school tax credit programs and has openly criticized Morgan's record supporting these non-traditional education issues as a state lawmaker. While numerous Democrats share Wilson's disapproval of Morgan's legislative resume regarding charter schools and other such programs, Morgan has more recently endeared herself to some influential state education leaders for having championed an effort to defeat a thoroughly anti-Common Core Senate Bill.
Primary Runoff Candidates
- Valarie Wilson - Non Profit Director, Ex-Decatur School Board Chair
- Alisha Thomas Morgan - State Representative
Lost in the Primary
Primary Election Results
- Republican primary
|Georgia Superintendent of Schools, Republican Primary, 2014|
|Mary Kay Bacallao||15.3%||71,810|
|Allen Bowles Fort||6.3%||29,504|
|Election Results Via:Georgia Secretary of State Election Results.|
- Democratic primary
|Georgia Superintendent of Schools, Democratic Primary, 2014|
|Alisha Thomas Morgan||26.4%||78,460|
|Jurita Forehand Mays||5.7%||16,818|
|Election Results Via:Georgia Secretary of State Election Results.|
- Georgia Election Results, Secretary of State, "Primary Statewide Election Results," accessed July 21, 2014
- The Marietta Daily Journal, "Morgan to run for Ga. Superintendent," November 13, 2013
- Valarie Wilson for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Mike Buck for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Richard Woods for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed November 18, 2013
- Georgia Code, "20-2-34," accessed September 15, 2011
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "Primary Runoffs," accessed July 21, 2014
- Georgia General Assembly, "Legislation: 2013-2014 Regular Session - HB 310 Elections; ethics in government; revise definitions; provisions," accessed July 21, 2014
- National Conference of State Legislatures Website, "State Primary Election Types," accessed January 6, 2014
- Fair Vote, "Congressional and Presidential Primaries: Open, Closed, Semi-Closed, and 'Top Two,'" accessed January 6, 2014
- Ballotpedia research conducted December 26, 2013 through January 3, 2014 researching and analyzing various state websites and codes.
- Official Code of Georgia, "Title 21, Chapter 2, Section 403," accessed January 3, 2014
- Cook Political Report, "2014 Governors Race Ratings for July 18, 2014," July 18, 2014
- Georgia Secretary of State, "Qualifying Candidate Information," accessed May 19, 2014
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "State school chief candidates in the final stretch. No idea who will prevail," July 14, 2014
- GPB News, "Voters To Choose Democratic Superintendent Candidate Tuesday," July 17, 2014
- Georgia Secretary of State, "Qualifying Candidate Information: State Schools Superintendent," accessed April 1, 2014
- Denise Freeman for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website,' "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Tarnisha Dent for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Rita Robinzine for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Mary Kay Bacallao for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Ashley Bell for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Nancy Jester for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed November 18, 2013
- Fitz Johnson for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Sheryl Dawes for Superintendent 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed April 1, 2014
- Kira Willis 2014 Official campaign, "Homepage," accessed November 18, 2013