Word is on the street about the upcoming election in Georgia’s District 6. Here’s what we know so far:
Special Election in District 6:
Tom Price, previously House Representative for GA-District 6, has now been confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. This means his seat in the House is up for special election.
This election is consequential for three reasons:
- It is the first opportunity to flip a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Trump’s team and Trump-supporting Republicans are eyeing this election as a model for 2018.
- There is a catch – a Democratic or progressive candidate must get 50% of the vote OR finish in first or second place: All candidates will run on the same ballot regardless of their party affiliation. The winning candidate must gain 50% of the vote in the special election. If no one achieves 50% of the votes, *the top two candidates* will face off in a runoff election. Meaning, for our purposes, a progressive candidate must finish in first or second place. Or else: we’re looking at a ballot with two regressive candidates and no chance of flipping the seat.
What are the dates?
Voter Registration Deadline: MARCH 20th, 2017
Special Election Day: April 18th, 2017
Runoff Election Day (if it comes to that): June 20th, 2017
Candidates: Why we must consolidate, when the time comes, behind one (and only one)
Because all candidates will run on the same ballot, there is danger of splitting the progressive vote and winding up with a runoff election with two regressive candidates. This is emphatically underscored by the fact that in 2016, 76.4% of District 6 voted on the GA-6 House seat. Of that group, Price won the seat with 61.68% of the vote. That means we’ve got some work on our hands. On the other hand, on the same 6th district ballot, Trump eked out a win over Clinton by only one point (48-47), while in 2012, Romney beat Obama by a 61-37 margin — a dramatic change in four years. The 6th district is not so fond of Trump, which might play out this time around. There’s some hope for flipping this seat.
Who are the candidates?
*For an extensive summary, see the resources provided by Indivisible 6th and GeorgiaPol.* The AJC’s coverage of both sides, which is becoming dated by the minute and offers less information about progressive candidates, is here.*
Right now there are five Democratic candidates (listed alphabetically by last name and updated as information changes):
- Ragin Edwards (http://raginedwards.com/), a senior manager in sales.
- Richard Keatley (http://www.keatleyforchange.org), an educator at Georgia State and former U.S. Navy officer.
- Jon Ossoff (https://electjon.com), an anti-corruption investigator, who has Rep. John Lewis’s endorsement (he was Lewis’s congressional staffer) and support from some nationwide sources (e.g, TheDailyKos, who are campaigning and fundraising for him). He has also been endorsed by state Rep. Hank Johnson and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.
- Rebecca Quigg (http://rebeccaquiggforcongress.com/), a practicing physician.
- Ron Slotin (https://www.votinforslotin.com), a former state Senator and business entrepreneur in marketing and media.
- Sally Harrell (http://sallyharrell.org), a former state Representative, who has support from a number of local Democrats, including state Sen. Elena Parent and state Rep. Scott Holcomb. (Has now withdrawn.)
- Josh McLaurin http://www.joshforgeorgia.com (withdrew and endorsed Ossoff)
- Several other Democratic candidates have stated intentions to run. Qualifying will take place February 13th-15th.
Otherwise, there are 11 Republican and 2 Independent candidates who have qualified as candidates.
A nice write-up on all candidates is here.
What are we up against?
▪ A history of the district going Republican and by a significant margin – *but* these campaigns have often been uncontested with no Democratic or otherwise progressive candidate on the ballot (2010, 2004)
▪ Fast-approaching voter registration and (and other election) deadlines
▪ A district clearly formed by gerrymandering that excludes people of color in the area. (See the excellent synthesis of this information in the “6th Congressional Fact Sheet ” put together by Emory Professor Jessica Thompson, quoted below.)
Republican dominance of the 6th Congressional is strange, given its proximity to the consistently blue Districts of the 5th and 4th. This has been achieved in two ways: consistently low Democratic voter turnout and some fancy redistricting (e.g. gerrymandering) that has dramatically changed its shape over the last 18 years:
Changing 6th Congressional District boundaries from 1999 (left) to present. Scalebar is 10 miles. Yellow lines are major roads. Shape files of Congressional Districts from http://cdmaps.polisci.ucla.edu/, and shape files of Atlanta road maps from: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/tiger-line-shapefile-2013-state-georgia-primary-and-secondary-roads-state-based-shapefile
Zooming into the modern District lines, it is clear where blocs of largely Democratic voters (blue dots) have been carved away or split, thus diluting their voting power inside the 6th Congressional:
Voting preferences in the 2008 Presidential election. Data from http://demographics.virginia.edu/DotMap/congress.html. Numbers represent enclaves of Democratic voting blocs which, if mobilized, can create a significant impact during a special election where turnout is often extremely low.
Many of these voter preferences also cluster by racial identity, so drawing the lines in this way serves to segment predominately minority communities and again dilute their voting power:
Racial identities in the 6th Congressional, as of the 2010 Census. Note the bisection of Hispanic (orange) communities along the Buford Highway, splitting of Asian (red) voting communities to the east, the exclusion of African American (green) communities along the west margin, and the inclusion of large numbers of white (blue) rural voters to the north.
What do we have on our side?
▪ Special election voter turnout can be as low as 2%. This means that an election can be decided with literally dozens of votes. Let’s get people out!
▪ ~100,000 registered voters who did not show up for the 2016 election (can we get them out?)
▪ Up to 100,000 unregistered but eligible voters in this district (can we get them registered? can we get them out to vote?)
▪ The possibility of gaining support from moderates and not-so-hot-for-Trump Republicans (or splitting the Republican vote :/)
▪ Enormous energy and political will
What are the actions?
*The material in this section will be updated as opportunities are organized – communicate any new events or action options to us (contact information below), and we’ll add them*
Voter Registration – ONLY THROUGH March 20th!
▪ Join this drive
▪ Join trainings or drives organized by the New Georgia Project (currently being planned – we’ll update as soon as opportunities are formalized)
▪ Or others (to be added as soon as we hear of them)
▪ Election Day Transportation (driving people to the polls)
Campaigning (again, we recommend consolidating efforts under *one* candidate when the time comes)
▪ Volunteering (canvassing, calling, other activities)
▪ Donating money for the campaign or even non-campaign, on-point messaging about this election
We are currently preparing a piece with more details on the current and upcoming actions, ways to get involved, and good information sources to stay updated on this issue. To come soon!
Prepared by Lindsay Vogt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Megan Missett with a big nod to Jessica Thompson.