ATLANTA — The race to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate is evenly divided among Republicans, and voters of all stripes weren’t wowed by the recent legislative session, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The InsiderAdvantage/Morris News survey, done in conjunction with Atlanta television station Fox 5 (WAGA), shows no leader yet among the candidates for the 2014 Republican Senate nomination. U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, R-Athens, and Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, who are the only announced candidates, are tied at 15 percent each while their colleague Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, is just one percentage point behind, even though he hasn’t formally committed.
“It’s telling you who’s been in the news recently,” said Kennesaw State University professor Kerwin Swint. “... There’s no front-runner.”
The survey was conducted Monday. Results from the 296 Republicans who participated have a 5.9 percent margin of error after being weighted for age, race and gender.
Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate and a onetime Georgia secretary of state, is tied with the congressmen, considering the margin of error. She drew support from 9 percent.
David Perdue, a former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General and a cousin of ex-Gov. Sonny Perdue, drew 5 percent as a political newcomer.
For results including Democrats and independents along with the Republicans, the margin of error dropped to 4 percent because the total questioned rose to 573.
They weren’t impressed by the legislative session that ended March 28. Just 35 percent approved and 42 percent disapproved of the job done; 23 percent had no opinion.
They have a better view of Gov. Nathan Deal, with 48 percent approval, 37
percent disapproval and 15 percent with no opinion.
People don’t generally follow the Legislature and so consider it more of a debating society for the politically ambitious, according to Swint. Deal can be satisfied with his numbers two years ahead of his re-election bid, he said.
“There’s no major opponent on the horizon. There’s no major cloud,” Swint said. “Deal gets some credit for stepping into some of these legislative issues.”
One of the major legislative issues was passage of an ethics bill that imposes the first-ever limit on what lobbyists can give to state and local politicians.
The bill didn’t make much of an impression on those surveyed, however. Two out of three didn’t know anything about it or have an opinion.
Of those who did, just 15 percent liked it and 20 percent didn’t.
InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery predicted the end of ethics legislation.
“To the public, this simply is not the burning issue that it is to the media and other interest groups,” he said. “And by the tepid response, I can say that it is not only unlikely, but there is no chance that another ethics bill will be taken up by the legislative leadership next year. It just is too complicated and is not a burning issue with constituents.”
Another headline-grabbing bill dealt with guns. It didn’t pass, but it would have allowed holders of concealed-weapons permits to take them to churches and college campuses and let school boards arm administrators.
Voters split on the issue, with 40 percent for the bill, 43 percent against and 17 percent undecided. White men were most supportive, and white women and independents were most opposed.
Towery, a one-time GOP legislator and campaign strategist, warned his former colleagues that relaxing gun controls and focusing on social issues was hurting the party despite Deal’s relative popularity.
“Party identification in Georgia is moving away from the Republicans and Democrats and toward independent voters,” he said. “Those voters have taken a rather substantial turn away from the GOP in the last six to 12 months. In essence, we are seeing Georgia catching up to national trends, and that means Republicans must tread softly or risk being in very close statewide contests in the future.”