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Can Democrats Chip Away at Republicans’ Edge in Oconee County?

State Rep. Houston Gaines is among those who've warned of Democratic gains in Oconee County. Credit: Lee Becker

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson told Oconee County Democrats in August of last year that they didn’t have to flip Oconee County for the party to be successful statewide.

Tomlinson, then a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination to face U.S. Sen. David Perdue, said Oconee County Democrats only needed to shave three or four percentage points off the 69.8 percent of the vote Gov. Brian Kemp received in Oconee County in 2018.

Former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond told local Democrats two months later that Oconee County is an excellent opportunity for Democrats because its looks a lot like the Atlanta suburbs turning Democratic because of the influence of college-educated women.

Republicans Bill Cowsert, Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower, representing Oconee County in the Georgia General Assembly, have made it clear at recent gatherings of the Oconee County Republican Party that they, too, are very much focused on how Republican Oconee County votes this election.

For each of these three, Oconee County is part of a firewall created by the Republican legislature against Athens-Clarke County to make it likely that Cowsert’s 46th Senate District, Gaines’ 117th House District and Wiedower’s 119th House District elect Republicans. To guarantee that outcome, Gaines and Wiedower in particular need a big turnout of Republicans in Oconee County.

Turnout already is at record numbers, as the Republicans have been hoping will be the case, but there are some hints as well from recent Democrats performance in high turnout elections that Democrats could have some success cutting into the Republican margins in the county on Tuesday.

Lee Becker

As of the end of early voting on Friday, 15,972 persons had voted advanced in-person in Oconee County, and an additional 5,516 absentee ballots had been received, for a total of 21,488 votes cast.

That is 1,012 more votes than were cast in 2016 at the end of the election and represents a turnout rate without any voting on Election Day of 71.5 percent of active voters and 68.0 percent of all registered voters.

On Nov. 8, 2016, by comparison, 20,476 of Oconee County’s 24,058 registered voters, or 85.1 percent, cast a ballot.

For more, visit Oconee County Observations.

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