After twelve years of mediocre representation by Congressman Tom Price, the voters in Georgia’s District 6 are turning the special election to replace him into a real horse race. The GOP in Georgia appeared to be complacent, at first, about replacing Price in what had been a solidly red district since the days of Jimmy Carter.
Price won easily re-election easily last year. The Democrats hadn’t fielded a strong candidate against him in years. Price was a well-known entity to the voters who felt comfortable in returning him to Washington. He had never done anything spectacularly good, but on the other hand, he hadn’t done anything spectacularly bad either.
It now appears that the local and state GOP in Georgia had grown over-confident. They failed to take seriously the voting from November 8th. The 6th District encompasses much of Cobb County, where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by one percent of the vote. It also includes much of the affluent, northern suburbs of Atlanta and Fulton County. Clinton won Fulton County by a sizeable margin over Trump. While the Fulton County numbers were not a surprise, the Cobb County ones should have been a wake-up call to Georgia Republicans.
White, middle-class, educated men and women have formed the backbone for the Republican Party in Georgia for decades. Even before the GOP turned the 6th District red, the previous Democrats who held the seat were also conservative, solid, and middle class. There was only one thing that would make the people voting here turn from a conservative GOP candidate to a liberal Democrat. And that factor was Donald Trump.
They were not voting FOR Hillary Clinton. They were voting AGAINST Donald Trump.
And since the election, where Trump did carry the state of Georgia, the antipathy of the anti-Trump voters has only intensified. After Trump nominated Tom Price to the his Secretary of Health and Human Services (thank you Jesus) a special election was called to fill the Congressional seat he vacated. This field now consists of five Democrats, eleven Republicans, and a couple of Independents thrown in for good measure. If no candidate wins 50% or more of the vote, a subsequent run-off will be held between the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation.
The GOP got caught with their pants down when a young, liberal Democrat named Jon Ossoff suddenly started surging in the polls. He has raised over $3 million for his campaign in a district where Democrats rarely spent more than $10,000. He is currently polling in the 40% range, not enough yet to put him over the top, but definitely enough to ensure he would be in a run-off.
Republican strategists no doubt believe that in a run-off scenario, they could consolidate support behind one candidate that is now split between 16 candidates and easily defeat Ossoff. In normal times, they would probably be correct. But these are not normal times. Early voting began last week, and already the number of Democrats voting outweighs the Republicans.
Special elections are tricky as well. Just as voter turnout is generally lower during mid-term elections, it is even more difficult to get people to get out and vote in a special election. But this is where Ossoff holds the advantage. The anti-Trump people are MAD and MOTIVATED. Far more so than they were in November. This group includes Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. In a sense, they are very much like the old-time “yellow dog Democrats” who would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican.
April 18th is fast approaching. The voters in the 6th District know that this is their opportunity to send a message to Trump and his Republican enablers in Washington.
“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”