Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Georgia 13: Democrats Sound the Alarm

By Nathan L. Gonzales

“Emergency Funds Needed for Rep. David Scott,” blared the subject line of the Oct. 21 e-mail about Georgia’s 13th district race.

It’s a strange juxtaposition in a national environment that strongly favors the Democrats and a Democratic Congressman who represents a district that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won in the 2004 White House election with more than 60 percent of the vote.

But publicly and privately, Democrats are trying to focus attention on the Atlanta-area Congressional district.

Scott, an African-American former state legislator, was first elected in 2002 with 60 percent. He ran unopposed in 2004 and took 69 percent in 2006. Scott, who is the brother-in-law of baseball legend Hank Aaron, represents a district that is approximately 41 percent black and about 8 percent Hispanic. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is expected to do very well in the district.

According to new Democratic polling for Scott’s campaign, Obama is winning the district 56 percent to 35 percent. But in the Congressional ballot test, the Congressman is only ahead narrowly, 43 percent to 38 percent, over physician Deborah Honeycutt (R). The poll was conducted Oct. 13-14 by Cooper and Secrest Associates.

Honeycutt, who is also African-American, ran against Scott two years ago and lost by more than 30 points. But the e-mail for Scott sounded the alarm anyway, pointing to the recent poll numbers and Honeycutt’s fundraising.

It is true that Honeycutt had raised a jaw-dropping $4.3 million this cycle, through Sept. 30. But the vast majority of that money was spent raising the money through direct mail, and only a small percentage was netted for the campaign. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, roughly one-tenth of Honeycutt’s money has been spent on television, and virtually all of that has been on cable.

Scott raised $966,000 through the end of September. In 2006, Honeycutt and Scott each spent about $1.3 million.

“There is too much at stake to risk complacency here,” the e-mail said. Separate polling confirms that Scott is underperforming in the district, but the e-mail and Democratic push for attention looks to be less about a legitimate fear of a Republican takeover and more about lighting a fire under a lazy Congressman. Scott started airing an attack ad on Friday going after Honeycutt for supporting a “fair tax.”

It is simply unlikely that a Democratic seat like this would flip in the current political environment. And Honeycutt’s fundraising numbers are more bark than bite. Republicans are not optimistic about their chances in Georgia’s 13th and don’t have the money to throw at scenarios.

This story first appeared on RollCall.com on October 24, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.