State Rep. Houston Gaines’ comments to Oconee County Republicans were unvarnished.
“We both have a significant challenge coming up in November,” Gaines said, speaking for himself and Rep. Marcus Wiedower. “It’s going to be a real fight.”
Gaines was speaking at the end of July when the Oconee County Republican Party opened its campaign headquarters at 1050 Barber Creek Drive, off Mars Hill Road.
State Sen. Bill Cowsert made a similar comment at the party’s meeting in August, saying “If we don’t get out and vote for them, it (a defeat) can happen.”
Neither Gaines nor Cowsert gave details for their concerns, but the reasons can been seen in the numbers from the June 9 primaries.
Democrat Mokah Jasmine Johnson got more votes running unopposed in the Democratic Primary for the 117th House District on that date than Gaines got running unopposed in the Republican Primary.
In the 119th House District races, Wiedower got more votes running unopposed in the Republican Primary than Jonathan Wallace got running unopposed in the Democratic Primary.
But Wallace did better in traditionally Republican Oconee County than Wiedower did in traditionally Democratic Clarke County, and that could be a problem for Wiedower come Nov. 3 if Clarke County turnout increases.
The June 9 primaries were just that, and it is impossible to know how well the data from them will translate to the fall general election.
But projections, based on the data from June 9 and Sept. 1 registration data for the two districts, indicate that if turnout is proportionate to registration in all counties that make up the districts, Johnson would win and Wiedower and Wallace would end in a virtual tie–separated by only a few votes.
Gaines and Wiedower are likely to repeat their warning on Monday night when they are featured at the 6:30 p.m. meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.
117th Primary Votes
Four counties contribute to the 117th House District–Barrow, Clarke, Jackson and Oconee. Oconee’s East Oconee, Marswood Hall, and Bogart precincts are in the 117th.
In the June 9 Republican Primary, 6,382 voters cast a ballot for Gaines, and in the June 9 Democratic Primary, 6,493 voters cast a ballot for Johnson. That is a gap of 50.4 percent for Johnson and 49.6 percent for Gaines.
Johnson got 30 percent or less of the votes cast in the parts of Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties in District 117, but she got nearly 70 percent of the vote cast in that part of Clarke County in the 117th.
Simply put, more Republican ballots with Gaines’ name checked were cast in three of the counties, and more Democratic ballots with Johnson’s name checked were cast in Clarke County.
But Clarke County accounted for only 53.5 percent of the ballots cast (either for Johnson or Gaines) in the June 9 primaries, yet 56.8 percent of the registered voters in the District as of Sept. 1 live in Clarke County.
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Oconee County, in contrast, accounted for 27.1 percent of the votes cast in the June 9 primaries in District 117, but it accounts for only 22.6 percent of the registered voters in the District as of Sept. 1.
If voters follow the pattern of the June 9 primary and turnout is proportionate to registration–big ifs--Johnson would end up with 52 percent of the vote and Gaines with 48 percent.
Johnson can win narrowly by keeping the same ratio of votes in Clarke and keeping the turnout ratio at the June 9 level, and she can win more comfortably by maintaining her ratio and increasing turnout in Clarke.
Gaines can win by increasing his ratio and increasing turnout even more in Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties.
119th Primary Vote
The 119th is made up of the remaining nine precincts of Oconee County and parts of Clarke County.
In the June 9 Republican Primary, 7,570 voters cast a ballot for Wiedower, and in the June 9 Democratic Primary, 6,321 voters cast a ballot for Wallace. That is a gap of 54.5 percent for Wiedower and 45.5 percent for Wallace.
Wiedower got 23.3 percent of the votes cast in the two primaries in Clarke County and 74.6 percent of the votes cast in the two primaries in Oconee County.
Wallace did slightly better in Oconee County, with 25.4 percent of the votes cast in the two primaries. He had 76.7 percent of the votes cast in the two primaries in Clarke County.
Again, more Republican Ballots with Wiedower’s name checked were cast in Oconee County, and more Democratic Ballots with Wallace’s name checked were cast in Clarke County.
Oconee County accounted for 60.8 percent of the votes cast in the June 9 primary in the 119th, but, based on the Sept. 1 registration, Oconee County is only 52.1 percent of the active voters.
Clarke voters cast 39.2 percent of the votes in the two June 9 primaries, but it has 47.9 percent of the registered voters, as of Sept. 1, in the 119th.
If voters follow the pattern of the June 9 primary and turnout is proportionate to registration–again, big ifs–Wiedower would end up with just a few votes more than 50 percent of the vote and Wallace would end us with just a few votes less than 50 percent.
Rounded, the estimates on the two percentages are both 50.0.
To win more securely, Wiedower needs to boost even more the turnout in Oconee County or cut into Wallace’s support there and/or in Clarke County.
Wallace needs to increase the turnout in Clarke County beyond its proper weight–something that is likely to be difficult to do–or increase his support there and/or in Oconee County.
Summary And Video
The candidates know these numbers, and the numbers support the view that these two races are very tight and can go either way.
Gaines said at that July Oconee County Republican Party meeting that high turnout in Oconee County was essential to his and Wiedower’s success.
Gaines also said that the Democratic Party had a lot of money to spend and was targeting his and Wiedower’s seats.
Campaign finance reports show, however, that Gaines and Wiedower have significantly larger amounts of money in their own accounts than do Johnson and Wallace.
“It is just so critical that we win these seats in 2020,” Gaines said back in July. “We have a real fight in November.”
The video below, recorded by Sarah Bell, is from the July meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party.
Gaines began his comments at 8:55 in the video.
The OCDC continues to have our meetings via zoom because it is the responsible thing to do. I wish they would at least wear masks.
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