The race for lieutenant governor of Georgia pits former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, against political newcomer Sarah Riggs Amico, a Democrat. They live relatively close to each other — Duncan in Cumming and Amico in Kennesaw — and both are business executives. But they are far apart in their views.
Duncan is CEO of a small healthcare business, Wellview Health, while Amico is executive chairperson of Jack Cooper, which bills itself as the largest car-haul company in the U.S. and Canada with more than 3,000 employees. Duncan describes himself as a “tried and true conservative.” Amico says she is “politically purple” – meaning a mix of views – and committed to bipartisanship.
In terms of the issues in this campaign, Duncan paints in broad strokes. “True school choice should start at home around the kitchen table,” he says on his website. “Ignite a powerful economy by empowering job creators instead of politicians. End the bureaucratic stranglehold on education by empowering parents. Fight for every innocent life as if it was your own. Dismantle ineffective government programs and streamline budgeting process.”
Amico says she has “a long, consistent record of finding common ground with people across the political spectrum” and would continue doing that as the lieutenant governor, per her website. She is described by a Project Q Atlanta writer as “an evangelical Christian that backs LGBTQ equality and strongly opposes anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bills.’” But, says the writer, “her support for progressive issues” does not stop with that position. She is quoted: “I know that confuses a lot of people to be a pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-gay rights Christian. I personally think it’s quite consistent with my beliefs.”
On other issues, she says: “I want everyone to have access to quality, affordable health care, a great public school education and an equal opportunity to build their American Dream. To do that, we are going to need a new kind of political leadership. … I’ve voted for the person I thought was best regardless of party. But when the Republicans started restricting opportunity instead of expanding it, cutting education instead of investing in it and abandoning civil rights instead of protecting them, it left me behind. Now I’m a proud Democrat.”
Amico has been endorsed by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and the two are running as a team, the first time this has happened in Georgia. Just as Abrams would be the first female governor of this state if elected, if Amico wins, she would be the first female lieutenant governor since the office was created in 1945 by constitutional amendment with the first election held in 1946. For the next 60 years, Democrats held the office until incumbent Casey Cagle was sworn in as the first Republican lieutenant governor in 2007. Incidentally, the first to hold the office, Melvin E. Thompson, was embroiled in Georgia’s infamous Three Governors controversy following the death of the governor-elect, Eugene Talmadge. Thompson claimed the office and so did outgoing Gov. Ellis Arnall, but the Legislature elected Eugene Talmadge’s son, Herman. Two months later the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Thompson, who held office briefly until he lost to Herman Talmadge in a special election in 1948.
The lieutenant governor is the president of the Senate and in the event of the death or incapacity of the governor succeeds to that office. In recent years, the power of the lieutenant governor as presiding officer of the Senate has been diminished considerably. In 2010, the Republican majority changed the rules and stripped Lt. Gov. Cagle of the right to appoint members of Senate committees but allowed him to continue assigning bills to committees and calling them up for votes.
Duncan and Amico are apparently in a tight race at this point as indicated in a poll by Gravis Marketing, a nonpartisan research firm based in Florida, which had Amico leading with 43 percent to Duncan’s 41 percent and 15 percent uncertain in the closing days of July. As usual, the undecided voters will decide this race for the second highest office in Georgia.