Politics

Georgia Runoff Will Decide State's Next Congressman

Two Republicans face off in race to replace Lynn Westmoreland

The House race in Georgia between Mike Crane, above right, and Drew Ferguson is getting attention from far outside the state. (Mike Crane for Congress/YouTube)

One of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s first stops after his controversial speech at the Republican National Convention last week, in which he didn’t endorse GOP nominee Donald Trump, was in Georgia’s 3rd District.

Cruz has endorsed state Sen. Michael Crane, who’s running in a Tuesday runoff against Drew Ferguson, the former mayor of West Point, Georgia, to fill the open seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

[ Lynn Westmoreland Won't Seek Re-election ]

Crane won just 93 more votes than Ferguson in the May primary.

“If you want to see a federal government that finally does its job, secures the borders, stops illegal immigration, elect Mike Crane to Congress,” Cruz told the crowd at a “Rally for Freedom” on Friday in Newnan, Georgia.

What had been dismissed as a fairly sleepy congressional race — the primary winner in this Safe Republican seat is practically assured of going to Congress — has attracted some national attention, and not just because Cruz flocked here after being booed at the RNC.

Crane is known in Georgia for making controversial statements, but his comments about shooting police officers took on a new life this year after the killings of law enforcement officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

[ Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide: House ]

Republicans have made support for the police a big part of this year’s election, with nominee Donald Trump channeling a campaign message about law and order, and many delegates to the Republican convention sporting “Blue Lives Matter” buttons.

But at a meet-and-greet earlier this year, Crane suggested he was comfortable shooting police if they tried to search his house with a "no-knock" warrant, with which police can enter a private home to conduct a search without knocking.

“You come to my house, kick down my door — if I have an opportunity, I will shoot you dead. And every one of you should do the same,” Crane said.

The Fraternal Order of Police protested Crane’s rally with Cruz last week, and sheriffs across the district have backed Ferguson.

Ferguson aired an ad attacking Crane for his comments, and suggesting he had endorsed shooting police officers, but it was temporarily pulled after the attack in Dallas. 

Crane maintains that his resistance to no-knock warrants is in the best interest of law enforcement. “It really is an issue of safety, not only for whoever is on the other side of that door, but for law enforcement,” he has said. 

[ Club For Growth PAC Jumps in Against Huelskamp Challenger ]

Besides Cruz, Club for Growth Action is behind Crane, spending over $800,000 on ads calling him "the real deal" and attacking Ferguson as “too liberal for Georgia.” FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express are also backing the state senator.

Crane took in $266,000 during the two-month pre-runoff reporting period and ended with $165,000.

Besides help from the Club for Growth PAC, Crane received money from North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows’ leadership PAC, the pro-Ted Cruz super PAC Make DC Listen, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, as well as Indiana 9th District candidate Jim Banks.  

Ferguson raised $503,000 during the same period, ending the quarter with about $188,000. He has much more establishment support, garnering endorsements from Westmoreland and Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson. 

His campaign has received financial backing from other members of Congress and either their leadership PACs or campaign committees. Those members include Idaho's Mike Simpson, Ohio's Steve Stivers, Florida's Tom Rooney, South Dakota's Kristi Noem, Ohio's Michael R. Turner, Indiana's Jackie Walorski, Ohio's Pat Tiberi, California's Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy’s Majority Committee PAC, Oklahoma's Frank D. Lucas, Minnesota's John Kline, Indiana's Luke Messer, Mississippi's Gregg Harper, Alabama’s Bradley Byrne, North Carolina's Richard Hudson, Georgia's Austin Scott, Alabama's Martha Roby, Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, Texas' Kay Granger, Illinois' Adam Kinzinger, Arkansas' Steve Womack, and North Carolina's Patrick T. McHenry. 

According to an analysis from The Atlanta Journal Constitution, outside groups have spent $2.1 million trying to influence Tuesday's race. 

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