Democrat Jon Ossoff already accomplished one seemingly impossible feat in his bid to represent Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District by making the seat competitive. Now he faces the challenge of actually winning it.
Ossoff’s bid to accomplish the latter fell short on Tuesday night, as the 30-year-old Democrat got the most votes in Georgia’s jungle primary by a wide margin, but failed to get the 50 percent plus one that he needed to avoid triggering a runoff election, according to The New York Times. When the final votes were counted in the suburban Atlanta district, Jon Ossoff finished with 48.1 percent, sending him into a runoff on June 20 against Republican and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.
Atlanta-based CNN called the race at about midnight Eastern time, with Jon Ossoff close to 50 percent but not up to the level he needed to win the seat outright. Georgia’s rules for the primary to replace Secretary of Health Tom Price had all candidates run together on one ballot, regardless of party. The top two finishers would then advance to the runoff election, unless one candidate secured a simple majority on the first ballot.
From the beginning, it was clear that Jon Ossoff was the only candidate on the ballot who even had a chance to avoid the runoff, and his early vote totals gave him a strong shot at winning a seat that has seldom been competitive since former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich won it in 1978. The district represents the affluent Atlanta suburbs and has been in Republican hands for the past 38 years since Gingrich was seated in 1979. In 2016, it was no different, as Price won re-election with 61.7 percent of the vote.
But in a deep-red district, Jon Ossoff saw an opportunity. The district might have given its congressional vote to Price, but in the presidential vote, Donald Trump won the Sixth District by just 1.5 points over Hillary Clinton and lost suburban Cobb County, marking the first time Cobb County went to a Democrat since native son and Georgia governor Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976.
That didn’t stop the president from taking part in a robocall to Republican voters or from taking credit for Ossoff falling short of avoiding the runoff. But a check of the results actually suggests that Trump did more harm than good in this race. Handel, the least Trump-friendly Republican in the race, reached the runoff with 19.78 percent of the vote, while the candidates who played up their support of the president paid for it at the polls, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Trump supporter Bob Gray won just 10.81 percent of the vote and took a lot of criticism for backing Trump, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Other Trump-friendly candidates fared even worse, including Amy Kremer, whose endorsement from Fox commentator and Trump apologist Sean Hannity was worth just 349 of the 192,084 votes cast.
That leaves the runoff as a matchup between a centrist Democrat and an establishment-friendly Republican, with both serving as at least a partial rejection of the president. Whether Ossoff can complete the upset depends on how the race changes in the upcoming two months. Ossoff will now have the chance to focus on one opponent rather 17, which could affect the strategy he pursues. Both candidates must also deal with the realities of advertising, as the district is one of the most expensive in the nation because all ads are in the Atlanta media market.
Ossoff faces a candidate who has twice been in this position and fallen short. In 2010, she ran for governor of Georgia but lost out in the primary to Nathan Deal, and in 2014, she finished third in her bid to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. Handel also faces the challenge of unifying a fractured party, while Jon Ossoff only needs to consolidate the votes from the four other Democrats in the race and flip 1.2 percent of the Republican vote to pull the upset.
Readers, do you think Handel holds this seat, or can Ossoff pull another surprise? What are your thoughts on the president’s effect on these races? What do you expect to happen when elections in your area come up? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Twitter