Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, left, and state Sen. David Shafer. Submitted photos.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Results show voters shifted to Duncan after negative campaign ads targeting Shafer

While Georgia’s early voters backed state Sen. David Shafer in the Republican lieutenant governor runoff, an election day edge for former state Rep. Geoff Duncan lifted him to victory.

That shift came after campaign advertisements and mailings backed by $3 million from a dark money fund targeted Shafer.

During the three weeks of early voting, which ran from July 2 to July 20, nearly 53 percent of voters cast their ballots for Shafer. More than 157,000 people voted early in the Republican primary runoff. 

Duncan took a slight lead among election day voters, with a 51.3 percent of those casting ballots choosing the Cumming Republican. Nearly 400,000 voters showed up to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the Republican runoff.

The numbers show the impact of negative campaign ads and mailers targeting Shafer and paid for by an out-of-state “independent” group, the Washington-based Hometown Freedom Action Network.

The political action committee received most of its donations from dark-money group Citizens for a Working America, which doesn’t disclose donors. The organization reported about $3.3 million in contributions to spend against Shafer.

Mailers and ads began appearing around July 6, after one week of early voting. 

Shafer lost ground from the May primary in 51 counties, including Gwinnett County where he lives. While he still won the county with 56 percent of the Gwinnett vote, the share of the vote he received dropped by nearly seven percentage points.

Shafer, a Duluth Republican, nearly won the May primary outright, receiving 49 percent of the vote in what was then a three-way race. 

On Tuesday, Duncan beat Shafer by less than 1 percent — or 1,742 votes — according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Shafer has yet to concede the election. In a statement, he said he is waiting for more information on provisional ballots that were cast.

According to state law, if a race is within 1 percent, the losing candidate has until two days after the results have been certified to request a recount. The Secretary of State’s Office has until 5 p.m. Aug. 7 to certify the results from Tuesday’s vote.

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