In state politics, red and black are stronger than red and blue

Georgia could be the most politically divided state in the country, with less than 12,000 votes separating Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the last election and another bitter electoral battle guaranteed in November.

But UGA’s football championship race has put a temporary end to political bickering and bickering, giving politicians — even those who graduated from Georgia Tech — the rare chance to put aside their grievances and unite. around the Bulldogs.

Legend

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, watches Georgia’s championship game from an end zone suite at Lucas Oil Stadium that he purchased.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, watches Georgia's championship game from an end zone suite at Lucas Oil Stadium that he purchased.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

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State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, watches Georgia’s championship game from an end zone suite at Lucas Oil Stadium that he purchased.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

“It was, at least for a day, a reminder that we have a lot more in common than we admit,” said Republican state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, who spent $63,000 to rent a suite end zone at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for a front-row advantage.

“No one cared if you were red or blue – just that you screamed for red and black.”

To explorePart 2: National title will drive athletics revenue in Georgia

‘Squat Day’

In this political climate, who doesn’t want to wrap themselves in the banner of a beloved winner?

Gov. Brian Kemp, facing one of the toughest re-election battles in the nation, is doing just that. The Athens native is such a Bulldog fan that Democrats needled him in 2018 by flying a banner above Sanford Stadium claiming he was secretly rooting for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Before the championship game, he declared a “Hunker Down Day” and later that week wore a UGA-themed tie during his annual super-serious state-of-the-state address. . When the team’s celebration parade peaked at Sanford Stadium, he was one of the first to celebrate.

To explorePart 3: Belief makes Georgia Bulldogs a threat to win it all again

He is far from alone in his band. Two days after Georgia’s victory, the state’s most powerful business and political leaders gathered at the Fox Theater. Every speech on tax policy and infrastructure was punctuated by the Georgian fight song. As the attendees walked out, Kelee Ringo’s game hunting interception played on the big screen.

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091121 Athens: Georgia US Senate candidate Herschel Walker gives five fans along the hurdles before being introduced as a member of Georgia’s 1980 national championship team during halftime ceremonies against the UAB during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 in Athens. “Curtis Compton / [email protected]

Credit: Curtis Compton / [email protected]

091121 Athens: Georgia US Senate candidate Herschel Walker gives five fans along the hurdles before being introduced as a member of Georgia's 1980 national championship team during halftime ceremonies against the UAB during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 in Athens.

Credit: Curtis Compton / [email protected]

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091121 Athens: Georgia US Senate candidate Herschel Walker gives five fans along the hurdles before being introduced as a member of Georgia’s 1980 national championship team during halftime ceremonies against the UAB during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 in Athens. “Curtis Compton / [email protected]

Credit: Curtis Compton / [email protected]

Credit: Curtis Compton / [email protected]

No Georgia politician is more closely tied to the team than Herschel Walker, the legendary running back who led the Bulldogs to the 1980 championship.

Now the Republican front-runner in the U.S. Senate, Walker’s aides stationed themselves at every game handing out stickers that read “Run, Herschel, Run.” After Georgia’s victory, his campaign donated a “special Donald Trump football edition” signed by the former president.

“Two-Party Love”

Maybe politicians should get used to being at the intersection of sports and politics in Georgia.

When Major League Baseball canceled the All-Star Game at Truist Park to protest Georgia’s new election law, Republicans lambasted the league. But all seemed forgotten a few months later as the Braves raced to a World Series win.

To explorePart 4: Stronger National Champion Bulldogs on the Recruiting Track

Even Trump, who had called for a boycott of baseball, put aside his grievances to chop the “wonderful” Braves to a World Series win. Days later, Atlanta’s mayoral election was eclipsed by the team’s decisive win.

If the World Series title was the first of the double, Georgia’s elusive championship hit some politicians harder.

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State Rep. Stacey Evans and her daughter celebrate Georgia’s championship win in Indianapolis.

Credit: Twitter

State Rep. Stacey Evans and her daughter celebrate Georgia's championship win in Indianapolis.

Credit: Twitter

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State Rep. Stacey Evans and her daughter celebrate Georgia’s championship win in Indianapolis.

Credit: Twitter

Credit: Twitter

Stacey Evans, a Democratic lawmaker, built her political career around her education at UGA. It was there that she met her husband, obtained her law degree and became involved in politics. She was in the stands in Indianapolis with her daughter Ashley to watch the team win its first title in 41 years.

“I hugged so many Republicans in the game and in the days that followed,” she said. “Seeing all the bipartisan love for the Dawgs makes me wish for more things we can rally around. I pledge to seek.

But what about non-Georgian fans? How, say, do Georgia Tech graduates who have risen to the heights of state politics deal with the runaway success of their rivals?

To explorePart 5: Georgia likely to see ‘Flutie Effect’ post-championship

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, who played baseball for Tech, let go of his animosity for Georgia and cheered the Dawgs on to the Orange Bowl and the championship game. And former US senator David Perdue spoke in an interview about his once-secret fandom and his connection to the Georgia coach.

“Kirby Smart calls me his biggest closet Dawg fan, but I’m not so closeted anymore,” said Perdue, who is now challenging Kemp in the Republican primary. “I love what he’s done for our program and I love what he’s done for our state.”

Then there’s Atlanta’s new mayor, Andre Dickens, who used the end of a speech in the Georgia House to celebrate both the Dawgs and his tech roots.

“I’m a hell of an engineer at Georgia Tech, so I’m going to make sure we keep pushing things forward in Atlanta,” Dickens said with a laugh. “See, I saved this for last – just in case I got kicked out.”

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs & Issues” Breakfast at the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta, Georgia on January 12, 2022. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at breakfast

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs & Issues” Breakfast at the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta, Georgia on January 12, 2022. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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