Once described as a bellwether test of the Trump administration’s policies, the special election scheduled for June 20 to replace former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), now the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District has turned into a record-setting budget buster whose outcome may tell us more about each party’s ability to mobilize its base nationally than actual voter sentiment about the president.
The race remains a toss-up, though current polls show that Jon Ossoff, a 30-year old Democrat who resides outside the district, has a slight lead over Republican Karen Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State. The two qualified for the June 20 runoff election when Ossoff barely missed the 50 percent mark he needed to beat to win the seat outright in an April “jungle primary.” Handel finished a distant second, but it was enough, according to Georgia election law, to qualify her as Ossoff’s sole opponent for the runoff scheduled eleven days from now.
Recent polls give Ossoff a slight edge in the race. The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Ossoff a 2.4 percent lead.
The most recent poll included in that average, conducted by WSB-TV/Landmark between June 6 and June 7, gives Ossoff a 3 percent lead, which is within the poll’s 4.8 percent margin of error.
A poll released by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday which is not included in the Real Clear Politics average “shows Democrat Jon Ossoff has a 7-point edge over Republican Karen Handel in the nationally watched race to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District,” the historically liberal mainstream media publication reported:
The poll of likely voters has Ossoff leading Handel by 51 percent to 44 percent ahead of the June 20 runoff. About 5 percent of voters are undecided. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Both national parties have poured astonishing resources into the race, which some see as a bellwether for next year’s midterm elections. The race is by far the most expensive contest of its kind, and Ossoff has shattered fundraising records by raising more than $23 million.
The poll, conducted by Abt Associates, is one of several recent surveys that show Ossoff with an advantage — although most show a tighter margin. They suggest that Ossoff is in a commanding position in the race’s final days — but that Handel is just within striking distance.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution poll “was conducted June 5-8 by Abt Associates and involved 1,000 registered voters. Of those polled, 46 percent identified themselves as Republican or Republican-leaning and 44 percent identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning.”
The scale of money raised for this single Congressional campaign is mind boggling, though perhaps an indication of the extreme polarization in the country today.
“The campaign is set to attract as much as $50 million in total spending, a record for a House race. The upscale Atlanta seat has been in GOP hands for nearly 40 years, but chose Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November by only 1.5 percentage points,” the Washington Examiner reported on Thursday.
Almost all of Ossoff’s record-setting haul of $23 million and growing has come from outside the district.
“His campaign said 95 percent of the donors came from outside of Georgia, which means only a sliver of his contributors live in the district,” the Constitution Journal reported in April, and the out-of-state spigot from California, New York, and Massachusetts has continued to flow into the coffers of the Ossoff campaign in the subsequent two months.
In a debate earlier this week, Handel criticized Ossoff for his reliance on out-of-state money,
“My opponent, is misleading the people of this district. There are Super PACs that are funding you, running television ads that are misleading on my record,” she said:
You don’t know who are funding them, and furthermore your campaign is being propelled by the most liberal of elements – from Nancy Pelosi, to Jane Fonda, to Hank Johnson, to donors, a majority of your donors, from California, Massachusetts, New York – they are not from this district and they certainly don’t represent the values of this district. In fact, your values are some 3,000 miles away in San Francisco.
And, as The Hill noted, “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending an additional $2 million to back Jon Ossoff in the Georgia House special election.”
Handel’s campaign has raised significant funds as well, but she got a later start than Ossoff, due to the number of Republicans competing in the “jungle primary.” She “has raised much less [than Ossoff] but is receiving millions in support from conservative outside groups. Handel has not yet revealed her latest fundraising figures,” the Washington Examiner reported.
In addition, the national liberal fundraising apparatus among the coastal elites is focused like a laser beam on helping Ossoff win, a level of intensity that may not quite be matched on the Republican side.
While political observers are unlikely to predict who will win this hard fought toss-up election with eleven days to go until the June 2o runoff election, there is one prediction no one will hesitate to make: This will be the most expensive Congressional race in American political history.