Dick Yarbrough: Long shot candidate trying to hack through political jungle

Dick Yarbrough

It’s a jungle out there and Kandiss Taylor is trying to hack her way through it. We are talking about Georgia’s “jungle primary,” a euphemism for a special election on Nov. 3 to fill the remaining two years of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Isakson, a great American of the first rank, chose to retire before his term ended due to declining health.

This election is not to be confused with a regularly scheduled U.S. Senate election to be held the same day between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and his main challenger, Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The jungle primary, or more officially a “nonpartisan blanket primary,” is an election without a primary as opposed to the other Senate race where in June, Perdue ran without opposition in the Republican primary and Ossoff defeated six competitors in the Democratic primary.

In this one, Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians, independents and assorted others are running against each other. To win a jungle primary, a candidate must secure the majority, not a plurality, of votes. With so many candidates — 21 to be precise — a runoff is likely between the two top candidates next January. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Among the 21 aspirants are zillionaire Kelly Loeffler, the Republican who was appointed to Isakson’s seat by Gov. Brian Kemp in January; Republican Congressman Doug Collins, who thought he should have been; the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and a Democrat; Matt Lieberman, a Democratic businessman and son of former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman; and Democrat Ed Tarver, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Most political observers seem to think it will be a two-way race between Loeffler and Collins or one of the above against Warnock, Lieberman or possibly Tarver.

Kandiss Taylor does not agree. A student services coordinator for the Appling County Board of Education and a former third-grade teacher, she says she is in the race to win. I believe her.

I had written about her quixotic effort (my term, not hers) last March to replace Sen. Isakson. I decided to check in with her to see how her campaign is progressing. It is the underdog in me.

Taylor told me she is as determined as ever and that in the past four months, she has visited 75% of Georgia’s 159 counties and put 25,000 miles on her car doing so.

School is now back in session in South Georgia's Appling County so her efforts are confined to social media and phone calls in the evenings and visits to campaign rallies on the weekends. Ironically, she says she has yet to see Kelly Loeffler any place she has been, although she has crossed paths with Doug Collins on several occasions.

My sanguine opinion is that Kandiss Taylor’s chances of winning a seat to represent Georgia in the United States Senate are — to be kind — very slim. In politics, as in a lot of other endeavors, money talks.

At this point the educator says she has raised “a little less than $100,000,” which pales in comparison to Loeffler’s stated intention to spend $20 million of her own money in the campaign. That, by the way, is a couple of million more than the fund balance of the Appling County Board of Education’s current budget.

But political reality aside, there is a part of me that roots for somebody who takes on the establishment and believes that politics should not be the personal playground of fat cats and special interest groups. She says, “I think our Founding Fathers wanted us governed by common people, not career politicians,” and adds, “If you’ve never lived on a budget or cleaned a toilet, you don’t represent me or most of Georgia.”

Taylor is finding out the hard way that outsiders are not welcomed in the game of politics. “I have experienced what my papa called ‘black balling’ by a couple of GOP party leaders not allowing me to speak or attend a meeting,” Taylor says. “It is quite unfortunate we cannot be one party and unified like the Democrats. They outwork us and defend their party to a fault.”

Undaunted, Kandiss Taylor carries on full of confidence in herself and in her ability to win over voters tired of politics-as-usual. Whether she succeeds or not, it warms this old jaundiced heart to see ordinary citizens try to conquer the dark and sinister jungle we call politics.

Maybe she will inspire others to make the effort. I hope so.

Dick Yarbrough is a longtime Georgia resident and former public relations executive. Reach him at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.

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