Why Georgia’s Special Election Could Shake Up The Political World

Photo: John Bazemore/AP
Update: Final tallies showed Ossoff falling just short of the 50% he would need to win the Congressional seat outright, so the election will indeed proceed to a runoff in June, CNN reports. Ossoff will compete against Republican candidate Karen Handel.
This story was originally published on April 18, 2017 at 10:50 p.m.
An election taking place in Atlanta's northern suburbs Tuesday may give Democrats all across America some hope.
Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker, is hoping to ride an anti-Trump wave all the way to Congress. As of 10:40 p.m. ET, CNN reported that the 30-year-old had 50.3% of the vote in the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
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There are 18 different candidates hoping to replace former Representative Tom Price, who became Trump’s health and human services secretary. However, none of them have received as much press attention and donations as Ossoff. He has amassed $8.3 million in campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2017, according to USA Today. Most of those donations came from outside the state, courtesy of liberal blog Daily Kos, which has been hyping him. He also got attention for using the slogan “Make Trump Furious” in an email appeal to voters.
The president has blasted Ossoff on Twitter and in robocalls.
Trump has also pointed out one odd detail about Ossoff’s congressional bid: He can’t vote for himself, because he doesn’t live in the district he’s trying to represent. Although there is no legal requirement that candidates reside in the district in which they are running, it has been used against him.
“Well, I grew up in this district,” Ossoff told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota when pressed on the subject. “I grew up in this community. It’s my home. My family is still there. I’m a mile and a half down the street to support Alicia while she finishes medical school. I am proud to be supporting her career. As soon as she finishes her medical training, I’ll be 10 minutes back up road where I grew up.”
Ossoff has been targeted by more than $4 million in attack ads courtesy of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC. They tried to paint him as a frat boy and belittle his experience by using a video of him dressed as Han Solo from Star Wars for a spoof film made during his undergrad days at Georgetown.
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However, Ossoff has been able to withstand the GOP’s attacks and win a lot of support. That alone may affect political discussions across the country.
Tuesday’s election may indicate how future ones — such as the midterms — will play out. Trump has had many missteps since taking office, such as the American Health Care Act and his executive orders on immigration. These broken promises may translate to a loss of support for the GOP in local races.
Republicans still need to figure out the best way to make their pitch to voters under Trump’s presidency. As the Times reported, “Republicans are going to have to decide whether candidates who distance themselves from Mr. Trump or those who run as his mini-me are their strongest candidates.”
“The thing this race will really decide is if we’ve entered a brand new era of politics or if things will snap back to where they were previously,” Geoffrey Skelley, who studies congressional elections at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Vox. “It’s the first big test we’re getting.”
It’s important to note, though: Tuesday’s election is low-hanging fruit to the Democrats. In 2016, Trump barely won the district made up of mostly affluent suburbs north of Atlanta. Additionally, Ossoff is facing a GOP resistance split between 11 different candidates. A single GOP-backed candidate may have fared better.
If he is able to get at least 50%of the vote, he will take the seat outright. If he doesn’t, he will face the second-highest vote-receiving candidate, regardless of their political affiliation, in a runoff election in June.
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