Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: In May, two-thirds of new voters chose Democratic ballots


Three weeks later, some of the juicier numbers from last month’s primary have begun rolling in.

Chris Huttman is a Democratic operative now crunching numbers on behalf of Lucy McBath of Marietta, one of two Democratic candidates in the Sixth District congressional runoff. She faces Kevin Abel, a Sandy Springs businessman, in the July 24 runoff.

Huttman sent over a spreadsheet on Wednesday that broke down the GOP and Democratic primaries by race, voting history, and the 14 congressional districts. Some of his findings:

-- African-Americans made up 29 percent of the voting universe on May 22, counting both Republican and Democratic ballots. Which means that Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, still has turnout work to do. Thirty percent of the 6.1 million registered voters statewide are African-American, an area in which Abrams must overperform if she’s to have a chance in November.

-- On the other hand,102,330 participants in the Democratic primary, who cast 21 percent of the ballots, were new or had not voted in a primary at least since 2010. On the GOP side, 50,533 were likewise new or infrequent voters – making up 8 percent of Republican ballots cast. A 2-to-1 ratio when it comes to new voters is good news for Democrats.

-- If Huttman’s figures are correct, the May primary produced some evidence of white voter dissatisfaction with the GOP brand among new or infrequent voters. On the Democratic side, 60 percent of all votes were cast by African-Americans. (Black voters made up 1 percent of the GOP electorate.)

But when looking only at the new or infrequent voters who participated in the Democratic primary, we find that 52 percent are African-American, which indicates an uptick in white participation.

-- Here’s where the largest number of new or infrequent Democratic voters came from:

Fourth District (U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D): 11,361 (16 percent)

Fifth District (U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D): 15,163 (18 percent)

Sixth District (U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R): 10,788 (24 percent)

Seventh District (U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R): 9,965 (30 percent)

Thirteenth District (U.S. Rep. David Scott, D): 10,848 (18 percent)

The highest such number on the Republican side could be found in the Ninth District, now held by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville. In that district, 6,057 participants were new or infrequent voters, or about 8 percent.

-- Another place where the Huttman numbers get interesting is party-switching: 76,298 participants in the Democratic primary, about 14 percent, had voted in at least one GOP primary since 2010. On the GOP side, 85,870 voters, again about 14 percent of that field, had participated in at least one Democratic primary since 2010.

But those two figures may be telling different stories. Huttman said that most of those party-switchers on the Republican side were located in south Georgia, where there still exist counties that haven’t adapted to the post-2002 realignment in favor of the GOP. In those local races, the Democratic primary still matters.

The story appears to be different in metro Atlanta. Democratic voters in the Sixth District, the congressional seat held by Handel, included 10,295 participants with GOP voting histories, about 23 percent. In that category, both in raw numbers and percentage, no congressional district scored higher on the Democratic side.

Within the Sixth District, 44,885 Democratic ballots were cast, compared to 46,785 on the GOP side. So party-switchers could be important in November. In the Sixth District GOP primary, only 2,771 voters had Democratic voting histories, about 6 percent.

***

So far there has been little mudslinging between Kevin Abel and Lucy McBath, the two Democrats vying to take on U.S. Rep. Karen Handel in the Sixth District congressional race this fall. We may have reached a turning point.

Abel put out a statement on Wednesday calling on his opponent in next month’s primary runoff to denounce dark-money spending in the contest. He claimed McBath’s acceptance of an endorsement from End Citizens United, a political action committee that seeks to loosen the grip of outside money in campaigns, is contradicted by more than $800,000 spent on her behalf by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

“If Lucy McBath is serious about curbing the influence of outside money in politics, I ask her to publicly denounce and refuse to accept outside dark-money spending in this primary and let the voters of Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District choose their nominee,” Abel said.

The McBath campaign said it’s “proud” of the support its received from groups like Everytown, EMILY’s List and Gabrielle Giffords’ gun control group. 

McBath has “been endorsed specifically by End Citizens United because as a member of Congress, McBath will advocate for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision,” the campaign said. “In contrast, Kevin Abel has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to fund his campaign. Members of Congress shouldn’t be a restricted to a select few of the elite millionaires club.”

***

An effort by U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., to strip from a defense bill a provision blocking President Donald Trump’s deal to protect Chinese communications giant ZTE, failed on Wednesday. From The Hill newspaper:

Perdue asked for unanimous consent to strip the section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would keep the penalties against ZTE in place, arguing blocking the deal would undercut Trump's ability to negotiate.

ZTE had admitted to violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The current Senate bill "would trample on the separation of powers and undercut the Trump administration's authority to impose these penalties," Perdue said. "We should not tie the hands of the administration to enact penalties as they see fit, particularly in these times of aggressive actions by foreign players." 

***

You could say U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta went back to his civil rights roots on Wednesday, leading several of his Democratic colleagues through downtown Washington as they protested the Trump administration’s latest immigration moves. The group, which also included the actor John Cusack, joined other activists objecting to the administration’s new policy of splitting up children and parents seeking asylum. 

Lewis had penned a letter last week detailing his opposition to the White House’s course of action, raising alarm about what it could mean for metro Atlanta.

***

In endorsement news:

-- David Shafer, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, was drawn into a runoff with former state lawmaker Geoff Duncan when he won 49 percent of the vote in the May 22 primary.

On Thursday, Shafer, a state senator, served notice that he’s the state Capitol favorite, displaying endorsements from more than 100 current and 170 former state lawmakers. The most important name on the list belongs to House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun. Duncan, Shafer’s runoff rival, is a former House member.

-- U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has endorsed Lucy McBath, a Democratic candidate for Sixth District who faces a July 24 runoff against Kevin Abel. It’s at least the second endorsement Harris has made in Georgia this cycle; she also backed Stacey Abrams’ bid for governor earlier this year. 


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