The upcoming so-called SEC primary could help bring more attention to Georgia, state Secretary of State Brian Kemp said.
Speaking at the recent Effingham Day at the Capitol event, Kemp said he has been working on the idea for two years. As a result, Georgia, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, will hold presidential preference primaries March 1. Other states holding their primaries that day include Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont.
Kemp came up with the strategy to have several Southeastern states to hold their primaries simultaneously to bring more attention to their states and in particular Georgia.
“In years past, as a legislator and as secretary of state, I was really frustrated that it seemed like Georgia was overlooked,” he said. “So when we went to vote, it didn’t matter, or if we did go early, it would be the same day as a big state like New York or California.”
As a result, Kemp said, candidates paid little attention to Georgia, rarely making stops other than quick visits to Atlanta before getting on another plane. It also meant very little visits from national media covering the candidates.
“A remedy around that, I thought, was to have a regional primary in the South, giving us a bigger presence and making it where the candidates and campaigns and press could not ignore Georgia,” he said. “We’ve had unprecedented visits from the presidential campaigns and organizational structures. We’ll see more media buys, more mail, more people visiting our state.”
Iowa began the process with its caucuses last month, and New Hampshire held its primary Tuesday. South Carolina’s primaries are split, with the Republicans going Feb. 20 and the Democrats holding theirs Feb. 27. In between, Nevada Republicans will caucus on Feb. 23.
“It will give us an opportunity to vote and really weigh in on who the nominees are going to be, after the four carve-out states,” Kemp said. “The field will be whittled down by the time it gets here but we’ll have a chance to further whittle it down. It’s going to raise candidates’ awareness of our state. It’s going to market us to the rest of the world.”
Kemp said the campaigns and the caravans of media and supporters also will have to learn about the state’s military installations and the impact those bases have on Georgia’s economy.
The presidential primary is just the beginning for the secretary of state’s elections season. Qualifying for General Assembly seats, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s post and a Public Service Commission seat will be held March 7-11. Isakson has declared he will seek re-election.
“That will keep us very busy as well,” Kemp said.
Kemp said his office’s new corporate filing system, implemented last July, has gone well.
“We have a one-click renewal system if you don’t want to make changes to your annual registration,” he said. “We also have an express annual registration system you don’t have to go through a password and login. It’s been unbelievable the feedback we’ve gotten.”
As of two weeks ago, about 90,000 people filed annual registrations, whereas in previous years, that number would be around 15,000, Kemp said.
“It’s so simple to use,” Kemp added. “It’s cut down on phone calls, emails and correspondence. It’s cut down on call wait time and we’re able to provide better customer service.”