Where will Hunter Hill’s voters go?

On July 24, Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle (R) and Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) will compete in a runoff election for the Georgia Republican gubernatorial nomination. In the May 22 primary, Cagle received 236,371 votes (38.9%), Kemp received 155,324 (25.6%), former state Sen. Hunter Hill received 111,452 (18.3%), businessman Clay Tippins received 74,242 (12.2%), and state Sen. Michael Williams received 29,546 (4.9%).

My basic understanding of runoffs in Georgia is that they are low turnout affairs and there is only one group of persuadable voters: those who went with another candidate in the original primary. In other words, there won’t be many voters switching between Team Cagle and Team Kemp and, even though it’s not a requirement under Georgia law, most July 24 voters will have also voted on May 22. So the keys for Cagle and Kemp will be 1) keeping the turnout for their May 22 bases as high as possible (there will inevitably be some dropoff) and 2) winning over the persuadable voters.

On the first point, I would give Kemp an advantage. He is the grassroots candidate between the two, so I will make the evidence-free claim that the May 22 Kemp voters will turn out at a higher rate than the May 22 Cagle voters. I don’t know how substantial this difference would be or if it will change dramatically once the candidates begin attacking each other. That’s just my gut.

On the second point, it is worth looking at the geographic distribution of voters that went for another candidate on May 22. Right now, I only have the data to look at Hunter Hill voters. As you can see below, many of Hill’s supporters (about 23.6 percent) came from Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties. If we expand to Forsyth, Cherokee, DeKalb and Hall, you get 35.4 percent of Hill’s voters. Start taking in more of metro Atlanta and other urban/suburban counties (Columbia, Chatham, Muscogee, Fayette, Paulding, Richmond, Glynn, Coweta, Henry, and Houston) and you have captured 55.2 percent of Hill voters.

So, these 17 counties account for well over half of Hill voters. We obviously can’t know the individual preferences of Hill voters, but if they are anything like their neighbors, they might prefer Cagle. He won all 17 counties and, what’s more, Hill beat Kemp in six of them, including the all-important counties of Fulton and Cobb.

The relative urban concentration of Cagle/Hill supporters may be because Kemp billed himself as the candidate of rural Georgia. This seems to be generally true looking at the relative wider distribution of his voters. It takes 17 counties to reach 55 percent of Hill’s voters and 22 counties to reach the same percentage for Cagle. It takes 25 counties for Kemp.

Enjoy the map below, and access the underlying data here if you have other ideas about how to use it. Also, let me know when you see the Tippins and/or Williams data by county on the SoS website and we can analyze that next.


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