This year has been topsy-turvy in so many ways, but could one political mainstay – Republican domination of the U.S. House 9th District that includes Hall County – turn blue in 2020?
Political observers say they doubt it, and that, following the runoff Tuesday, Aug. 11, and looking toward the general election on Nov. 3, Republican nominee Andrew Clyde clearly has the edge over Democrat Devin Pandy.
A change from Republican to Democrat in the Nov. 3 election “would make national news,” says Douglas Young, professor of political science at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville.
“The establishment of the Republican Party has backed Clyde, so he’s got to be the heavy favorite to win. But if there’s any year when the Democrats might could take a very traditionally Republican, conservative congressional seat, maybe this is it, especially with
President Trump,” Young said. “Even though he’s quite popular in this district, he could be one embarrassing tweet away … from costing the Republicans some support.”
“Is there any conceivable situation where a Democrat could win? Yeah, OK, sure. Is it likely? No,” University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said of the race.
While major upsets do happen, usually it’s because the once-favored candidate is facing a major personal crisis, Bullock said. “Criminal activity can turn the tide,” he said.
Brooke Siskin finished first in the June 9 Democratic primary, way ahead of Pandy and challenger Dan Wilson. It was later revealed she had been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in March at a Gwinnett County bank, and police found a loaded handgun in her car. A judge found Siskin in contempt on June 19 for violating a 2012 divorce decree requiring that she surrender weapons.
Pandy received more than two-thirds of the Democratic vote in Aug. 11’s election.
Certainly, the voter turnout in the 9th District, which spans 20 counties, was much higher in the Republican runoff than in the Democratic one.
Clyde won 56.3% of the vote, or 50,057 votes, to state Rep. Matt Gurtler’s 43.7%, 38,836 votes, the Secretary of State’s website reported as of Friday, Aug. 14. By that same time, Pandy had received 68.5% of the Democratic vote, or 8,013 votes, to Siskin’s 3,691 votes, or 31.5%, the Secretary of State’s office reported Friday.
Clyde and Pandy are vying for a seat held by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a strong backer of Trump who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler.
Pandy, an Army veteran who recently moved to Gainesville, said he’s optimistic about the upcoming general election.
“I am ready to move on … and let people know that they don’t have to be afraid of Devin Pandy, the Democrat,” he said Tuesday, Aug. 11. “This is Devin Pandy, the person, the soldier who fought for his country and now the candidate who is fighting for his district. … I just want everybody to know that, putting labels aside, all I want for this district, for this state and for this country is for everyone to be treated fairly, with dignity and to be able to live their lives with respect and not living paycheck to paycheck – to have an equitable and happy existence.”
Republican Andrew Clyde, an Athens-based gun dealer and Navy veteran, narrowly trailed Gurtler in the nine-way primary in June but reaped support and endorsements from many state Republicans. Clyde touted his successful advocacy of restrictions on the IRS after the agency seized $940,000 from him in 2013.
“It was a hard-fought victory,” he said in an interview Thursday, Aug. 13. “The people of the 9th District believed in me, and I’m honored and humbled. We’re ready to move forward and win in November for our president. I think the 9th District holds a lot of influence in the state of Georgia because we are so Republican.”
Besides his own race, Clyde said he believes “we need to get our president re-elected … for the economy of the nation, for the good of the nation. Though that’s not a specific (campaign) issue, I think it is when it comes to our overall economy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.