Georgia Special Election Makes American History; Voters’ Education Marks the Race’s Significance
Today’s special election in the 6th Congressional District of Georgia, known as GA-06, has garnered national attention due to its record-breaking amount of outside spending and President Trump’s personal involvement on Twitter. This election is not only the most expensive House race in American history, but it is also seen as a test of the effectiveness of the democratic system during the Trump era.
According to Nate Cohn of The New York Times, the suspense surrounding this race extends beyond the boundaries of the district. He explains that the competitiveness of the race can be attributed to the impact of education. There are 15 districts in which over half of the adults hold a college degree, and only one of them is represented by a Republican, Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, which was narrowly won by Rep. Barbara Comstock in 2016. GA-06 is currently vacant, awaiting the election results, but it has been consistently held by Republicans since 1978 when Newt Gingrich first won it. In the 2016 election, former representative Tom Price won by a significant margin before being appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. However, Donald Trump only won the district by 1.5 points, indicating a close race.
(Photo courtesy The Upshot)
GA-06 is what journalist Ron Brownstein refers to as a "lo-hi" district, meaning it has low levels of diversity but high levels of education compared to the national average. These districts are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans currently holding 44 seats and Democrats holding 39. Elections in these districts are often closely contested. This dynamic was reflected in the 2016 election when traditionally red districts gave Hillary Clinton a surprising majority, while low-education areas in Democratic strongholds fell to Trump. Trump narrowly won GA-06, but lost other Republican-leaning districts to Democrats, including NJ-7, PA-7, and VA-10.
GA-06 has a higher percentage of college graduates compared to those other districts. In this election, Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel both belong to the district’s "hi" percentage of white voters. However, Handel falls into the "lo" proportion of adults without a college degree, as she did not graduate from the University of Maryland. This fact has been used against her by political opponents in previous elections. On the other hand, Ossoff holds degrees from Georgetown and the London School of Economics.
Democrats have not directly focused their campaign on the district’s voters’ educational attainment. However, education is clearly on their minds, as they have used Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a prominent Republican donor, as a target for fundraising purposes. The response to this line of attack will become evident once the voting concludes tonight.