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Jones on Georgia

ATLANTA --- It's obvious to the most casual observer of politics that voters are in a bad mood, and anyone who can be blamed should feel worried.

The question is how this anger will affect the many open seats for statewide races.

Pollster Matt Towery of InsiderAdvantage sees the signs of a heavy turnout among Republicans and independents because of that simmering frustration, signaling a wave that could sweep away many veterans.

Last week's primaries showed it wasn't limited to one party, not even the tea party. All along, tea party participants have acknowledged that they were not trying to organize a new party that would field candidates. Instead, they just wanted to vent their feelings.

This year's election will give them the chance.

With every post open, except U.S. senator and lieutenant governor, the anti-incumbent anger will be aimed at someone other than incumbents. It could fall on the many legislators who are trying to move to higher office. First-time candidates will surely try to position themselves as someone bringing fresh ideas while the "career politicians" represent the continuation of the problem.

Gerry Purcell, a rookie candidate in the GOP primary for insurance commissioner, tells audiences, "Those who led us into this mess are not the ones to lead us out of it."

State government has spurred fury, too. From budget cuts on one hand to tax increases, fee increases and tuition escalation on the other, there's been something for everyone to dislike.

Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who has never been much of a Republican insider, might have better luck on that score than former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is seen as Gov. Sonny Perdue's protege' even though she only spent a few months working in his office before quitting to run for Fulton County Commission chairwoman. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and ex-state Sen. Eric Johnson, although they built their careers opposing big government and taxes, might have a harder time dodging voter animosity if their opponents paint them as having squandered opportunities to fix things.

Democrats don't have an easy path either. Though they're not in control of state government, their party does control Washington.

Though the Democratic activists who'll determine the nominees favor federal health reform and the stimulus package, general-election voters feel the opposite.

Smart candidates at all levels are trying to tap into the widespread anger. They'll talk less about their own experience and more about their fresh ideas. They'll offer proposals for turning back the clock and for repeal of the most inflammatory government actions.

Web posted on Thursday, May 27, 2010

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