U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, maintains a solid lead against her rivals in fundraising for this year’s election to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
McBath has reported just over $2.3 million in contributions for her campaign so far, out-fundraising nearest rival Republican and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, by over a million dollars.
Handel, whom McBath ousted in 2018 by just under 3,000 votes to take the traditionally Republican seat, has reported just over $1 million in campaign contributions to date.
McBath and Handel are the main front-runners in the race, with a few other Republicans trailing behind contributions-wise, based on reports lodged with the Federal Election Commission.
“All things being equal, I would expect (McBath) to win,” said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor, citing the power of incumbency. “In the U.S. House incumbents win about 99% of the time, so it’s a fairly safe bet.”
But Bullock isn’t ruling Handel out, emphasizing the district is competitive, although he said a few other factors are playing into McBath’s favor this year.
McBath won the seat in a midterm election, despite that typically drawing fewer Democratic voters, and so it’s likely she’ll have more supporters at the polls in 2020, a presidential year, Bullock said, adding McBath’s also had two years since her win to gain support among constituents.
Bullock also highlighted the demographic change in the 6th District, which encompasses parts of east Cobb, most of the northern Atlanta suburbs and the northern parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties.
“Probably literally every week it becomes a little bit more Democratic, with the people who are moving in and those who are moving out,” he said.
Given McBath’s financial lead against Handel at this stage, the incumbent is likely to continue to generate more funds than her competitors, Bullock added.
“Money begets money, so if a candidate shows she’s raising a lot of money that will encourage other people to donate, it’s a good investment,” he said. “It’s easier to raise money as an incumbent and Karen Handel also has a reputation for not being a particularly good fundraiser.”
One thing that could hamper McBath’s campaign is if the Democratic presidential candidate is too liberal, like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Bullock said.
“He would be a pretty hard sell in Georgia, so that would work to the advantage of the Republicans up and down.”
Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, also said incumbents have an easier time of campaigning, but that Handel has a chance in the 6th Congressional District race, in part because it’s on the radar of politicians nationwide.
“It will get plenty of dollars and attention,” Swint said. “Handel can still win.”
Her chances of taking the seat likely depend on how well President Donald Trump is received locally as the Republican candidate, Swint said.
“If turnout and enthusiasm (for Trump) is high, Handel has a chance,” he said. “It’s down to those two (Handel and McBath).”
Qualifying for the race ends on March 6, with a primary election on May 19, a primary run-off (if needed) on July 21 and the general election on Nov. 3.