Politics

Where the Cash Is Coming From in Georgia and South Carolina Special Elections

Out-of-state money is buoying Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s bid

Democratic candidate for Georgia's 6th Congressional District Jon Ossoff speaks to campaign workers and volunteers at his campaign office in Chamblee, Ga., on Sunday. Ossoff meets Republican Karen Handel in the 6th District special election runoff on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BY SEAN MCMINN AND RYAN KELLY

Bipartisan love may be on display in Washington, but farther down the coast, a vicious political battle is underway for Georgia’s 6th District.

Groups hoping to influence the election have spent nine times more money attacking the candidates than they have running positive ads since the jungle primary in April, a Roll Call review on Friday of Federal Election Commission filings found.

The parties’ congressional arms have led the scorched-earth battle, each dropping roughly $5 million in the district since the primary. Nearly all that money went to attacking the opposing candidate.

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Huge contribution totals going directly to the candidates have also boosted the campaigns, though that fundraising has mostly been directed toward Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. He reported raising $23.6 million through the end of May, while Republican Karen Handel brought in $4.3 million.

Not all that money, of course, came from within the suburban Atlanta district, or even from the state. Just about 13 percent of the donations to Ossoff that totaled more than $200 came from Georgia donors.

Handel, who’s received 45 percent of her money from within the state, has hit Ossoff on the issue — voters in Georgia, she said earlier this month, “are not interested in people from California, Massachusetts and New York buying this seat.” The Congressional Leadership Fund, which has spent at least $3.5 million since the primary to help Handel, has also made that a central line of attack.

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Ossoff narrowly missed winning the once deep-red seat — vacated in January by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — outright during the April open primary. 

South Carolina

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, another special election is set for Tuesday between Democrat Archie Parnell and Republican Ralph Norman.

The Palmetto State’s 5th District — previously represented by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney — isn’t seen as the same kind of fertile ground for Democrats to pick up a GOP-leaning seat. President Donald Trump carried the district by 19 points in 2016, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, and Mulvaney beat his opponent by a similar margin.

Norman has outperformed Parnell in fundraising by about 70 percent, though neither has brought in anything close to the amounts raised in Georgia. Also different than the Georgia race: Most of the money donated to Norman and Parnell has come from within their home state.

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The national parties’ congressional campaign committees have gotten involved in South Carolina, though in a much more modest way than in Georgia. The DCCC announced earlier in June it would funnel $275,000 into Parnell’s bid, and the GOP committee has invested $100,000 in the race in a joint ad buy with Norman.

Outside spending from other organizations has also been lower. Only two conservative outside groups — the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund —have put up their own cash since the primary there last month, and both have stayed under $10,000.

Simone Pathé contributed to this report. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.