The race for Georgia governor remains very tight with Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams in a virtual tie – little changed over the course of the past two months despite millions of dollars being poured into each campaign. In a race that has drawn national attention, Democrats and liberal supporters around the country are hoping that Abrams will become the first black woman ever elected governor in this country. And it could happen, depending on whose supporters are more motivated to go to the polls and how the undecided votes are cast.
With just a little more than a week to go before the Nov. 6 election, polls showed Kemp leading Abrams by two percentage points or less, well within the margin of error, thus a tossup:
* In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, Kemp led 47 percent to 46 percent for Abrams among likely voters.
* An earlier poll by WXIA/SurveyUSA had Kemp at 47 percent and Abrams at 45 percent with two percent for another candidate and four percent undecided.
* In an AJC/Channel 2 poll, Kemp led 47.7 percent to 46.3 percent with Libertarian Ted Metz at 2.3 percent and four percent of voters still undecided.
Independents pose a big challenge for Kemp, according to two of the three polls. Among likely independent voters in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 40 percent said they would vote for Abrams, versus 29 percent for Kemp, 18 percent for Metz, with 12 percent undecided. In the earlier AJC/WSB poll, Abrams had a huge lead of 52.3 percent among independents to 28.5 percent for Kemp although the earlier Survey/USA poll showed that 46 percent of independents backed him versus 29 percent for Abrams. The Democrat led among voters who described themselves as moderates, another challenge for Kemp. The race comes down to rural versus urban to a large extent. Kemp leads among rural voters and Abrams among urban voters – and also by 11 points among suburban women.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Geoff Duncan led Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico 45.4 percent to 39.3 percent with 15.3 percent undecided. For secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger led Democrat John Barrow 41.4 percent to 36.8 percent, according to the AJC/Channel 2 poll. In congressional races involving Cobb, Cherokee and several other metro counties, Sixth District Republican incumbent Rep. Karen Handel is being challenged by Democrat newcomer Lucy McBath; and 11th District Republican incumbent Barry Loudermilk faces Democrat newcomer Flynn D. Broady. These districts were once solidly Republican and even though the demographics are changing, Handel and Loudermilk are expected to retain their seats.
On the money front, Kemp and Abrams are in a virtual tie, almost matching each other in raising campaign contributions, per their latest financial reports. Combined, they took in $22 million during the third quarter, Kemp with $11.8 million and Abrams with $10.2 million. Kemp had $16.9 million overall and Abrams $16.3 million. They had plenty of cash to fund attack ads which are usually the most effective tool in winning elections. Reflecting the chasm in spending between the gubernatorial race and the down-ballot contests, the combined total for the lieutenant governor candidates was less than $4 million. Duncan was the leader with $2.2 million in contributions versus Amico’s $1.4 million, while Raffensperger had $1.9 million and Barrow $1.4 million. In the attorney general’s race, incumbent Republican Chris Carr out-raised Democrat Charlie Bailey with $1.9 million in contributions.
On the hyperactive litigation front, Kemp continues to come under fire as a candidate and as secretary of state. He and all county registrars in Georgia have been hit with a lawsuit by the ACLU demanding “that they provide due process for Georgia voters whose absentee ballots or applications are being rejected due to an alleged mismatch of signatures.” The ACLU asked a federal court for a temporary restraining order requiring elections officials “to provide absentee voters the opportunity to confirm their identity or otherwise resolve the alleged discrepancy.” Kemp’s office pointed out that local elections boards are totally responsible for absentee ballot eligibility. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and the Georgia Muslim Voter Project. This latest legal action follows a full-scale assault by Abrams and supporters accusing Kemp of using his power as secretary of state to suppress minority voting – a charge he has refuted.
The bottom line is this: all the accusations and lawsuits are negatively affecting Kemp’s campaign at a critical point when he needs to be gaining ground. If the polls are fairly accurate and the trends hold, Kemp would need to get roughly half of the undecided voters to squeak out a victory but there’s the possibility that the Libertarian votes could deny either candidate a majority and force a runoff. In short, the race could go either way in this demographically new Georgia.