GA-06 iconOn 18 April, the southern US state of Georgia sees a ‘special election’ to find a new congressman. The election could be a key indicator for the way forward for the Democrats.

One of the key questions for the Democrats to face in the aftermath of its electoral defeats last November is its election strategy for the future. Should it redouble its efforts in traditional battleground states, or should it revisit the success of Howard Dean’s Fifty State Strategy? Should it focus on regaining the Rustbelt states that delivered victory for Bill Clinton and Obama, or should it look instead to a future of expanding urban votes and a swelling Latino base in those states in the southern half of the USA where demographic growth is strongest?

On 10 February Donald Trump appointed congressman Tom Price, a fervently opponent of Obamacare, to become his Secretary of Health. Price’s district has been in Republican hands since 1979, and yet the contest to replace him in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District has Democrats excited.

The Sixth District

GA-06 location

The sixth district covers a vaguely Texas-shaped chunk of the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Compared to other US districts it looks fairly compact (it is one of fourteen is Georgia, and covers only about 1% of the state’s area), but Atlanta’s metropolitan area is by European standards not very dense: it is characterised by detached houses and lots of green open space. The district is less densely populated than Berkshire: with less people (a little under 700,000 to Berkshire’s 900,000) in a similar geographical area.

The district is whiter than the state as a whole (71% to 60%) and about half as African American. But it is better educated – a demographic that has become more favourable for the Democrats – and suburban areas have often been a place where the Democrats’ fortunes have improved this century.

The congressional districts in Georgia have been drawn up significantly to the Republicans’ advantage: they secured 51% of the vote in last year’s presidential contest but 10 of the 14 seats in Congress’ House of Representatives. In Greater Atlanta, Hillary Clinton won 52% of the votes to Trump’s 45%, but the congressional map shows three blue Democrats in the area surrounded by a sea of red Republicans.

Atlanta CDs

The packing of the Democratic vote into those three districts becomes clearer when we look at the lead of each presidential candidate in these districts. Clinton led by 73% in the central Atlanta Fifth district, 53% in the east Atlanta Fourth district and 44% in the southwestern Thirteenth district. In contrast, Trump’s leads in the northern Atlanta suburban districts were tighter: a 25% lead in the northwestern Eleventh district, only 6% in the northeastern Seventh district … and a measily 1.5% in the Sixth district where this month’s election is being held.

Atlanta pres votes

That close race in the Sixth district ran against expectations. Only four years before, when Obama faced Romney, Romney had a 23% lead here, as the graph below of presidential votes in the district shows.

GA-06 results

Electoral History

That narrow margin in the Sixth district is remarkable given the district’s history. It is in fact the congressional district in the state held by the Republicans for the longest: an uninterrupted tenure since the 1978 midterm elections. In that election, a young draft-dodging history professor called Newt Gingrich capitalised on the unpopularity of another Georgian: democratic President Carter.

It was Gingrich’s third run at the seat: an early disciple of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, he had two previous tight races with the district’s old-school Democratic congressman Jack Flynt. Flynt’s decision not to stand in 1978 opened the door to Gingrich, and his future “Revolution” and Speakership.

At that time, the district was based in the city’s southern suburbs. A redrawing of the boundaries in 1990 refocused it around the northern suburbs, and Gingrich came close to losing the new district in that year. But since then, the district has been a reliable base for Gingrich and his successors Johnny Isakson in 1999 (who went on to become senator for the state) and Price in 2004. So safe, in fact, that the Democrats did not even bother to contest the district in 2004 or 2010.

GA-06 results since 70s

But, as the graph above illustrates, the results have begun to tighten a little. Whilst Price’s winning margin of 23% last year is clearly nowhere near as slender as Trump’s was in the district, it does show progress for the Democrats.

Anatomy of the District

The Sixth District takes in parts of three counties: the northern parts of Fulton County (the state’s most populous, where most of the City of Atlanta itself is located) and DeKalb County (the state’s most densely populated county) and the east of Cobb County.

