The open Georgia Governor’s race has important 2021 redistricting ramifications, particularly since the state appears on the cusp of adding a new seat to its delegation. Therefore, Landmark/Rosetta Stone (10/16-17; 800 GA Republican voters) conducted a survey released to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and found Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle holding a substantial advantage against his GOP nomination campaign opponents. According to the Landmark results, Mr. Cagle scores a support factor of 35%, well ahead of second place finisher Hunter Hill (9%), an ex-Georgia state Senator, Secretary of State Brian Kemp (7%), and state Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming @ 4%). Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.
The GA-6 special election held back in June set a record for congressional campaign spending, breaking the $40 million barrier for the first time in political history. The winner, Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) can expect a fight in defending her seat next year. It is presumed that special election Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff will run again, but he will now have company in the Democratic primary. Yesterday, local Atlanta CBS television daytime anchorman Bobby Kaple announced that he will enter the contest for the right to challenge Rep. Handel. With less money and hype surrounding this race, the new Congresswoman will be favored to win again, but strong competition for the seat will again exist.
Democratic former House member John Barrow (D-Savannah) served five terms in Congress before his defeat at the hands of current Rep. Rick Allen (R-Augusta) in 2014. While it was believed that he would return to elective politics, up until this weekend he had not. Now, the former Representative is making a political comeback. Mr. Barrow just announced that he will enter Georgia’s open Secretary of State race next year.
State Rep. Stacey Abrams continues to show momentum for her Democratic gubernatorial campaign. When she announced, the state legislator resigned as her party’s Minority Leader in order to better concentrate on her statewide campaign. Now, she is taking her commitment a step further. Over the weekend, Ms. Abrams made public her intent to resign from the state House altogether. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. State Rep. Stacey Evans opposes Ms. Abrams in the Democratic primary. Republicans feature Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp among their four announced contenders.
Lost in the hoopla and hype surrounding the 6th District special election is a rather eye-opening statistic. Rodney Stooksbury was the 2016 Democratic nominee challenging Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell). Mr. Stooksbury’s campaign consisted of him putting his name on the ballot. He raised $0. His vote total was 124,917, good for 38% against the veteran incumbent. On Tuesday, Jon Ossoff spent somewhere between $33 and 35 million on his special election campaign. His vote total: 124,893, or 24 ballots less than Stooksbury’s previous mark. This tells us that Ossoff only equaled the Democratic base vote in the 6th District and he failed to expand the party turnout universe. While participation was extremely high for a special election: 259,622 voters, it was far short of the presidential year turnout of 326,005. It is now obvious that for Ossoff to win, he needed to boost turnout even higher and be more effective in attracting Independents and soft Republicans.
Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel defied most polling and the political prognosticators last night in the northern Atlanta suburbs, defeating Democratic filmmaker and former congressional aide Jon Ossoff, 52-48%, in a race that saw almost 260,000 people cast their ballots. The total turnout exceeded the last regular mid-term participation rate here by a whopping 24%. The big story was of course the Ossoff campaign’s spending, which will likely total in the neighborhood of $33 million when the final accounting is published, an all-time record for a congressional campaign. The aggregate spending for all committees participating in this contest will likely exceed $50 million. In the end, voters in a Republican district selected the Republican candidate, and sent the Democrats to a crushing defeat in a race where they raised expectations to an unrealistic level. Money poured in from across the country, but particularly from the Democratic donor base in New York, California, and Massachusetts.
Having so much money may have ironically done Ossoff some damage. It allowed Handel and the Republican apparatus to link the 30-year old first-time candidate to the national political left, referencing all the money coming in from liberal locales especially when relatively little came from Georgia, and sending his campaign into an “overkill” mode. Spending so much on so few – his spending was at least ten times the level normally seen for a race of this type – can have the effect of driving some swing voters away, and that may well have happened here. But, with money coming into the Ossoff campaign like it was shot from a fire hose, the Democrat’s managers would have a difficult time explaining to donors why they didn’t use all of their resources if they chose to bank some of the money or sending some to other candidates or entities, such as Archie Parnell who was simultaneously running in a special election in neighboring South Carolina.
Much will be written about this race, but the end result could not have turned out worse for national Democrats. Going “all-in” on this particular special election, the Democratic national leadership now sustains a major black eye and will be subject to great internal criticism for their targeting decisions, especially when Mr. Parnell, in a race the party brain trust conceded from the onset, actually performed better than the anointed Ossoff.
Voters in north Georgia and central South Carolina vote today to fill two more vacant US House seats. In Georgia, the most expensive congressional campaign in history will be decided after a long special election cycle. Vying to replace former Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell), now US Health & Human Services Secretary, are Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel. The two remain in a nip and tuck battle. The latest polls all find the race as a virtual dead heat. Turnout is expected to be very high, with already more than 140,000 votes cast through the early voting process.
In South Carolina, voters are deciding between former state Rep. Ralph Norman (R) and ex-Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) in a race to replace Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill), who left the House to become Director of the Office of Management & Budget. Since SC-5 is a reliable Republican seat, Mr. Norman is expected to score a mid-50s victory.
Voters in north Georgia and central South Carolina will choose new Representatives tomorrow, as the long-involved special election season draws to a close. In Georgia, where the special election has set an all-time spending record for a congressional campaign – the participants and outside group expenditures will top $40 million – Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel remain in a nip and tuck battle to the end. The latest poll, from Opinion Savvy (6/16; 537 GA-6 likely voters, or those voting early) finds Ossoff and Handel virtually tied at 49+% apiece. Only two more polling respondents chose Ossoff over Handel. Early voting has already recorded well over 100,000 ballots, meaning there is a good chance total turnout exceeds the 194,000 people who participated in the jungle primary election.
In South Carolina, former state Rep. Ralph Norman (R) and ex-Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) do battle for what is an open GOP congressional district. Mr. Norman is a heavy favorite to replace former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill), who left the House to become Director of the Office of Management & Budget.
Karen Handel with a week left in the campaign for the Georgia 6th hits her opponent Jon Ossoff with a couple of big hits in one of her closing ads. In the ad linked here and below. Reminding voters that Ossoff lives outside the Georgia 6th and that his campaign funds come from largely outside of the state of Georgia. Overall its an ad driven at showing Handel as more connected to the 6th than Ossoff. With polls showing the race as close as it is both campaigns are using every tool they have to get the win on June 20th.
Handel Television Ad for June 13th
Two more surveys were just released; both showing Democrat Jon Ossoff to be leading the race, but one poll has a potentially serious flaw. Landmark Communications, an Atlanta-based company, has been the most consistent pollster in this campaign, all for WSB-TV. Their latest data, released Thursday, finds the upstart Democrat leading former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), 50-47%. Abt Associates, polling for the Atlanta Constitutional Journal (6/9; 745 GA-6 likely voters) finds Ossoff leading 51-44%. But, the sample may not accurately reflect the district’s true voting complexion. The respondent universe breaks 46:44% Republican to Democrat, which matches the 2016 presidential result, but all other contests have been solidly Republican. Therefore, projecting a Democratic skew within this data is reasonable.
Financial figures for the contest are being released, and Mr. Ossoff has added an incredible $15 million more to his campaign treasury during the last fundraising period, bringing his total financial receipts to over $23 million. This dwarfs Republican Handel’s campaign, but adding outside support for her closes the gap. This special election campaign, where aggregate spending will easily exceed $40 million, is going to set a record for any US House contest.
Early voting numbers are being tabulated. Already more than 63,000 people have voted for the June 20th run-off. In the jungle primary, which produced just under 194,000 voters, 55,000 individuals cast their ballots before Election Day.
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