The runoff election in Georgia State Senate District #54 (Dalton) is today between Republican Chuck Payne and non-partisan candidate Debby Peppers. Mr. Payne led in the first round of voting last month with 36%; Ms. Peppers finished just over 400 votes behind him in 2nd, with 27%.
Mr. Payne led three other Republicans in December’s five-person field – the total vote share for all GOP candidates was 73%. So, despite making the runoff, Ms. Peppers faces long odds in overcoming the strong Republican lean of this district.
At the bottom of this post is my updated chart detailing all state legislative runoffs in Georgia over the last six years. In the 19 instances since 2010 where neither the special election nor the runoff took place on either a statewide General or Primary Election Day, the candidate who finished first in the original special election won the runoff 17 times (89%)! Amazingly, the only two instances where the second-place finisher came back to win the runoff occurred when the margin of victory between the top two candidates in the original special election was less than 51 votes! This historical tendency obviously supports Mr. Payne’s chances as well.
Turnout in state legislative runoffs lately in Georgia has been very strong. In the 13 such runoffs held over the last three years, only twice has the total number of votes cast in the runoff been less than 90% of the total number of votes cast in the original special election. And in eight of 13 instances (61%), the total votes cast in the runoff was even greater than had been cast in the original election.
The only state legislative runoff since 2010 which took place in January was in Georgia HD #68 on January 3, 2012. The total votes cast in that runoff was actually 6% higher than in the original special election held the month before.
My back-of-the-envelope prediction is that Mr. Payne will win quite easily today. I’ll forecast him defeating Ms. Peppers, 66%-34%, with 4,500 total votes cast.