With all the crazy news surrounding Marjorie Taylor Greene, I was wondering why the people of Georgia’s 14th District would vote for her. The story turned out to be … interesting.
Georgia’s 14th Congressional District
Georgia’s 14th congressional district was created in 2012 following the 2010 Census, when Georgia gained a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district is in northwest Georgia, northwest of Atlanta, and includes 12 counties: Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Polk, Walker, Whitfield, and a portion of Pickens. The District could be considered poorer, whiter, and less educated than the rest of the U.S.
The district is solid Republican, considered the 10th most Republican district in the nation. Almost three-quarters of the District votes Republican, very consistently. To put Greene’s election into perspective, she got about the same percentage of votes (74.7%) as Romney and Trump (twice) did and her democratic opponent Van Ausdal got about the same percentage of votes (25.3%) as Obama, Clinton, and Biden.
Given those demographics and the history of elections in the District, there is little reason to believe anyone other than a Republican could be elected there.
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Political GPS
Greene did everything right in this election.
Greene has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Georgia. She and her husband own a construction company that they bought from her father in 2002. Greene reports that the company has “managed a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects.” She also claims that she “started, grew, and sold a thriving CrossFit gym which became one of the top CrossFit gyms in the country.” She is educated, affluent, and personable, an ideal candidate for political office.
Greene had never run for office. She originally planned to run for the U.S. House in the 6th District where she lived in a suburb north of Atlanta. She would have had to run against Republican Karen Handel who lost the seat in 2018 and Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath (who eventually won the 2020 election). The 6th District leans Republican but is not solid Republican like the 14th District. In December 2019, incumbent Representative from the 14th District Tom Graves announced that he would not run for reelection (and in fact, resigned in October before the end of his term). Greene then moved her campaign to the 14th District. Graves’ decision was fortuitous for Greene, who capitalized on it.
Greene’s path to the House was not without challenges. She first won a primary election against eight other candidates. Because she did not win a majority of the votes, she had to go through a runoff election against John Cowan. This is where it gets interesting.
Cowan grew up on a cattle farm in northwest Georgia. Unlike Greene, he was a native of the area that would become the 14th District. He wrestled and played football in high school and graduated as valedictorian. He got an undergraduate degree in physics with honors from Davidson College and a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is a practicing neurosurgeon, owner of two small businesses, and a reserve deputy sheriff. He is a strong Christian, lifelong Republican, staunch conservative, and Trump supporter. He supports law-and-order, gun rights, the border wall, and is anti-abortion. He was, in every sense, the perfect Republican candidate for the 14th District. He characterized Green as “crazy,” “a carpetbagger from Atlanta,” and a “You-Tube celebrity looking to buy a seat in Congress.”
As a businessperson and entrepreneur, Greene could have run on that expertise and proposed business-friendly policies to the electorate, even taking some initiative on the Federal deficit. Instead she chose to run on raw negative emotions. She didn’t just talk about the traditional Republican themes — expand gun rights, secure the borders, prohibit abortions, and stop socialism. John Cowen was doing that too. Greene positioned herself in the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats, between conservatives and liberals, between Trump-supporters and everyone else. She made her campaign about fear and hate.
She [Greene] turned to a cutout of Trump propped up on her right. “I just love this guy so much,” she said, stroking the cardboard. In the next few minutes, she mentioned socialism five times. “The Democrat Party is no longer an American party,” she said. She decried the Green New Deal and the Paris climate accord. She talked about “good guys with guns at schools” and “abortion mills, like Planned Parenthood,” drawing responses of “Amen!” and “That’s right!” She mentioned “communists, Antifa, Marxist Black Lives Matters,” and said that “the silent majority has had enough.” Trump, she said, turning to the cutout again, “works for us for free. He’s fantastic. This guy right here is great!”
Charles Bethea. October 9, 2020. How the “QAnon Candidate” Marjorie Taylor Greene Reached the Doorstep of Congress. The New Yorker.
Cowan was endorsed by all the elected officials in the District, but for some reason, it was Greene who got the support of the House Freedom Fund, which donated $103,005 to her campaign. Representative Jim Jordan from Ohio contributed $4,000 to her. Most significantly, Greene donated $953,650 of her own money to her own campaign, 37% of the $2,957,509 she raised. Cowen ended up losing the runoff to Greene by 10,831 votes (57.1% to 42.9%).
It is interesting to note that:
- There were 32,021 fewer votes in the runoff than in the primary.
- Greene got about the same number of votes in the runoff as in the primary, about 44,000 votes.
