Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Georgia Special Election Might Embarrass Trump Tonight

Jon Ossoff, GA Democratic congressional candidate
Jon Ossoff, the 30-year old Congressional candidate might
upset the political order with a win in his race for an empty seat
A special election today for Georgia’s 6th Congressional district might be won by a Democrat. The seat was vacated by Tom Price who was made Secretary of Health and Human Services by Trump. The Democratic nominee is Jon Ossoff, a 30- year old small businessman and former congressional staffer.

Ossoff has run a strong campaign for the seat declaring his candidacy in January. He made headlines when he sent an email saying, “Make Trump Furious” framing his election as a dent in Trump or part of “the Resistance”. He has been able to raise more than $8.3 million for the special election which has led many to take notice. That’s 17 times more than his closest opponent. Less than half a million came from within Georgia itself, though the near 200,000 donations averaged $43 per donor suggesting that a legitimate virtual grassroots network is propelling Ossoff versus receiving funding from a few large donors.

In addition to raising huge sums of money, Ossoff has been polling near 40% in recent days.  However, his success has made National Republicans kick into high gear. It’s well-publicized that he doesn’t currently live in the district, despite having been raised there. In addition, Trump recorded a robocall criticizing Ossoff that was sent out yesterday. $2.2 million has been spent by Republican PACs criticizing his age and allegations that he padded his resume his time as a congressional staffer

While his opponents have been portraying his age as a liability, he might be able to turn that into an advantage. Twenty-seven percent of registered voters in the district are between the ages of 18 and 34 and thus might be welcome a fellow Millennial as their Congressman.

Due in part to the nature of Georgia’s election rules, there are 17 other candidates running against Ossoff for the seat, including multiple Republicans. Thus, it’s likely the top vote-getters will compete in a runoff scheduled for June 20th. At that point, it might be far more difficult for Ossoff to compete against a single Republican backed a by a united party and funded by mega-donors.

Georgia’s 6th district, situated outside Atlanta, is staunchly conservative and quite wealthy. It was formerly held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich while in Congress. Price himself was also extremely conservative while in Congress and recently led the failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as HHS Secretary. But while the district has been historically Republican, Trump only won it by 1.5 percent.  

A win tonight would reinvigorate the Democratic Party which has been struggling to recover in the wake of Trump’s victory last November. It would likely be seen as a sign that the party has been reinvigorated by its time in the opposition and can expect support in many formerly solid Republican districts.

Many diehards Democrats are especially anxious to see this election as the turning point against Trump. In the recent Kansas election to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo, James Thompson, the Democratic candidate came extremely close to winning the seat with 46 percent of the vote despite receiving little support from the national party. It should be noted Ossoff has tried to portray himself as a near centrist in contrast to Thompson who portrayed himself being more in the mold of a Bernie Sanders progressive.

However, Georgia’s 6th district is not the ideal place to hold a special election that will be the turning point against Trump. The fact that the district has been held by Republicans since the Carter Administration doesn’t bode well in attempts to win it in the first place let alone hold the seat in the upcoming midterm elections. In fact, it has been 21 years since a Democrat won at least 40 percent of the vote in the district. There are far more districts throughout the Midwest which were held by a Democrat at one point during the Obama Administration where Democrats have performed better in the past. But if Ossoff does ultimately win the race, then Trump and the Republicans are going to be doomed sooner than expected.