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1980 United States Senate election in Georgia

The 1980 United States Senate election in Georgia was held on November 4, 1980. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator and former Governor of Georgia Herman Talmadge ran for reelection to a fifth term, but lost narrowly to Mack Mattingly, Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. Mattingly became the first ever Republican popularly elected to the Senate in Georgia. This race was part of a landslide national election for Republicans that would come to be known as the Reagan Revolution.[1]

United States Senate election in Georgia, 1980

← 1974 November 4, 1980 1986 →
  MackMattingly.jpg HermanTalmadge.jpg
Nominee Mack Mattingly Herman Talmadge
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 803,686 776,143
Percentage 50.87% 49.13%

County Results

U.S. Senator before election

Herman Talmadge

Elected U.S. Senator

Mack Mattingly

Democratic primaryEdit




Talmadge's ethical issues made him uniquely vulnerable. Because Georgia was seen as a strongly Democratic state, five primary opponents declared their candidacies for the Democratic nomination. Strongest among these candidates was Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller. Miller launched his campaign with support from black voters, organized labor, and the liberal wing of the Georgia Democratic Party. He campaign against Talmadge on the argument that Talmadge had "disgraced" Georgia. Miller also attacked Talmadge's history as a segregationist and boasted of support from black leaders including Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson and State Senator Julian Bond.[2]

In the six-man primary held August 5, Miller and Talmadge advanced to a run-off election. Talmadge won the run-off election with 58.6% of the vote.


Democratic primary results[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Herman Talmadge (incumbent) 432,215 41.99%
Democratic Zell Miller 247,766 24.07%
Democratic Norman Underwood 183,683 17.85%
Democratic Dawson Mathis 133,729 12.99%
Democratic J.B. Stoner 19,664 1.91%
Democratic John F. Collins 12,243 1.19%
Democratic primary runoff results[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Herman Talmadge (incumbent) 559,615 58.58%
Democratic Zell Miller 395,773 41.43%

Republican primaryEdit


Mattingly was unopposed for the Republican nomination.

General electionEdit


1980 United States Senate election, Georgia[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Mack Mattingly 803,686 50.87% +22.63%
Democratic Herman Talmadge (incumbent) 776,143 49.13% -22.63%
Majority 27,543 1.74% -41.78%
Turnout 1,579,829
Republican gain from Democratic Swing 22.63%

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ Harris, Art (23 Aug 1980). "Drawlin' and Brawlin'". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  3. ^ "GA US Senate – D Primary, 1980". OurCampaigns. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  4. ^ "GA US Senate – D Runoff, 1980". OurCampaigns. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  5. ^ "United States Senator". Our Campaigns. Retrieved January 1, 2009.