Georgia voters will decide on Tuesday who should lead the state’s No. 1 industry, agriculture.
Three candidates are running for the open seat for Agriculture Commissioner, including Republican Tyler Harper, Democrat Nakita Hemingway and Libertarian David Raudabaugh.
Whoever is elected will control policy on everything ranging from farming and food safety to animal shelters and food pumps.
Southeast Politics spoke with Harper about his race so far and his expectations in the final days of the 2022 Midterm campaign.
Harper, a current state Senator, said his campaign has been traveling the state for more than a year in his bid for Agriculture Commissioner.
“I think we feel good about where we are because of how we’ve put the campaign together and worked to get our message out across the state, and the passion I have for agriculture,” Harper said.
Harper knows the industry. He’s a timber, cotton and peanut farmer from Georgia’s Irwin County northeast of Tifton.
He’s been running under the slogan, “sometimes it takes a farmer,” a nod to his experience in the industry.
His most competitive opponent, Hemingway, has been hitting Harper over a Georgia law he shepherded known as the “Freedom to Farm” law, noting that its provision, which make it harder for neighbors to file nuisance claims against nearby agricultural producers, can lead to spreading industrial waste.
The bill became law just two months before a June spill caused a fish die-off in East Georgia, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.
But Harper believes the law is important for the state’s top industry, including to support family farms. He believes his pro-farming message is resonating with voters.
He has some major advantages in the race. While Georgia has trended purple since the state went for now-President Joe Biden in 2022 and saw the election of two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, races that split the chamber between both parties and gave Democrats an advantage with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, the Midterm cycle is favoring Republicans.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who is enjoying a robust polling lead over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, has been touring the state with Harper and other Republican candidates.
But for Harper, one of the top highlights from his campaign is the bipartisan support shown by his endorsement from former Gov. Roy Barnes, the most recent Democrat to hold the state’s highest elected office.
“I think that goes to show the bipartisan nature of the Office of Agriculture from the standpoint that it’s about making sure the leader understands the industry and has the background to be successful,” Harper said.
While he’s confident about Tuesday’s election outcome and looks forward to “going to work and getting things ready to step into office,” Harper knows the race isn’t over.
As early voting ends Friday and candidates set their sites to Election Day, Harper and his team are laser focused on getting out the vote. He’s continuing to travel the state and utilizing social media to ensure people know when and where to vote.
“If our folks show up, we’ll be successful Tuesday evening,” Harper said.
Early voting turnout has already been robust. As of Thursday, more than 2 million Georgia voters had already cast a ballot, a turnout of nearly 29% with a full day of early voting and Election Day remaining, according to the most recent L2 voter data. While more Democrats had voted as of Thursday, 959,645 to 924,164 GOP votes, Election Day turnout is expected to favor Republicans.
And while there hasn’t been polling to gauge the Agriculture Commissioner race, statewide polls show Republicans, in some cases, dominating. FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate of polls put Kemp 7.5 percentage points ahead of Abrams. Not a single poll in their calculous has put Abrams closer than 5 points from her Republican opponent.
Even in Georgia’s battleground Senate race, which features incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock against Republican challenger Herschel Walker, who has been plagued in recent weeks by alleged scandal, the race is deadlocked, with Walker surging — in mid-October, Walker was about 4 points behind Warnock and hadn’t been tied or leading since late June.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8 statewide. Early voting ends Friday.