Atlanta, GA—April 18, 2017//By: Jeffrey Albertson
The confirmation of Former Georgia Representative Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services created an unusually important vacancy in Georgia’s 6th District. For Republicans, the vacancy should be expected to continue as shoe-in victory, especially considering the district has been reliably conservative since at least 1979. Prior to that, it had been dominated by Democrats since before the Civil War. As a point of reference, Republican Party stalwarts such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, current Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, and now Secretary Tom Price have kept this district locked as safely Republican. For Georgia Democrats, however, the 6th district race offers their first chance among a series of special elections to avenge their party’s defeat in the general election.
Democrats are hoping to ride a yet to crest wave of nation-wide anti-Trump outrage stemming from the administration’s missteps from Inauguration Day which encompasses the twice-blocked “Immigration ban”, withdrawal of Trump/Ryan-care bill from the House floor last month following massive opposition from House Democrats and the Freedom Causus, continued delay of release of the President’s tax returns, and historically low-approval ratings. As a result, the special elections in Republican strongholds have become the loci of national attention, both of importance to the Anti-Trump movement and Party Loyalists.
Last week, a special election in the 4th District of Kansas between Republican State Treasurer Ron Estes and Democratic Civil Rights Attorney and Army Veteran Jim Thompson was the first since the Trump inauguration. Although Estes will fill the seat vacated by now Central Intelligence Director Mike Pompeo, the path to victory was not easy for the reliably Republican district. According to the Kansas City Star, “Many GOP operatives have blamed the surprisingly competitive race on Estes’ campaign which saw the Republican treasure avoid some candidate forums and shoot an ad where he stood in a swamp and asked voters to help him drain it in a nod to one of Trump’s campaign slogans.” According to the same source, Kansas Democrats have “used the image of Estes standing in the swamp and superimposed Gov. Brownback’s head on an alligator swimming alongside” Estes’ narrow victory by 8,195 votes is nonetheless the result of a last minute scramble of robocalls by the President and Vice President, a stump speech by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and compensation for live-turnout calls to likely Republican voters from a superPAC related to House Speaker Paul Ryan after initial polling data indicated that Estes had only a single digit lead.
Of consequence will be another series of special elections in California, Alabama, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and as aforementioned, Georgia. While little hope was given to the Kansas race, the special election in Georgia’s 6th district is considered to be the best chance for Democrats to deliver a defeat to the Trump Administration, certainly in the light of leading Democrat Jon Ossoff’s raking in of $8.3 million in campaign contributions. Georgia Republicans have criticized that haul as mostly being raised from donors outside the state. However, estimates from the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggest that Ossoff has raised about $415,000 from local donors, which is not that far from the total amounts raised by leading Republican candidates Karen Handel and Judson Hill. Ossoff’s closest Republican competitor, Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel has sharply criticized his use of Hollywood Celebrities Alyssa Milano and Christopher Gorham to turn-out Democratic voters. In an email sent to drum up supporters, Handel stated:
“Jon Ossoff is riding a huge wave of support from the liberal media and celebrities in Hollywood. In fact, just this morning we learned that Hollywood celebrity Alyssa Milano is working to elect Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked candidate right here in Georgia. That’s right – Hollywood is all-in on electing Ossoff…The Democrats have the liberal media and Hollywood celebrities to sing their praises. But we have something better: YOU. It’s critical that we come together now to support Republicans committed to fighting against the Democrats’ liberal vision for America.”
While Ossoff has the monetary lead, to seize upon the opportunity Democrats must fight their addiction to consultant-driven paid ads that seek to persuade swing voters and instead invest significant resources in getting core Democratic supporters to the polls. A significant portion—perhaps the majority—of Ossoff’s spending has been spent on media buys and online ads. The question presented by Steve Phillips writing in the New York Times asks:
“Who is the intended target of these ads? Are those expenditures targeting the 125,000 Democrats to inspire them to turnout again, or are they designed to convince Republican frequent voters that Mr. Ossoff isn’t such a bad guy?”
Regardless of punditry and election-prognostication, the outcome of Georgia’s special election and the nation-wide implications will only be known after the close of polls at 7:00 pm EST on Tuesday. In a crowded field of eleven Republicans, five Democrats, and two Independents, the race is a bona-fide toss up. Should any candidate fail to reach 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will complete in a run off election scheduled for June 20th. By then, the 6th district race will surely then be under intense national attention.