For The Record

Establishment Georgia GOP congressional candidates run the table in race to November

By: - June 22, 2022 12:29 am

Chris West. Via Facebook

COLUMBUS – In a stunning upset victory, attorney and Georgia Air National Guard officer Chris West defeated former Army Captain Jeremy Hunt in the GOP Congressional runoff for District 2, earning the right to face Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in November.

With all precincts accounted for Tuesday night, West had 51.3% of the vote to Hunt’s 48.7%. The difference between them was about 750 votes out of more than 28,000.

Jeremy Hunt hugs supporters on election night before the votes were counted. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Hunt — who outraised West, garnered big name endorsements including former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and earned 37% of the votes in the primary to West’s 30% — conceded defeat shortly after 10 p.m. on election night.

“The results did not come back as we wanted,” he told a crowd of supporters in a Columbus hotel. “We have a couple more votes coming in, but it is certainly not looking good for us, but I’ll tell you this: this movement is just beginning.”

Throughout the primary, Hunt faced accusations of parachuting into the district to run for Congress with the backing of party elites. He registered to vote in Muscogee County in 2022, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Hunt, who graduated from West Point and is taking online courses from Yale Law School, has stressed his family’s ties to south Georgia and his service at Fort Benning, a major economic driver and cultural presence in the region. That was good enough for voters like Elva Rodriguez, a civilian who works on the base and voted for Hunt at the North Highland Assembly of God Tuesday in Columbus.

“He served specifically at Benning, and I work for Fort Benning, so I want to make sure it doesn’t close down,” she said. “So somebody that perhaps supports that might make sure the jobs are kept here.”

But his lack of connection was too much for other voters like Linda Bowick of Columbus, who cast her ballot for West at Chattahoochee Valley Church.

“He moved into the district, and that sort of turned me off,” she said. “I figure he’s getting a lot of money, somebody’s behind him. He moved into the district to run. And Chris West didn’t. I mean, it’d be nice for him to be in Columbus, but even though he’s not, he was in the district, as far as I know. I just didn’t like the idea, I don’t like somebody moving in just to run in a certain district.”

West lives in Thomasville in the far southwest of the state.

Wayne Johnson, the third place finisher in the primary, is suing Hunt and Fox News. Johnson alleges the network regularly invited Hunt for interviews during his campaign, amounting to free publicity and an unfair advantage.

Defeating Bishop could be key for Republicans who are eager to regain control of the House next year, but taking him out is not likely to be easy. Bishop has represented the district since 1993. Still, West’s path to victory could be helped by last year’s redistricting process, which made the district slightly friendlier to the GOP. Voters in the newly drawn district gave President Joe Biden 55.2% of the vote in 2020, compared with 56.1% under the old boundaries.

Bishop congratulated West in a statement late Tuesday and said he looked forward to the race and putting his record up against his opponent’s.

“This position does not belong to me, it belongs to the people, and I trust their wisdom in deciding who can most effectively represent them in Congress,” he said in the statement.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.