Despite Dem Excuses, Georgia’s Sixth Set Up to Be Battleground

Of the 40 wealthiest congressional districts, hotly contested seat one of only 16 with GOP rep

Contrary to Democratic spin that Jon Ossoff’s failed $23.6 million bid was to flip a long-held Republican congressional seat in Georgia, the district looks like a lot of places where Democrats regularly win.

Typical of the excuse-making was Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who argued that the 6th Congressional District in Georgia is a “deep red” area where his party should not be expected to be competitive in Tuesday’s special election. He noted that former Rep. Tom Price won re-election there last year by 23 percentage points.

“Cutting down that margin should actually give comfort to lots of Democrats and should actually scare a lot of Republicans,” he told CNN.

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But political experts point out that Price had the advantage of incumbency and never faced an opponent anywhere near as well-financed as Ossoff was in his unsuccessful campaign against Rep.-elect Karen Handel. What’s more, President Donald Trump bested Democrat Hillary Clinton there in last year’s presidential election by only about 1.5 percentage points.

“That is exactly the type of district that Democrats should be capable of winning … They will have to win a lot of districts like this next year if they hope to win back the House,” said Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota researcher who edits a website called Smart Politics.

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The 6th District is situated in the affluent northern suburbs of Atlanta. The $83,844 median household income ranks as 33rd highest in the country. Of the 40 wealthiest districts, 24 have Democratic representatives. Seven of the top 10 have Democrats representing them in the House.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the districts that are doing the best voted for the status quo last year. Trump won only seven of the 16 wealthy districts with Republican representatives. And most of those were tight contests like that outcome in the Georgia 6th District.

[lz_table title=”Wealthy and Democrat” source=”U.S. Census Bureau”]Wealthiest congressional districts in America
|District,Income,U.S. Rep.
Calif. 18,$120.1K,Eshoo (D)
Va. 10,$114.8K,Comstock (R)
Calif. 17,$111K,Khanna (D)
Va. 11,$105K,Connolly (D)
N.Y. 3,$102.6K,Suozzi (D)
N.J. 11,$102.2K,Frelinghuysen (R)
N.J. 7th*,$101.8K,Lance (R)
Va. 8th,$100.6K,Beyer (D)
Calif. 15th,$100.6K,Swalwell (D)
Calif. 14th,$98.1K,Speier (D)
*District voted for Hillary Clinton

The districts at the top of the list read like a who’s who of America’s global power centers. The wealthiest is the 18th District in California, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where the median household income is $120,089. Its representative is Democrat Anna Eshoo. Democrat Ro Khanna represents the neighboring 17th District, which ranks third at $111,024.

Other districts on the list are suburbs of New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and several California cities. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) represents a San Francisco-based district where the median income is $93,122, 19th highest.

Of the seven Trump-won districts in the top 40, three are in the South. In addition to the Georgia district, it includes Rep. Sam Johnson’s suburban Dallas district and Rep. Pete Olson’s district outside of Houston.

As suburbs in other parts of the country have become purple or blue over the past three decades, those in the South have tended to remain reliably Republican. Republican Mitt Romney won the 6th District in Georgia by 23 points, for instance, in the 2012 presidential election.

Some political scientists speculate the outcome in Tuesday’s special election could signal that wealthy southern suburbs may be starting the same voting shift their counterparts in the Northeast made a generation ago. Candice Nelson, the director of the Campaign Management Institute at American University in Washington, said there are not enough data to make that judgment. But she noted that Trump struggled in the 6th.

“That suggests it wasn’t quite as Republican as Tom Price’s wins would indicate,” she said.

Nelson said it is possible to interpret Tuesday’s results as a sign that Democrats are closing the gap in Republican districts or that they are losing ground from the 2016 election.

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“I think both sides need to pay attention to this,” she said.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said the district appeared more Republican than it was because Price was entrenched and faced weak challengers.

“Remove an incumbent, and you open the door for the ‘out party’ to make headway,” he said.

Bullock said Ossoff’s unprecedented resources — he raised more money than any House candidate in history — also leveled the playing field in a way that will be impossible for Democrats to replicate in next year’s midterm elections.

“If you add up all of Tom Price’s challengers, you might not have $24 million,” he said. “It’s kind of an extraordinary situation. It’s hard to look at the result there and project what might happen elsewhere.”

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