A look at campaign contributions on an “Election Day” Special Election – Georgia HD #122

It’s Election Day 2015, with statewide races in Kentucky and Mississippi, and state legislative elections in Virginia, Mississippi, and New Jersey.  There are also a host of city and county elections across the country, as well as voter initiatives at both the local and statewide level.  Here are a few great summaries of the major races happening today:

There are also 24 state legislative special elections, which are summarized here.  As regular readers of this site know, I developed an analysis method for special elections held throughout the year which examines the address of each campaign’s contributors to estimate the level of committed supporters for each candidate.  So far, I have applied this to contests in Georgia, Wisconsin, and South Carolina, with interesting, and surprisingly accurate, results.

However, I’m not quite sure how well this method will work for contests held on Election Day.  As I’ve noted previously, getting people to participate in a special election that is scheduled with just several weeks notice demands that a candidate make scores of personal connections to ensure that his or her supporters turn out to vote.  This is the main principle behind my analysis method.  Yet despite the dismal turnout rates which occur on non-presidential election days, there are still a substantial number of regular voters who will always participate on this day, no matter what.  Thus, a “special election” held on Election Day is much more like a traditional campaign, and it is much more likely that a campaign can win using less direct methods, such as campaign signs, mailers, and advertisements.

That being said, I still wanted to analyze one of these races, and I chose the special election held today in Georgia State House District #122, in the Augusta area.  Four Republicans are vying to succeed State Rep. Ben Harbin (R), who resigned to take a job out-of-state.  Here is a summary of each campaign’s contributions from their campaign finance report filed 15 days prior to the election:

GA HD122 Campaign Summary

The focus of my method has always been on contributions from individuals, since folks who own businesses that make political contributions to a candidate may or may not even be voters in that district.  Here is a breakdown of the source of each campaign’s itemized contributions:

GA HD 122 Breakdown

I then took the address associated with each individual contribution, and plotted them on a map using GIS software.  As in the past, I excluded donations made by PACs or other organizations, loans from the candidate, and duplicate receipts from the same person.

Georgia HD122 district map

The black outline indicates the HD #122 district boundary, and the address associated with contributions to each campaign are noted with a dot.  Since I was unable to find a GIS file showing precinct boundaries, I also plotted the location of each polling place in the district.  To reflect the relative number of votes likely to be cast at each polling place, I have noted the number of votes cast at each location in the 2014 U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff between now-Sen. David Purdue and former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston.  That contest resulted in about an 11% turnout in Columbia County, which might be a low estimate for turnout today in HD #122, but it should be in the ballpark.

Finally, I counted the number of each candidate’s contributions from individuals both inside, and just outside, the district:

GA HD 122 District Analysis

The outcome of this analysis is very interesting.  Despite having raised the least amount of money, Patricia Goodwin has the most number of individual contributors from within the district, by a substantial margin.  Furthermore, one can see from the map that she received donations from folks all over the region.  If the voting today unfolds similarly to other special elections not held on Election Day, Ms. Goodwin should finish first, or at least make a runoff.  (I’ve noted in the past just how difficult it is for anyone to win a majority of votes in a field of four active candidates, and I expect that would also be the case here).  Also, it seems that Mack Taylor is best positioned to join Ms. Goodwin in a runoff, but it’s very close.

Regardless, I am eager to see how well this methodology predicts voter behavior in today’s HD #122 contest.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *