ATLANTA — Memorial Day weekend means barbecues and parades and, with just about two months to go until the primary election, time for candidates to ramp up their campaigning as temperatures soar.
“We’re not that far off from July so, yeah, it’s now or never,” Emory University political science professor Merle Black said.
“The candidates have got to make themselves known, so I would expect to see more television advertisements, maybe radio.”
With only three incumbents running in statewide races and crowded fields on both sides of the aisle, he said, name recognition is likely to be low.
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Candidates in lower-level races have to work especially hard to get their names out, Black said. Turnout in primaries is notoriously low, and after making their choices in the top races voters often leave the rest of the ballot empty if they don’t know who any of the candidates are.
Raising money is especially tough for downticket races as interest groups and big-money donors are also less likely to shell out for those races.
“It’s not like a governorship or a senate race, where you’ve got those offices involved in lots of policy decisions, so you’ve got a wide number of groups that are interested in who is the next governor or the next senator,” Black said.
With money tight — even in the high-profile governor’s race — candidates have to stretch their campaign dollars further.
While they’ll likely increase their stumping in the coming weeks, many may wait until closer to the July 20 primary to take out expensive spots on the airwaves, Black said.
Memorial Day provides a festive and relaxed backdrop for candidates to attend events, shake hands with existing supporters and try to pick up new ones.
GOP governor hopefuls Karen Handel and Nathan Deal plan to march in the Dacula Memorial Day parade and then head to the Gwinnett County GOP barbecue, where fellow Republican candidate John Oxendine will be on hand as well. Democratic governor hopeful Roy Barnes is “heading to the cemetery as he does every Memorial Day,” his campaign manager said.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp and his Republican primary challenger Doug MacGinnitie both plan to walk with supporters in the Dacula parade.
U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat facing primary opposition in his southern Georgia district, is attending a Memorial Day event at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home and the All Wars Monument, both in Augusta.
Some candidates are taking a breather on Memorial Day, using the day off to spend time with their families or to gear up for what will likely be intense weeks of campaigning in the seven weeks or so until the primary, with fundraisers, statewide talking tours and debates to come.