The Importance and Lessons of the primary in Georgia’s Sixth CD
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
As was expected, the vote yesterday in the non-partisan special election primary was very intense with no candidate receiving 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off. It appears that despite the fact that the only Democrat in the field, Jon Ossoff, received 48.1% of the vote, he will face a formidable challenge in Karen Handel—one of the seventeen Republican candidates–who received only 19.8% of the vote in the special election. The run-off will be held on June 20.
Ossoff’s success came despite the fact that Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of HHS, won the seat last November by 23% of the vote. It occurred although Mitt Romney had carried this historic Republican north Atlanta suburb by 23% in 2012 and Trump only won the seat by 1%. The run-off now presents a very significant challenge for both Ossoff as well as for Trump.
It is not a sure bet that Ossoff can solidify his support to bring his total over the top or will all the Republican voters plus a big push by the President enable the GOP to hold the seat. This primary already drew a level of unprecedented financial support with Ossoff himself receiving over $8.3 million by the end of March; 95% of which came from outside the 6th CD. Beyond the obvious discussion of how this election has, can, will affect Trump, it points to the obscenely expensive demands of campaigning. It also suggests a few important strategies which could swing the run-off to Ossoff but which will definitely influence whether the Democrats can follow a strategy to win back the Senate and perhaps the House in 2018.
First, not only is it critical that Democrats avoid the mistakes that Hillary made in her campaign and address the White working-class voters, but there are still suburban, non-extreme, educated Republicans who can be moved. They truly have been shocked by Trump’s behavior and they are one of the major demographic elements in Georgia’s 6th District.
Second, Democrats must campaign to bring out minority voters even when the candidate is not from a minority. This district like every single election district needs to be examined and every possible minority voter must be addressed. The margins between winning and losing in some districts are actually razor thin. In fact in local and state legislative district contests—many of which will occur this year throughout the country—these voters can actually be decisive.
Ultimately the Democrats will only counter the Trump revolution by addressing the concerns and the fears of the working class and by inculcating in the Black and Latino voters a realization that voting counts in every election. For both Latino and Black candidates, voting must be as important as running for and holding office. The payoff is equally great.
It appears that with approximately 4000 more votes in the district Ossoff could have avoided a run-off. For Ossoff to win in June it could be just so close and the opposition will be intense.