The special election we have all been waiting for, Jon Ossoff’s special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district is taking place today. Here is a guide with county benchmarks and data points to watch while the returns are reported.
This congressional district represents the high income northern Atlanta suburbs. It represents the northern portions of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb Counties. It is traditionally heavily Republican (George W. Bush won a similar iteration of this district with 70% in 2004) and even Romney won 60% in this district. In 2016 however, Trump won it 48%-47%. Demographic changes in this district are helping Democrats with a fast growing Latinx and AAPI population (the demographics are 13% African American, 10% AAPI, 12% Latinx and 61% White).
Trump however appointed the 6th district’s representative Rep. Price (R) to be his Secretary of Health, opening up the seat. Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff (D) gained national attention after Daily Kos started fundraising for him and raised him over $1 million (Ossoff has raised over $8 million total). The main Republican candidates are Bob Gray (a strong Trump supporter), Karen Handel (the former President of Susan G. Komen), Dan Moody (a former State Senator) and Judson Hill (a former State Senator).
Ossoff’s goal is to not gain a plurality of the votes but win 50% of the vote because winning less than 50% of the vote triggers a runoff on June 20th between the top two vote getters while winning 50% or more of the vote means Ossoff wins the seat outright. Most polls show Ossoff in the low to mid 40s but there is high enthusiasm for Ossoff which could underestimate his support in the polls. Whether that enthusiasm is enough to get Ossoff to 50% remains to be seen. If there is a runoff, most polls show a tight race with Ossoff generally leading Handel (the Republican most likely to be in the runoff if Ossoff does not win 50% today) by one to two points.
This article is an election night guide for the runoff tonight. It shows the county benchmarks for Ossoff (the minimum percentage he needs in each county to win the district), by combining results from the 2016 Presidential and congressional elections. The guide also describes the three counties as well as the early vote factor.
This election night guide is also the second in a series of special election night guides. The first one, written about the Kansas 4th congressional district special election where the Democratic candidate lost by seven points in a district Trump won by 28 can be found here.
Without further ado here are the benchmarks:
Map of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District:
Green =6th district
Left county = Cobb County
Middle county = Fulton County
Right county = DeKalb County
Despite the Democratic trend (voting 66%-32% for Romney and 55%-40% for Trump), this part of Cobb County is heavily Republican. It is most Republican section of the 6th district. It is high income and suburban. It is also home to LMRC (Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb Counties, they have bumper stickers with “LMRC” so conservatives do not recognize the organization. Many of these voters however (as shown by the 2016 election results) are averse to Trump and some may be open to Ossoff’s message. While Ossoff does not need to win 50% of the vote in Cobb County (if he did, that would mean he would win), he needs to hit roughly 44% here when the Election Day vote has reported.
This is the most Democratic part of the district, voting 57%-38% for Clinton in 2016 (and it is quickly trending Democratic too, Romney won here 51%-47%). It also cast 22% of the vote in 2016. While DeKalb County is known for being heavily African American, the northern part of DeKalb County is more white. This is the area where Ossoff must perform in order to reach 50%. In the early vote, DeKalb County’s turnout has been lower than the rest of the district but that may be because there is only one early voting location in DeKalb county. What Ossoff needs to do here is not simply win 60% of the vote. DeKalb County needs to cast at least 22% of the district wide vote because if the early vote numbers are a harbinger, then DeKalb’s turnout will be lower and that will hurt Ossoff.
Fulton County is the bellwether of the 6th district. It is also the most populous county in the 6th district with just under half the voters. It contains wealthy Republican leaning suburbs similar to Cobb County, the main city of Roswell and has a growing minority population similar to the DeKalb County portion of the district. Fulton will the barometer for the district. In order to avoid a runoff, Ossoff must win at least 49% of the vote in Fulton County.
Nate Cohn (the New York Times political expert) has been keeping track of early votes for the 6th district. Although 41% of the early voters voted in Democratic primaries and 41% voted in Republican primaries, Cohn estimates 57% of early voters backed Clinton. Keep in mind that early voting is not indicative of the final result (as shown in the Kansas special election last week when we led in the early voting by a large margin but lost in the election day vote). If Ossoff is leading in the early vote by 60% or more though, it may be a sign he is overperforming initial estimates, winning over Independents and even a few Republicans which could bode for a good night for him. Still, wait until a county is at 100% reporting and then compare the result to the benchmarks to determine whether Ossoff will win 50%.
Overall, expect a long night and this election may not be decided tonight if the results are extremely close due to uncounted provisional ballots (which in past elections such as 2016 lean Democratic). While watching the election night returns, keep an eye on these three factors:
- Is there robust turnout in DeKalb County allowing Ossoff to win 60%+ there?
- Is Jon Ossoff overperforming early vote estimates and hitting 60%+ in the early vote? (Remember that a high early vote lead does not guarantee Ossoff will hit 50%).
- Is Ossoff hitting 49% in Fulton County?