A few hundred votes in his former home county could have turned the tide for Ray McKinney.
McKinney had 2,213 votes in Effingham, pulling more than his two opponents in the Republican primary for Georgia’s 12th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He finished with 32 percent of the votes in the 22-county district, not enough to force a runoff against former congressional aide John Stone.
McKinney got 46 percent of the Republican vote in Effingham during the primary, leading Stone, who had 42.8 percent of the votes, and Ben Crystal. There were 4,806 ballots cast in Effingham for the House District 12 Republican primary, 2,000 more votes than any other county in the district. Only one other county — Chatham — had more than 2,000 votes in the primary.
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t get 10 percent, much less 35 percent,” McKinney said. “They said it was amazing.”
Stone garnered 56.7 percent of the district vote and will face Democratic incumbent John Barrow in November’s general election. But McKinney was heartened by his showing against the well-established Stone, who worked for the late Charlie Norwood and for Max Burns in the House.
McKinney also pointed to Stone’s radio commercials and his “robo-calls,” computer-generated phone calls to solicit voters.
“You has almost every state legislator endorsing one man,” he said. “You had the power of the establishment behind one man.”
McKinney, who gained notoriety by walking the length of the district, also uncovered some painful truths during his first foray into running for office.
“I found that politics is a dirty business,” he said.
The cost of the campaign, for McKinney, can be boiled down to numbers.
“Financially, it was probably the worst mistake of my life,” he said. “But if we can make a change, it was worth it.”
Sitting on a dais during a debate that included all five 12th District candidates, McKinney found himself amazed that he shared the stage and had the ear of the voters along with a sitting Congressman and a longtime state senator.
“The average person, we’re not supposed to be there,” he said. “But yet, we were.”
Forty-eight hours after the primary, McKinney was back at work, and not as a vice president for Continental Field Services, the energy services company he left on sabbatical for his campaign. Instead, he was putting together a nonpartisan group called energyroots.org.
Using his own knowledge of the energy field, McKinney and others will advance proposals and approaches to make the U.S. energy independent in the next 10 to 15 years.
“This was our wake-up call,” he said of the record prices for energy. “It’s something this country needs, especially from a national security standpoint.”
Even though he called the night of July 15 one of the worst of his life, McKinney said he enjoyed the plunge into politics.
“It was a blast,” he said.