It started with a tweet from Johnny Kauffman, political reporter for WABE news:
That began a bit of friendly banter between several of us who regularly hang out at #gapol, wondering, first of all, whether the 20% estimate was credible, and second even if it was, how many truly competitive seats there were under the Gold Dome, given that most incumbents had successfully fought off their primary challengers. The discussion went on for a bit, reaching no firm conclusion, partially because Donald Trump once again stole the news cycle for the day.
Was he right? It depends on how you define the issue. Of the 105 contested seats in the legislature out of a total of 232, 60 of them will be settled in the primary or July runoff. Only 45 will be contested in November. If your goal is to measure dissatisfaction with incumbents, you should include the primary numbers. If your goal is to measure party challenges, you should measure November. Then you have the question of open seats in the legislature. There are 22 open seats this year. 10 have only Republicans running and 8 only have Democrats, so these will be settled in the primary. 4 seats will be decided in the general, since there are candidates from both parties.
IF you take Kauffman’s tweet literally, and ignore the primaries, he’s pretty much on the money. The winner of 19.1% of the seats will be decided in November. If you take a broader view and include seats that were won in the primaries, including open seats, the percentage goes way up to 44.1%.
Of course, the raw number of challenged seats doesn’t indicate the chances of the incumbent actually losing his or her seat. Our little Twitter discussion group only came up with three candidates where the outcome might be in doubt: Taylor Bennett’s seat in Brookhaven, Joyce Chandler’s seat in Lawrenceville, and Mike Cheokas’s seat in Americus. There are probably more. I can think of JaNice Van Ness’s seat in Rockdale County, for example. Let us know in the comments if you can think of any others.