GA-06 map

This area takes in a section of northern Greater Atlanta, straddling the area’s main waterway, the gloriously named Chattahoochee River.

48% of the district lies in Fulton County, which forms the heart of the district. Greater Atlanta is officially known as the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell Metropolitan Statistical Area, and most of Sandy Springs and all of Roswell fall within this section of the district. As the metropolis’s second city, Sandy Springs is remarkably new: a cluster of suburbia around the Perimeter Center, Atlanta’s version of Canary Wharf, it was only incorporated as a city in 2005. Just across the Chattahoochee, Roswell is much older, dating from the Antebellum era that has long since been swallowed up by the expansion of Atlanta. North Fulton County also takes in the Alpharetta – a city of similar size and vintage as Roswell –  and the newer city of John’s Creek, as well as deeply conservative Milton to the north.

Fulton County heavily voted for Clinton in 2016: 69% to 27% for Trump. But this is due to Atlanta, and north Fulton county roughly reflected the vote in the district as a whole: 49% for Trump compared to 46% for Clinton. In fact, most of this area lies north of the Chattahoochee River and once formed a county of its own, Milton County, until it went bust in the Great Depression. The resultant forced marriage with Fulton County has been a long-standing grievance in the area.

The next largest element is Cobb County, comprising 30% of the district. This is the most Republican section of the district: whilst the Democrats narrowly won Cobb County as a whole in the presidential election (for the first time since Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976), Trump still took 55% of the vote in this part of the county. East Cobb, as the area is known, is a sprawl of affluent unincorporated suburbia to the east of the county’s main cities of Marietta and Smyrna. East Cobb is a the home of Gingrich and gave the world Johnny Isakson, as well as perhaps less typically Missy Elliott. In the 1990s, this area gained a reputation as being a right-wing heartland and so its journey is a good illustration of the changing fortunes of the Democrats in Georgia.

The remaining 22%, in DeKalb County, is more fertile territory for the Democrats. They took 57% of the vote in this part of the district in November’s presidential election. Brookhaven, Chamblee , Doraville and Tucker are like parts of the city of Atlanta itself, with the first three forming the end of the city’s metro line. Chamblee’s east Asian population has led to it being nicknamed ‘Chambodia’ by the locals. Only Dunwoody to the north fits the affluent white suburban pattern of the rest of the congressional district.

In voting, the Democrats are strongest along the interstate highways of the district: the I-19, I-75 and I-85, together with a broader section of DeKalb County, as the map below of voting by electoral precinct in last year’s congressional election (taken from Decision Desk HQ) illustrates. The further you travel from those arteries into Milton and East Cobb, the stronger the Republican showing.

GA-06 16 precincts

The Contest

The Special Election is run as a “Jungle Primary”: there is no primary election and every candidate appears on a single ballot paper on 18 April. If no candidate secures 50% of the vote, there will then be a run-off election between the two candidates with the highest vote two months later on 20 June.

On the Democratic side, the field has narrowed very quickly. 30 year-0ld documentary-maker Jon Ossoff has become an early favourite, securing the backing of both the local establishment and grassroots funding organisations. He has worked for both the 13th district’s congressman Hank Johnson and the doyen of Georgia’s Democrats, civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis (who represents the neighbouring Fifth district). The Democratic statehouse leader, Stacey Abrams has also endorsed him. That is three very powerful African Americans backing this youthful Jewish man from north DeKalb County.

There are other Democrats in the race, including former state senator and a former congressional candidate, Ron Slotin. But Ossoff has hit the ground running, working the district before Price resigned the seat. Anti-Trump sentiment has already given Ossoff $3 million in the fundraising kitty. Polls currently suggest that Ossoff has 40% of the first-round votes in the district.

The Republican field is far more divided. The leading contender is a chip off the Tom Price block, Karen Handel – an anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-stem-cell research, anti-Obamacare politician from Fulton county who served as Georgia’s Secretary of State for three years (until 2010). She stood down in an attempt to get elected Governor of the state and when she failed at that became vice-president of the US’s leading breast cancer charity, Komen. The controversy that arose when she used that position to break the charity’s link with Planned Parenthood saw her leave Komen after a year, an experience she narkily wrote about in a book called Planned Bullyhood. So, all in all, a very pleasant woman.

