As the campaign for the seat representing District 80 in the Georgia House of Representatives heads to the wire, it has started to turn both partisan and mean.

Democrat Taylor Bennett and Republican J. Max Davis meet in an Aug. 11 runoff election because neither collected more than half the votes cast in the four-candidate special election on July 14.

Taylor Bennett

Both turned to leaders of their party to draw attention to their campaigns. Davis said he campaigned alongside fellow Republicans such as Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Rep. Tom Price. Bennett has been endorsed by leading state Democrats and said he campaigned in person with District 42 Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta).

Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis

“They’re trying to bring out the Democrats and I’m trying to bring out the Republicans and independents,” Davis said.

At the same time, the campaigns or their supporters mailed out flyers attacking the candidates. “It’s definitely getting mean,” Bennett said.

A flyer supporting Davis accused Bennett of supporting an “Obama-backing, liberal union agenda.” The Democratic Party of Georgia sent out two flyers accusing Davis of covering up sexual harassment claims while he was mayor of Brookhaven.

Davis said he felt “sexual harassment is not an issue. It’s a distraction.” He defended the flyers describing Bennett as too liberal for the district.

Bennett said he considered the attack flyers “tasteless.” He said his campaign didn’t mail the flyer attacking Davis. “They are not mine,” he said. “I completely denounce any of these [attack] mailers.”

The runoff election likely will draw few voters. Fewer than 4,000 voters cast ballots in the July 14 election for the district, which covers Brookhaven and portions of Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody. Bennett collected 37 percent of the vote, with 1,473 votes, and Davis gathered about 31 percent, with 1,259 votes. Any registered voter may vote in the runoff.

Campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the state show Bennett, a former Georgia Tech quarterback, did receive union and progressive political action committee contributions. He also received a $2,500 contribution from his old teammate Calvin Johnson, now a professional football player.

According to reports filed with the state in July, Bennett raised $27,635 and spent $19,594. In later filings, his campaign reported another $12,500 in contributions.

Davis’s July report showed his campaign had raised $40,865 and spent $21,271.

“The good thing is school is back,” Davis said. “The more people that vote make it more likely that I’ll win. The fewer people that vote, the closer it gets.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.