Red Alert: GOP Chances Slide in Two Special Elections

Georgia’s 6th and Kansas’ 4th move in Democrats’ direction

Democrat Jon Ossoff, right, raised an eye-catching $8.3 million in the first quarter for his campaign for Georgia’s 6th District open seat. (Courtesy Jon Ossoff for Congress Facebook page)

Republicans might be riding high after Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court, but reality could come crashing down on the GOP in two upcoming special elections. 

On April 18, voters will go to the polls in Georgia’s 6th District, vacated by Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Donald Trump narrowly carried the district over Hillary Clinton in the suburban Atlanta seat last fall, but it’s a traditionally Republican seat.

Former Capitol Hill aide Jon Ossoff, 30, is riding the Democratic energy stemming from Trump’s election and raised an astounding $8.3 million in the first three months of the year — a staggering amount for a House candidate. For some perspective, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland took an entire cycle to raise $10.7 million for his Ohio Senate race last year.

In the beginning, Ossoff looked like a long shot to make the June 20 runoff, but now he has the opportunity to win the race outright by winning a majority in the open primary later this month. Democrats are dominating early voting and, most importantly, could be changing the makeup of the electorate by turning out low propensity voters.

Most public and private polls have Ossoff in the low to mid-40s and leading the field by a wide margin. Based on his position, the difficulty of accurately predicting special election turnout, the polls’ margins of error, and Ossoff’s financial advantage, we are changing the Inside Elections/Roll Call rating from Lean Republican to Toss-Up.

You can read the full analysis about the rating change in the April 7 issue of Inside Elections.

Republicans are also trying to avoid an unexpected problem in Kansas’ 4th District, where Mike Pompeo vacated his seat to become CIA director. 

The April 11 race between Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes and Democrat James Thompson, a lawyer, hasn’t received a lot of attention, but the National Republican Congressional Committee recently began an ad campaign in a district Trump carried comfortably in November. National and local Democrats haven’t put in much time or effort into the race, but there is some GOP concern about the enthusiasm gap and the quality of the Estes campaign.

We’re changing the Inside Elections/Roll Call rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. You can read more analysis on the race in the April 7 issue of Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

If Democrats can maintain their enthusiasm and scale the turnout to more races next year, Republicans better look out.

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