Why Georgia’s 6th District Really Matters

The eyes of the political world are fixated on Tuesday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Many have pointed to Hillary Clinton’s performance in the district last November as proof that this is now a marginal district. However, recent and historical results emphasize the need for strict expectation control when it comes to both Tuesday’s vote and a potential runoff contest. Democrat Jon Ossoff may win tomorrow, but should that not be the case, it’s important to keep the results in context.

We examined the results of 54 statewide non-federal contests in the 6th District from 2002 thru 2014. The contests that were studied were as follows:

  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • Attorney General
  • Agricultural Commissioner
  • Insurance Commissioner
  • Labor Commissioner
  • Public Service Commission positions
  • School Superintendent

In addition, we examined district results in federal contests for President, US Senator and US House of Representatives.

Overall, only one Democratic candidate—the 2002 Democratic Secretary of State candidate—won the major party vote—with 52.8 percent of the vote. Subsequent Secretary of State candidates were defeated by 2 – 1 margins.

Only three other Democrats came close during this time period: 2006 Attorney General (49.9%), 2006 Agricultural Commissioner (49.3%) and 2016 President (49.2%). Beyond those three, the next highest vote received was by the 2006 Labor Commissioner candidate (46.1%).

The only other candidates to receive even 40 percent of the major party vote are as follows:

Office Year Democratic Two-Way Percent
Agricultural Commissioner 2002 44.4%
US House Representative 2010 44.1%
Attorney General 2002 44.0%
President 2008 43.9%
Governor 2002 42.1%
US Senator 2008 41.9%
Lieutenant Governor 2002 40.6%
Labor Commissioner 2002 40.0%

The other 38 Democrats received less than 40 percent, or the party failed to field any candidate at all.

President Obama won 38.2 percent in 2012—a 5.7 percent decline from 2008. Hillary Clinton topped Obama 2012 by 11 percent in 2016.

Accordingly, we have insufficient evidence that this district has emerged as reliably marginal. Should Ossoff win or at least come close, the result, when coupled with the recent election results in Kansas’ 4th District and several other legislative contests will provide irrefutable proof that the Democrats are in their strongest position since 2006 when they regained the House.