The Sixth Congressional District Special Election

February 15, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

The special election for Georgia's Sixth Congressional District will be held on Tuesday, February 23rd. The Sixth Congressional District covers most of northern metro Atlanta including parts of the counties of Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett. The special election was triggered by the abrupt decision of Speaker Newt Gingrich to resign his seat in Congress following the Republican Party's disappointing results at the 1998 mid-term elections.

The qualifying period for the technically non-partisan race has just ended, and the almost certain new congressman from the 6th District will be Johnny Isakson, a prominent Cobb County businessman and long time Republican activist. Isakson has served seven terms in the Georgia House, two terms in the Georgia Senate, and was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor in 1990. He lost a heart-breaking race for the U.S. Senate in 1996, defeated in the GOP primary runoff by businessman Guy Millner. Millner and others attacked Isakson as the "liberal" candidate for both his pro-choice stance on abortion and for his mainstream conservative record in the Georgia General Assembly. Isakson has urged the party to focus on the traditional Republican issues of lower taxes, less government, economic growth, and a strong defense/foreign policy agenda.

The final field for the 6th Congressional District race is noticeable for its lack of strong candidates besides Johnny Isakson. The eight candidate field has been dubbed by one local politico as "Johnny and the Seven Dwarves." Georgia's 6th District is one of the most heavily Republican in the nation with virtually all state and local officeholders within the district wearing the Republican label. Yet, every one of those officeholders decided not to challenge Isakson, who has the endorsement of Newt Gingrich.

Two of Isakson's opponents, Christina Jeffrey and Barry Doublestein, will be able to generate some attention in this election. Christina Jeffrey is a history professor at Kennesaw State University and resides in the 7th Congressional District. She is infamous for her hiring and subsequent firing as U.S. House Historian under Speaker Gingrich. The job termination was related to her college teaching of a book that called into question the existence of the Holocaust. Jeffrey draws her rather limited support from Religious Right and militia types in Cobb County.

Barry Doublestein does not live in the 6th District either; in fact, he presently serves as the Republican chairman for the 11th Congressional District! Doublestein has been a major force in the Religious Right takeover of the Gwinnett County Republican Party in the 1990's. Yet, Gwinnett County precincts comprise less than 15 percent of the 6th District, giving him a rather small base of support. Though neither Jeffrey nor Doublestein will have Isakson's vast financial resources, strong geographic base, political network or experience, both can be expected to garner some media attention and extreme right-wing support. Yet, neither pose any significant threat to Johnny Isakson's election to Congress.

The remainder of the special election field is comprised of unknowns and perennial candidates, such as Democrat Gary "Bats" Pelphrey who garnered 28% of the vote against Newt Gingrich in the November 1998 election. Pelphrey spent virtually no money and did little campaigning. His 28% of the vote was purely the anti-Newt vote in the district. He will not be a major factor in the special election.

Johnny Isakson will have to win an outright majority (50% + 1) to claim the congressional seat on February 23rd. If he is forced into a runoff election, a possibility in an eight-candidate field, the runoff would be held three weeks later, Tuesday, March 16th. The prediction here is that Johnny Isakson will avoid a runoff and will be sworn into Congress later this month by Speaker Dennis Hastert.