More recently, she came third in the 2014 Republican primary for the state’s Senatorship. Former senator Saxby Chambliss has endorsed her, but so far he is her only big name. But she has made some powerful enemies among the Republicans: the Tea Party-ish Club For Growth have denounced her as a tax-and-spender. Instead, they are backing John’s Creek tech businessman Bob Gray. Gray is putting himself forward as the Trump candidate, which might not be that smart in a district that appears not to love the President that much.

Handel clearly did not mend whatever scars were left with the victor of that gubernatorial primary either: the state’s Republican governor Nathan Deal has not yet endorsed a candidate but many of his staff are lining up behind Judson Hill, a former state senator from East Cobb. Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio are also backing Hill as a mainstream right-wing candidate.

Handel’s former boss when she was Secretary of State - former Governor and Trump’s appointment as Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue – is not in her fan club either. He and his cousin, Senator David Perdue, have endorsed a fourth Republican, former state senator Dan Moody. Moody is running as “the strong, silent type”, which you might think rather misunderstands what a politician is sent to Congress for.

The graph shows the polling for the leading candidates (there are 18 announced in total). Ossoff’s support is currently running at double that of Handel, the leading Republican, who in turn appears to have double the support of both Gray and Hill, and a bit more than that for Moody.

GA-06 polls

 

The most recent poll, by Opinion Savvy for Fox, suggests that Ossoff would narrowly beat Handel, Gray and Moody in the runoff election (by 1.4%, 1% and 2.3% respectively). Judson Hill would be very narrowly ahead – by 0.4%.

Conclusion

It all looks like a tight race, with Ossoff almost guaranteed to top the poll on 18 April but probably by not enough to avoid a runoff in June. But with the Republican field fighting like rats in a sack, an unpopular Trump and an even more unpopular Republican-dominated congress, there is a good chance that whatever Republican ends up on the June ballot may find it hard to motivate support. Republicans are already framing this election as a referendum on Paul Ryan’s speakership.

For the Republicans, losing in such a totemic seat that they have held longer than any other in Georgia, would be extremely embarrassing.

But more importantly for the Democrats it would mean that Georgia, a state that Clinton lost by only 5% last year (compared to 8% in Ohio and over 10% in Iowa), truly is in play for them in the future.

The Democrats would be wise to throw all they have at this race.

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What Brexit really means…

by Charlie_East_West on March 27, 2017

image

Brexit means Brexit.” ~ Theresa May

To many Brexiters, what Brexit really means is:

The British Empire
Rule, Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves!
Last night of the proms
Sticking it up Johnny Foreigner
Union Jack bunting
Foreign muck
The plucky Brit
The Great Escape
Dambusters
Mother Country
British bulldog
Imperial chauvinism
Born to rule
Land of Hope and Glory

In reality, Brexit means imperialistic bullshit.

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Theresa May is the wrong prime minister at the wrong time

March 20, 2017

“I think the economic arguments are clear, I think being part of a 500-million population trading bloc is significant for us. I think, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe. “If we were not in Europe, I think […]

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The United Kingdom: A Union of Unequals

March 17, 2017

I will always consider myself both British and Scottish. I have spent years wrestling with my own opinion on Scottish independence. I hoped that it would never come to this, but, from 2014 onwards, I made my progression from being a unionist to a supporter of Scottish self determination for the following reasons:- Independence is […]

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Corbyn’s Copeland Catastrophe?

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There is no doubt that Labour’s performance in the Copeland by-election last week was historically bad: a government last won a by-election seat off an opposition in 1982. But Jeremy Corbyn’s most die-hard supporters have tried to explain this poor result away. Do their arguments hold any weight? You have read the headlines: this is […]

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Should the Lords have stopped Brexit?

