Like last week, today we have a Special election in the United States. In the election last week, Kansas’ 4th District elected Republican Ron Estes to replace CIA chief Mike Pompeo who took the position with the new Administration. The result was a 20% swing towards the Democrats in the race. Still, the swing was not enough and Estes won by 7% points.
And here we go again, this time, we are looking at Georgia’s 6th District. Here, Tom Price left the seat to become the Secretary of Human Health and Services in the Cabinet. In this race however, we have slightly different rules. In Georgia, they hold what is referred to as a “Jungle Primary.” Officially known as a Nonpartisan blanket primary, this means that every candidate for office compete against each other in the Primary. If someone reaches over 50% in the primary, then they are elected. If no one gets 50%+1 of the vote, then the top two vote earners will then face off in a runoff at a later date. In this race, we have one Democrat, Jon Ossoff, running against eleven Republicans. The District itself is in the northern, wealthy suburbs of Atlanta and has had a conservative bent to them, with conservatives winning handily in the district for quite some time. However, Mr. Trump only won the district in 2016 by a single percentage point, this means that the Democrats smell blood in the water. If turnout can be such as Ossoff gets over 50%, the diluted Republican field will not be able to counter. If he fails to reach 50% today, then the GOP will coalesce around the Republican who survives and easily defeat the Democrat.
Currently, bets are on Karen Handel for the Republicans. A Former Secretary of State for Georgia, she has tried to win in statewide elections for Senate and Governor, and is now looking at the seat for the party. She currently leads the Republicans with 18% of the vote in latest polls.
The race has been Nationalized, which means that outside groups from both the GOP and the Democrats have poured money into the race. As a consequence, the voters of the 6th District have seen a lot of ads about Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi (who is the Democrat’s leader in the House) and things happening in Washington. The Left grassroots groups of Indivisible and Daily Kos have poured tons of money and volunteer time into the district. Meanwhile the Republicans have RNC members on the ground helping with the campaign, as well as spending quite a bit of money of ads against Ossoff.
The GOP is worried, even going as far as the party trying to cut off infighting within the party, with State Senator Fran Millar saying:
“I’ll be very blunt: These lines [District 6] were not drawn to get Hank Johnson’s protégé [Democrat Jon Ossoff] to be my representative. And you didn’t hear that,” said Millar. “They were not drawn for that purpose, OK? They were not drawn for that purpose.”
– St. Sen Fran Millar (R-GA)
If there wasn’t a better quote against Gerrymandering…
So the immediate reaction I have here is to look at the history of the district. It has been consistently red for many years. Both in Presidential races as well as local races, the area is affluent and it is well within the safety of Red Districts in the state. My gut tells me that Jon Ossoff will almost get to 50% but not quite, forcing a runoff. Five Thirty Eight did a good article on what to expect from the election, and its conclusion is also mine; the race will not end tonight, and depending on what happens nationally, will determine who will win this race in June.
Now, of course, that is not the end of the story. The Democrats will use this as an indictment of Mr. Trump. By looking at the 20 point swing in Ruby Red Kansas, and the unexpected strength here in Georgia, the Democrats will take this as a sign that their resistance is working, and that people are turning off to the GOP. The GOP will try and spin this as business as usual, and they will attempt to minimise Trump’s impact, but also breathe a sigh of relief that they dodged a bullet.
The media will make this a horse race, so I suspect a lot of bated breath from the networks tonight with a lot of pundits telling us their feelings which will fall into one of the two camps above. The Media really want this to be a story, with the district being so narrow in the last election, and the hope of more discord to push the GOP on, it fits well into the narrative we have been seeing. However, I do think it is a bit big to manage. With this election, and the other Special Election in Montana coming next month, the Democrats desperately want to have that narrative going into the the Gubernational elections of Virginia and New Jersey, which have traditionally set the stage for midterm national elections for a long time.
Now, if Ossoff does win outright tonight, then get ready for some blowback from the President, and boy, aren’t we looking forward to that… /s