- Cowan got ten thousand more votes in the runoff than in the primary. He seems to have picked up all the Republican votes from the other candidates in the primary.
- Twice as many Republicans voted in the election as voted in the primary, but by that time, Greene was a shoo-in.
Given that the 14th District is so strongly Republican that no Democratic candidate would garner more than 25% of the votes on election day, it could be argued that the decision to send Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress was made by the 44,000 voters who supported her in the primary and runoff elections. The moral of the story is: Don’t wait until election day to make your voice heard.
After the runoff election, the conclusion was certain but there was still more drama to come. Greene’s opponent in the general election was also a political neophyte, Kevin Van Ausdal, a 35-year-old IT specialist. His platform was to increase minimum wage, prioritize public education funding, and protect civil rights. Greene outspent Van Ausdal by over twenty times.
Despite having an agreement with his wife “to wait until after the election and then separate,” Van Ausdal was served divorce papers on Wednesday, September 9th. As part of the divorce proceedings, Van Ausdal had to immediately vacate the house that he shared with his wife, so he went to live with relatives in Indiana. Because his primary address was no longer in Georgia, he was disqualified from the race. (The FEC prohibits a candidate from using campaign funds to cover cost of living expenses.) Furthermore, because there was only 51 days left before the election, the Democratic Party couldn’t replace him on the ballot. Van Ausdal has since taken legal possession of the Rossville house, and moved back in, but his primary residence is now in Indiana.
So even though Van Ausdal had been disqualified, his name was still on the ballot. He received 77,798 votes, 25.3% of the total. That was about the same percentage of 14th District votes that Barack Obama got in 2012 and Joe Biden got in 2020, and three percent more than Hillary Clinton got in 2016. It’s about the same percentage that Jesus Christ would get if He ran sas a Democrat in the 14th District.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is wealthy, personable, and well connected. She is also arrogant, aggressive, and narcissistic, just like her hero, Donald J. Trump. That’s why the Republican Party liked her more than John Cowan. But to her credit, she did everything right to win the 2020 election for U.S. Representative from Georgia’s 14th District.
- She used Tom Graves’ retirement to decide to run in the 14th District instead of the 6th District where she lived. She may not have won a House seat in the more politically-balanced 6th District
- She ran on emotion rather than her business background. She emphasized fear and hate of liberals, immigrants, minorities, and the government. That garnered more attention and interest from the electorate. It fed their insecurities.
- She became the favorite by winning the primary, giving her name recognition. This led to endorsements from Trump and his followers. A mere 40,000 votes, a seventh of the votes eventually cast in the general election, gave her that advantage.
- She used the media to better advantage than her opponents. She was constantly in the news while Cowan and Van Ausdal were mostly limited to responding to her antics.
- She spent half again more than her runoff challenger, including almost a million dollars of her own money. Money was never an issue for her while Cowen ended his campaign in debt.
Greene wants to be a player in Washington D.C. She wants to bring her beliefs and politics to the entire country. The 40,000 voters who kick-started her campaign had a rationale for what they did. They feel that they have been ignored by the government and distrust whatever it eventually does do. They fear the growing influence of liberals, immigrants, and minorities. They feel that their pro-gun, pro-life culture is under assault by society. In Marjorie Taylor Greene, her supporters believe they have found an authentic, lover of God, guns, individuality, and freedom, who will restore American greatness. Sadly, these people are flying monkeys, individuals who are unwittingly manipulated to carry out evil deeds on behalf of a psychopath. They don’t even realize it. They believe that Democrats and liberals are all about fear, hate and control, the psychological projection of their political heroes.
How will it end? IMO, Greene won’t last in government. Government doesn’t want her; appearances are too important. She brings too much conflict to her own party, just like her hero, Donald Trump. She won’t want to stay in government either. She’s rapidly becoming a pariah. She won’t be able to accomplish anything of her own initiative. She’s no Donald Trump, though she wants to be.
Greene may not be removed from her seat in the House by the Washington power brokers but she’ll be eased out in her next election, either by a primary-challenge or more directly by the Republican Party. There aren’t enough Democrats in the District to put her removal solely in the hands of the voters.
She won’t go away, though. She’ll campaign for other extreme right-wing candidates for office. She’ll get hired by Fox News as a political analyst. She’ll serve on Boards-of-Directors for gun-rights and pro-life groups. She’ll be a frequent guest on talk radio. And who knows, if Trump returns to government, she may rise to become a member of his next Cabinet.