Georgia could make millions off earlier presidential primary, study says

An earlier presidential contest could rake in $220 million in additional revenue for the Peach State.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 7:54 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Georgia could stand to see economic impacts in the hundreds of millions if it were to move its primary season up, according to one Emory University economics professor.

Tom Smith at Emory’s Goizueta Business School estimates an earlier presidential contest could rake in somewhere around $220 million in additional revenue for the Peach State, as candidates and campaign staff spend on lodging, office space, supplies, food and transportation.

“They come to town a year or more ahead of time and camp out, and open up offices, and have rallies and buy barbeque,” he said. “They spend money, they spend a considerable amount of money.”

Smith says the formula is simple: earlier primaries feature more candidates and equate to more spending. Smith has studied early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire and has noted a consistent pattern of larger economic impacts tied to earlier primaries.

With any big event, host cities and states stand to benefit. Smith points to the roughly $100 million impact of events like the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star game hosted by Atlanta in years past. With a primary, he says it wouldn’t just be Atlanta’s gain; the impact would be statewide as candidates vie for Georgia’s electoral votes.

RELATED: Democratic officials tour Atlanta as a site for 2024 national convention

“It’s not like they’re all just going to go to Fulton County or DeKalb County,” Smith said. “They have to go out to Savannah, they have to go out to Athens, they have to go down to Warner Robbins, they have to go up to Rome.”

The impact, of course, is contingent on Georgia actually moving its primary date up. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has indicated that move is unlikely, and some lawmakers want to keep things the way they are in 2024.

“Whether it gets moved up or not, I think you can’t argue with the fact that Georgia’s been a political epicenter of the country for the last two, four, six years,” said Georgia Rep. Scott Hilton, (R – Peachtree Corners.). “I think whatever we do, we’ve got to make it easy for voters to understand when to vote, how to vote, where to vote. That’s really, really critical. And so I get a little nervous when we start playing around with dates and different elections and things like that.”

Smith says an early primary in the 2028 presidential election cycle could be even more beneficial in terms of dollars. If President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump were to bow out of the race or term out, the field would be wide open, and likely to feature a large number of candidates on both sides.

As state officials consider what to do about Georgia’s primary, there’s also a serious conversation about bringing the Democratic National Convention to Atlanta in 2024. An event of that scale would also add to the possibility of big dollars coming to the city.