Democrat Jon Ossoff came within about three thousand votes of winning a special election to Congress yesterday in a district that has been represented by Republicans for decades. Georgia's 6th congressional district had been held by Tom Price, but opened up when Price was chosen by Trump to be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. That same seat had also formerly been occupied by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Ossoff received 48% of the vote in the primary, and a combined field of eleven Republicans polled fifty percent. If Ossoff could have broken the 50% mark, he would have won the election outright, but as it now stands he will have to face perennial state candidate and political provocateur Karen Handel in a June runoff election. Handel took 20% of the vote in yesterday's primary.
This election is important because it is seen as a bellwether for the upcoming congressional elections in 2018, ones in which Democrats hope to make significant gains. Georgia's sixth is in the suburbs of Atlanta, a portion of the city that is more affluent and better educated than many areas in the South. Donald Trump carried the district in 2016, but only by one point.
Ossoff, an independent investigative filmmaker and a former congressional aide, ran a smart campaign with a strong cadre of youthful volunteer supporters. He managed to raise a campaign war chest of $8.3 million, most of it in small donations and from out-of-state, and was able to turn the enthusiasm and cash into a formidable campaign machine.
Karen Handel has lost Republican primaries in Georgia for governor and U.S. senator. She identifies closely with Christian fundamentalist campaign issues, and became infamous a few years back when she was forced to resign as head of the Susan G. Komen organization after ending that group's donations to Planned Parenthood - a move that proved to be hugely unpopular. The Komen group later reestablished its ties to Planned Parenthood.
One of the clever campaign signs used by the young Democratic candidate read: "Get Out and Vote Your Ossoff" - and nearly half of yesterday's voters did! Now all of the big political guns - and money - will be trained on Atlanta for June's runoff election.
Give 'em hell, Jon!