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With FBI Investigating GOP Incumbent, Dem Jason Carter Surges in Georgia Gov Polls, Fundraising

For decades, the deep south has been hostile territory for Democrats. But a poll released last week by WSB-TV Atlanta shows Democrat Jason Carter in a statistical tie with incumbent Nathan Deal in the Georgia gubernatorial race. Too boot, the State Senator and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter raised $563,750 for his campaign funds, compared to competitor Governor Nathan Deal's $403,877 – a fundraising coup.

More from the Associated Press:

Democrat Jason Carter is expected to report having $1.6 million in cash for his gubernatorial campaign, raising about $416,000 in 11 days after the legislative session ended. Campaign spokesman Bryan Thomas said Sunday the number of Carter supporters has tripled and the average total per donor is about $100.

The numbers are even more impressive when you take into account Georgia laws which disallow members of the legislature from fundraising during legislative sessions. The sudden groundswell of Democratic support in Georgia seems to have been created naturally by a growing population and increased dissatisfaction with Republican leadership among the middle class.  

But the change is not wholly unprecedented. For many middle aged Georgia workers, allegiance to the Republican party is a newer phenomenon. The state leaned consistently Democrat until the Bush years. In fact, Democrats held the Governor’s mansion from 1871 to 2003.  

The 38-year-old Carter’s ability to re-energize the Democratic party in Georgia has made him an up-and-comer on the national scale. Last November, at a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said, “Jason Carter’s a star and we’re incredibly excited about his candidacy. If any Democrat can win in Georgia, and we think we can, it’s Jason Carter.”

No matter the result of the election, Carter’s campaign will be a breath of fresh air for southern Democrats looking to build some type of momentum after years of losses. In Carter they have found a former Peace Corps volunteer, Duke educated attorney, and former NFLPA lawyer with connections that run through the highest levels of government. At worst, Carter can act as a leader among southern Democrats and gain experience from the 2014 race.  

As the demographics of Georgia and the South change Democrats will have a chance to regain the political clout they once enjoyed. A deeper look into the changing demographics comes from the Center for American Progress:

In the last decade, Georgia had a rapid rate of increase in its minority population, going from 37 to 44 percent minority over the time period. The increase in the minority population accounted for 81 percent of Georgia’s growth over the decade. Unusually, the biggest contributor to minority growth came from blacks, who alone accounted for 39 percent of Georgia’s growth. The next largest contributor was Hispanics, whose numbers increased at a scorching 96 percent pace and accounted for 26 percent of the state’s growth.

By 2020, along with Nevada and Maryland, Georgia is almost certain to join the ranks of majority-minority states. These ongoing shifts should continue to move Georgia in a more competitive direction.

The time for Carter to strike could not be better. Governor Deal’s image is being tarnished by FBI ethics investigations into his administration and his polarizing “birther” views regarding President Obama. On Friday, a judge awarded Georgia’s former ethics commission director $700,000 for being forced out of office following an investigation into Deal’s 2010 campaign.

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