By Jim Ellis
April 18, 2017 — Voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs go to the polls today, and if a new Opinion Savvy survey is correct, Democrat Jon Ossoff will easily claim the first run-off position but will fall well short of claiming an outright victory in Georgia.
Since Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) was nominated as President Trump’s Secretary of Health & Human Services, the Democrats have been investing heavily into the replacement special election, believing that they have a shot to convert this historically reliable Republican district. Their hopes were buoyed in finding that President Trump scored only a 1.5 percentage point win over Hillary Clinton within the 6th District boundaries.
Though five Democrats are on tomorrow’s ballot, the party has coalesced around investigative filmmaker and former congressional aide Ossoff. It is apparent that he is the strongest individual candidate, but the combined Republican number still outpaces him.
The new Opinion Savvy data (April 13; 437 GA-6-weighted likely voters) is very similar to one they conducted over the March 22-23 period. The OS surveys likely provide our best glimpse into the race because the firm is the only polling operation that has included the names of all 18 candidates on their survey questionnaire. Because the entire field is so large, the other pollsters have given their sampling group members only an abbreviated list of individuals from which to choose.
Interestingly, despite this major difference, the Opinion Savvy polls post Ossoff in the same range as all the others. This latest study finds him attracting 41.5 percent, which is almost identical to the Ossoff numbers they found in late March (39.8 percent), and very consistent with the other pollsters who tested less than half of the candidates.
The main difference between the Opinion Savvy findings and the other available survey research data is how the Republican field places. Both times, OS has found former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) as the clear second place finisher (21.2 percent in the April survey; 19.9 percent in March). The next closest Republican in March, businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray (R) recorded 10.4 percent, just over half of what Handel scored. In the current mid-April OS poll, Sen. Judson Hill (R) has overtaken the others to land in third place, scoring 11.3 percent support.
The other polls all found the four most competitive Republicans, Handel, Hill, Gray, and former state Sen. Dan Moody all within striking distance of each other. But, again, all of the others tested smaller candidate fields, which certainly could skew the findings.
The 6th District special is a long-awaited political affair in which both sides have invested millions. Ossoff fundraising is pushing $9 million, taking advantage of him being the most prominent current national candidate that liberal organizations and donors can fund in the short term. Most of his vast resources have come in small online donations from across the country.
Tonight’s results will prove enlightening and yield a close finish in the special general scheduled for June 20. With spending already extremely high for this contest, the eight-week run-off will easily make GA-6 the most expensive of the 2017 special elections and it could become the costliest such contest of all time.