Handel Radio Ad Beats Ga. Opponents to the Airwaves

Karen Handel, U.S. Senate candidate and former Georgia Secretary of State, addresses activists during a political rally at the Georgia State Capitol, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Atlanta.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
Sept. 5, 2013, 4:58 p.m.

With Geor­gia’s con­ten­tious Re­pub­lic­an primary just eight months away, former Sec­ret­ary of State Kar­en Han­del beat her fel­low Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates to the air­waves on Thursday, launch­ing the first ad of the 2014 cam­paign.

Han­del’s early ad, a ra­dio spot de­signed to sep­ar­ate her from the crowd, builds on her at­tempts to por­tray her­self as the out­sider in a race dom­in­ated by cur­rent mem­bers of Con­gress. It hits Reps. Phil Gin­grey, Jack King­ston and Paul Broun, though not by name, for cam­paign­ing against the 2010 health care law, even as they re­ceive in­sur­ance sub­sidies un­der it. Im­pli­cit in the spot’s fo­cus on Pres­id­ent Obama’s sig­na­ture le­gis­lat­ive achieve­ment is that Han­del, who hasn’t be­nefited from the law, will be bet­ter po­si­tioned than her Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ents to make the case against “Obama­care” in a gen­er­al elec­tion cam­paign against likely Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee Michelle Nunn.

The ad is run­ning primar­ily on Re­pub­lic­an-friendly talk ra­dio and coun­try mu­sic sta­tions in the Sa­van­nah, At­lanta and Athens mar­kets, three of the four largest in the state — which also just hap­pen to be King­ston’s, Gin­grey’s and Broun’s home mar­kets, re­spect­ively.

Left un­men­tioned in the ad is busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due, an­oth­er po­ten­tially vi­able Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate. Per­due, who has nev­er held elect­ive of­fice, could be a strong com­pet­it­or for the “out­sider” la­bel. Per­due has prom­ised to draw heav­ily from his per­son­al wealth to fund his cam­paign, but Han­del’s team and the oth­er Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates have largely ig­nored him. Said Han­del spokes­man Dan McLagan: “I’ll take him ser­i­ously when he puts $5 mil­lion of his own money in.”

The early start to Han­del’s ad cam­paign is in part a re­sponse to a fed­er­al judge’s re­cent or­der mov­ing Geor­gia’s primar­ies from its typ­ic­al mid-Ju­ly date up to May 20, giv­ing the Sen­ate can­did­ates even less time to in­tro­duce them­selves to voters. Han­del’s ad will help her build on her already su­per­i­or name re­cog­ni­tion, hav­ing run for gov­ernor in 2010 and served as Sec­ret­ary of State be­fore that. None of her op­pon­ents have run for statewide of­fice be­fore, and while Broun, King­ston and Gin­grey are well known in their dis­tricts, they have a lot of ground to make up with voters in oth­er parts of the state.

The spot is also a sign that Han­del, who entered the race just six weeks be­fore the end of the last fin­an­cial dis­clos­ure peri­od, has money com­ing in the door. McLagan said that Han­del is hav­ing a “really good” third quarter and that he ex­pects her to post strong num­bers at the end of the quarter, which con­cludes this month. But, he cau­tioned, Han­del will be out­spent by her op­pon­ents. Gin­grey has $2.6 mil­lion on hand and King­ston has $2.3 mil­lion in the bank.

Han­del has been in that po­s­i­tion be­fore, McLagan ar­gued, not­ing that Han­del was out­spent by all four of her op­pon­ents in the 2010 gubernat­ori­al primary, which she won, be­fore los­ing a close run­off to now-Gov. Nath­an Deal.

With open races for the con­gress­men’s three seats, an­oth­er likely barn burn­er in Demo­crat­ic Rep. John Bar­row’s 12th Dis­trict and a still sleepy — but po­ten­tially com­pet­it­ive — gubernat­ori­al primary, Geor­gia’s air­waves will be crowded next year, and ad buys could be pricey. Han­del’s team is clearly bet­ting that get­ting on air early, and cheaply, will pay off in May.

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