Georgia State Legislative Runoffs

Runoff elections were held on Tuesday in Georgia, a full 9 weeks after party primaries on May 24th.  Runoffs took place among Republicans for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R), as well as in 2 State Senate districts (1 D, 1 R), and 11 State House Districts (5 D, 6 R).

There obviously was a great deal of attention paid to the GOP race in GA-03, since the Republican nominee will almost certainly win this seat in the Atlanta suburbs.  State Senator Mike Crane finished 1st in the seven-candidate field in the primary, but former West Point, Georgia, Mayor Drew Ferguson was less than 100 votes behind in 2nd.  State Sen. Crane was endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), but Mr. Ferguson earned the support of all 5 of the other Republican candidates in the primary, and in the end won Tuesday’s runoff by about 3,000 votes, 54%-46%.

Here are some other observations:

  • Just like in South Carolina last month, incumbent state legislators involved in runoffs didn’t fare too well.  State Rep. Tom Dickson (R, HD #6), State Rep. John Yates (R, HD #73) and State Rep. Darryl Jordan (D, HD #77) were all defeated.  Historically, in Georgia, the odds are against state legislative incumbents in runoffs, winning in only 5 out of 13 instances (38%) from 2008-2014.  Since this includes one very good year in 2012 (when incumbents won 3 out of 4 races), that means that incumbents in runoffs have done very badly in 4 of the last 5 election cycles, dating back to 2008.

Record of Georgia State Leg Incumbents in Runoffs

  • As I noted on Twitter Tuesday night, what was surely heart-breaking about the losses by State Reps. Dickson and Yates was how close each man came to winning his primary outright in May.  Rep. Dickson finished first with 49.7% in his three-way primary, and missed getting a majority by only 16 votes.  Rep. Yates received 49.0% in May, falling just 51 votes shy of avoiding a runoff.  The subsequent losses on Tuesday by both men was indeed unprecedented.  From 2008-2014, five candidates had been forced into a runoff after receiving 49% or more in their primary – all 5 went on to win their runoff election.

Runoff candidates receiving more than 49 percent in Georgia

  • Although results from Tuesday are unofficial at this time, there were some incredibly close races, with 4 of the 14 runoffs being decided by less than 100 votes.  However, only one contest is within the 1% threshold needed to trigger a taxpayer-funded recount.  That would be former State Rep. Tonya Anderson’s win over State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler for the Democratic nod in SD #43.  Ms. Anderson currently leads by just 8 votes out of over 8,500 votes cast in that contest!  But actually, the number of close runoffs is about average for the state.  Here’s a chart of the number of close statewide, Congressional, and state legislative primary runoffs in Georgia since 2008:

Close Georgia Runoffs

  • Only 6 out of 14 runoffs (43%) on Tuesday were won by the candidate who finished first in the May primary.  That percentage is rather low by historical standards.  From 2008 to 2014, over two-thirds of primary runoffs were won by the candidate who finished 1st in the original primary.

Runoff record of candidates who finished first in primary in Georgia

Later this week, I’ll look at turnout and a few other things.

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