February 27, 2017

There is an unfortunate irony that, sadly, one of the most interesting periods in national and international politics has coincided with us here at Allthatsleft going into self-imposed stasis. I write this, because I’ve been considering just how bad things could get – I write this because things that seemed absurd only a year or […]

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Trumpton, USA – A Place Called Hate

January 31, 2017

“I still believe in a place called Hope.” ~ Bill Clinton, 1992. In America 2017, hope has left the building. Hate has walked in, pimped out the White House with gold furnishings and started a real life version of Lord of the Flies. Obama was in the White House for 8 years, and managed to […]

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#1089: 2012, Viv Albertine, Confessions of a Milf

January 31, 2017

Last weekend, the lads of All That’s Left went away for a weekend in the country. As well as drinking what the experts tell us is the safe amount of alcohol for a month over 36 hours, there was a lot of music. One of my picks was this, my favourite find so far of […]

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Labour: dying before our very eyes

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Another week, another by-election where the Labour Party candidate has seen his vote decrease. This week its Sleaford, where Labour eventually finished fourth behind UKIP and the stirring Lib-Dems. Should those of us on the left be nervous about this? Too right we should. Labour is currently embroiled in a slow and painful descent towards […]

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Can a Democrat be Elected as President in 2020?

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Last month, the Democrats faced the most unpopular presidential candidate in the last thirty years, and lost. The victory of someone as dangerous as Trump against such an experienced figure as Hillary Clinton, the unexpected nature of the outcome by most commentators and the fact that she won the popular vote by over 2.6m have […]

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#1088: 2016, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker

December 6, 2016

It seems like years ago since I last posted a song. And, it’s true, in that time, much seems to have happened, and most of it seems to have been bad. One of the worst things has been the death of Leonard Cohen – one of the true giants, a poet, a musician, a legend, […]

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Speeding Down To Trump-ton

December 3, 2016

We are only 48 days away from the beginning of the Presidency of Donald Trump. For me the very idea still seems so absurd as to be almost conceptually impossible. How could any electorate vote for someone so singularly ill-suited for office? But as every day goes by with more freak show appointments from the […]

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#1087: 1978, Kate Bush, The Man With The Child In His Eyes

December 2, 2016

2016 really has been a godawful year in so many ways.   Perhaps the winner of the ‘worst year since the Second World War’ competition.  Politically – Brexit, Trump, the Labour Party descending into an unelectable leftist cult, the rise and rise of Marine Le Pen in France.  Artistically – the deaths of David Bowie, […]

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What does the Richmond Park By-Election tell us?

December 2, 2016

I don’t know what to make of Zach Goldsmith – man of principal or man of huge arrogant ego? A couple of years ago, I’d have given him the benefit of the doubt and plumped for the former, but, after his mindless London Mayoral campaign, I feel that perhaps Zach Goldsmith is just a poor […]

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Cine-East Film Club Presents #70: 1964, Dr Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) (Stanley Kubrick)

November 30, 2016

General Jack D Ripper: ‘Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?’ Group Captain Mandrake: ‘Well, no, I can’t say that I have’ Three weeks after the US Presidential election, it is still hard to come to terms with the fact that the American electorate (or at least that part of […]

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‘Taking Our Country Back’: A Day in the Life of Nigel’s Slogan

November 18, 2016

Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me, but I’m not a big fan of slogans – Making America Great Again: how? And what do you mean by ‘great’? Working Hard and Playing By the Rules – don’t even get me started on that load of nonsense. But, what is perplexing me, and has indeed perplexed me […]

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Too Much Polling Can Make You Blind

November 15, 2016

If it had happened once, then ok, maybe they could be forgiven, but in the last few years, pollsters have consistently fed us information that has at best been unhelpful, and at worst, down right wrong. The last general election was too close to call they said – no it wasn’t, the Tories won quite […]

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The rise of the Alt-Right: This is not normal

November 15, 2016

John Oliver laid into the result of the US Presidential election, on The Last Night Tonight he said, “A Klan-backed misogynist internet troll is going to be delivering the next State Of The Union address. This is not normal. It is fucked up.” Exactly. We have got to a point where major elections or referendums […]

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Lazy assumptions about Trump and Brexit voters is bigotry on the other side of the coin

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One of the most disturbing themes to come out from the post Brexit and post Trump landscapes is the lazy assumption that all Brexit / Trump voters are bigots. While I don’t agree with their direction of vote, I am uncomfortable with a narrative that moves towards the demonising of all Brexit/Trump voters. Such assumptions […]

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Brexiters Voted Our Country Down

October 13, 2016

Damn us Remainers for expressing concerns based on factual evidence on the economic alarm bells ringing since the EU referendum. We now have a pound sinking faster than Donald Trump’s election prospects, inward investment flatlining, a slump in the housing market, inflation concerns, increasing retail prices and tax revenue decline concerns as a result of […]

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#1086: 2016, Kate Tempest, Europe Is Lost

October 10, 2016

Pretty good angry analysis of so much of what’s going wrong from the poet/rapper Kate Tempest. I’m usually a bit more positive but quite hard when you put it like this and with everything going on. “I can’t see an ending at all, only the end” Um…

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Post Brexit, the future is…… Australian!

September 22, 2016

G’Day Sport! Throw another snag on the barbie and open us a tinny. We had better get used to it, because the future of Britain is no longer dependent upon our relations with Europe, but, according to the Government and the Brexiters, Australia. Yep, fear not – the fact that the EU is showing no […]

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It is getting scary now – Donald Trump might win

September 15, 2016

2016 is proving to be a shit year. Our iconic celebrities are dying, the Tories have no real opposition and don’t even get me started on Brexit. There is enough shit news out there at present but potentially even worse is to follow. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Donald […]

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#1085: 2016, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree

September 15, 2016

When Nick Cave’s 15 year old son Arthur died of head injuries after falling from a cliff last July, a parent’s greatest fear and worst nightmare became so horribly real for him. After a period of private mourning, Cave has now released a breathtakingly beautiful, grief-strewn album about the tragic loss of his son. A […]

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The boundary changes aren’t just about party politics

September 15, 2016

If we’ve learned one vital from the Brexit debate, it’s that the people of the UK are profoundly underwhelmed by our democracy – the prevailing feeling from the doorstep was that not only did people have little confidence in Europe, but, but they didn’t have a great deal of confidence in Westminster either. People felt […]

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Northern Ireland Boundary Proposals: Good News For Sinn Fein?

September 12, 2016

Tuesday sees the Boundary Commissions for England and Wales publish their draft recommendations for the Parliamentary constituency boundaries for the next general election. But as a taster, Norther Ireland’s commission published their draft recommendations a week earlier. These appear to offer good news for Sinn Fein, less good news for the Ulster Unionist Party and […]

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Back Of The Net Special With Ray North – The Legendary Pre-Season Preview

August 17, 2016

Ok – it’s a week late, but I’ve been on holiday, and there’s been the Olympics and, well, you know, life gets in the way. But, I’ve now got five minutes to spare and can share my thoughts on what I think will be the most interesting football season, since, well, since the last one. […]

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…..Meanwhile, back at Lib-Dem Headquarters…….

August 15, 2016

Everything should be going really well…. shouldn’t it? Er no. Despite the fact that the Labour Party is in absolute disarray, the Tories have conducted a swift, but bloody civil war, and half the nation (well almost) has decided that it is in favour of Europe, the Lib-Dems are still struggling. Opinion Polls last week, […]

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#1084: 1980, Grace Jones, Private Life

August 10, 2016

There are great albums and then there are very good albums. For me, truly great albums are a pantheon of about 50 or so and few artists record more than one. For example, taking The Beatles, Revolver, Abbey Road and Sergeant Pepper are great albums whilst Help, Rubber Soul and The White Album are very […]

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The Republicans Can’t Dump Trump

August 8, 2016

As Donald Trump’s chances of becoming the 45th President of the United States have plummeted over the last ten days (13 points behind Hillary Clinton among likely voters in the latest Monmouth University poll released today) there has been growing speculation that the Republican Party might need a Plan B to stay in the running. […]

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