Updating the Four Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2017 — Coming through the highly publicized GA-6 special election, the political overtime campaign season is hitting its stride as we approach May voting. In Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and California, political action is now in full swing.

The GA-6 contest has eliminated all but finalists Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) in a race well on its way to becoming the most expensive congressional special election in American history. Right after last Tuesday’s vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsored an initial post-primary $450,000 flash media buy, which was quickly followed by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $250,000 airtime purchase.

While the two sides exceeded $16 million in pre-primary fundraising, it appears the special general spending pattern is already following suit to no one’s surprise. We can count on seeing very active campaigning here all the way to the June 20th special general vote.

The campaign attracting the least attention so far is the South Carolina race to succeed Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. The key contest is for the Republican nomination, while it remains unclear whether national Democrats will invest in the SC-5 effort.

With the partisan primaries looming on the political horizon in a week, it will be interesting to see who advances into the likely May 16 GOP run-off. Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Wall Street executive and congressional aide, is the heavy favorite to win his party’s nomination and will likely do so outright, but will be a clear underdog to the eventual Republican winner.

For the GOP, it is former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman who is leading the money race, and has been advertising heavily. Though we see no polls for this contest, it is largely assumed that Norman and state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope are the leading candidates and most likely to qualify for the two-week run-off.

According to the latest financial reports covering the period ending April 12, Norman has raised $590,360, including a personal loan of $305,000. His cash-on-hand stands at $407,213, far more than any other candidate. Pope has raised $226,002 with $142,571 in the bank. Army veteran and South Carolina State Guard Commander Tom Mullikin has $235,683 in receipts, $144,000 of which is from himself, and $59,753 currently available. Former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly obtained $189,550, and spent all but $12,264. Ex-state Education Superintendent statewide candidate Shari Few raised $60,742, and possesses $37,876 in her campaign account.

For the Democrats, Parnell is the only candidate who has substantial assets, raising $243,032 with $178,429 left to spend. His totals include a $100,000 contribution to his own campaign effort.

The tenor has increased to a heightened pitch in the Montana at-large special election. There, Democratic nominee Rob Quist has certainly drawn the ire of the Republican political establishment, as the GOP apparatus has just put down $1.2 million in additional media time.

The media strategy has been interesting here, as both Quist and Republican nominee Greg Gianforte are airing ads that parrot each other on key themes. Both are running “drain the swamp” ads, in addition to television spots where each shoots a piece of electronic equipment with a rifle – Gianforte a computer to illustrate his opposition to Quist advocating a database to record assault weapon owners; Quist, a television to oppose Gianforte questioning his commitment to the 2nd Amendment.

Quist, a first-time candidate and well-known country rock and folk singer in the Rocky Mountain region, is a strong fit for the Montana electorate. Polls are not yet available here, but should be shortly. With neither side brandishing numbers, it likely means that the performer/songwriter is not in as strong a position as the Democrats would like, or we would be seeing the evidence. Republicans are typically not as quick to release polling data.

The Republican Party attacks are now zeroing in on Quist’s personal tax liens that the state of Montana filed against him, and on the assault weapon registry comment. Quist is emphasizing his Montana roots, while contrasting Gianforte as “a New Jersey millionaire.”

The final special election will be decided in Los Angeles on June 6, and is a battle between two Democrats for a majority minority seat. State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles city Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn are battling to succeed former incumbent Xavier Becerra who departed Congress to become California’s attorney general. Gomez is the favorite, but Ahn has the ability to self-fund. In any event, the Democrats have already clinched retaining this seat.

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