Georgia HD 155 – Campaign contributions in a rural district

It is Election Day in six state legislative districts in Georgia, and I’ve been analyzing some of these races quite extensively.  With the polls opening this morning, this race in the rural, south-central part of the state is the last one I’ll be able to analyze this cycle.  If this is the first post you’ve read, you’ll likely want to review my debut of this methodology, for the June 16 special election in Georgia State House District 24, here.  In the last few days, there have also been analyses of HD #48 here and HD #80 here.

Here is the summary of campaign contributions received by each of the four candidates running in Georgia State House District #155.

CandidateNumber of Itemized
(> $100) Contributions
Dollar Amount of
Itemized (> $100) Contributions
Scott Downing (R) 29$ 25,775
Horace Hudgins (R) 21$ 6,450
Sherry Miley (R) 3$ 805
Clay Pirkle (R) 11$ 7,987

 

I then examined the mailing address for each listed donation, and determined the corresponding location of each.

CandidateNumber of unique
contributions from
addresses within HD 155
Number of unique
contributions from
addresses just
outside HD 155
Scott Downing (R) 14 4
Horace Hudgins (R) 7 5
Sherry Miley (R) 2
Clay Pirkle (R) 5 4

[Since I’m looking for unique donations and supporters, I disregarded multiple contributions from either the same person or the same address.  I also ignored contributions from political action committees, campaign committees of other candidates, and addresses with post office boxes.]

 

In this sprawling district, it made sense to analyze the data by counties, since HD #155 comprises all of Ben Hill, Irwin, and Turner counties, and portions of both Coffee and Tift counties.  I used the map from the US Census Bureau to help determine the location of each contributor.

Georgia HD 155 Map

 

And here is the breakdown of the May 2014 primary vote in those counties.   To approximate the number of potential voters, I used the total votes cast in last spring’s primary for State School Superintendent:

CountyRepublican Votes
in May 20,
2014 Primary
Democratic Votes
in May 20,
2014 Primary
Total
Ben Hill 475 314 789
Coffee 284 137 421
Irwin 631 227 858
Tift 1,713 247 1,960
Turner 553 221 774
Total 3,6561,146 4,802

 

Finally, I summarized each candidate’s campaign contributions by county.  I also included donations from addresses which were just outside District’s 155 boundaries.  This was especially significant for this race since a majority of the city of Tifton (Tift County) is actually in HD #170.

CountyScott
Downing (R)
Horace
Hudgins (R)
Sherry
Miley (R)
Clay
Pirkle (R)
Ben Hill 9 1
Coffee 4
Irwin 5 1
Tift 9 2 5
Turner 1 4
Total 18 12 2 9

 

This is the first time I’m using this method to analyze a special election campaign in such a rural district spread over a large area, which surely presents some challenges.  Given the nature of the district, it seems reasonable to assume that motivated supporters will be more valuable in the more-densely populated areas.

Mr. Downing seems to have the most logical path to win this contest, for two reasons.  Firstly, he obtained a majority of the contributions from Tift County (9 out of 16), which is where most of the votes are likely to be cast.  Secondly, he shows dominant financial support in Fitzgerald in Ben Hill County, his home base.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see him record a large margin of votes here, even from Democrats.

Mr. Pirkle should be competitive in Tift County, and really must do well there.  Interestingly, he only received campaign donations from the two counties which make up the western half of the district, which may leave him a lot of ground to make up.  And while he seems to have the most support in Turner County (4 contributions out of 5), a closer look at the map shows that they all came from a very tight cluster of addresses outside of Ashburn, the largest city.

Mr. Hudgins’ financial support is the most widely dispersed, with receipts from all but Ben Hill County.  He will have to do very well in his home base of Ocilla, in Irwin County.  Unfortunately, his support in the Douglas area may not translate into many votes, since Coffee County is likely to see the fewest votes cast.  And he may struggle to compete in Turner and Tift Counties, given that he had relatively few contributors from there.

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