Democrats’ fears about a June runoff in the Georgia Sixth District’s special election came to pass on Tuesday night, as upstart candidate Jon Ossoff could not turn his momentum and fundraising war chest into a victory in the traditionally Republican district, losing the runoff to former Secretary of State Karen Handel.
With 96 percent of the vote in, Handel held a lead of 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent, a healthy margin for her considering that the race was seen as a toss-up and that Jon Ossoff had dominated the first round of voting, nearly winning the majority he needed to win the seat outright.
But the Democrats always knew that this would be a tough fight in a district that hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1978, even for a centrist Democrat such as Ossoff. With little message beyond trying to stand up to president Donald Trump, Ossoff found himself in a tough fight when he got to the runoff and faced an opponent who had consolidated her support in Handel.
Instead of building on his margin from the jungle primary election, Ossoff actually slipped from his 48.1 percent mark in the first round, failing to either consolidate Democratic support or peel away independents and Republicans from Handel. At the same time, she successfully painted Ossoff as an outsider based on the fact that he lived three miles outside of the Sixth District, which he had explained as living with his fiancée to support her while she finished her degree.
The explanation didn’t work for voters, as Ossoff fell behind at around the 50 percent mark based on strong numbers from Handel in Republican stronghold Cobb County. Jon Ossoff’s best chance to win was to increase his support in Democrat-friendly Dekalb County, but a flood in that area helped suppress voter turnout in the southern part of the Sixth District, dooming Ossoff’s chances and keeping the seat in Republican hands.
The defeat leaves the Democrats 0-for-4 in their quest to win a House seat vacated by members of Trump’s cabinet, although they outperformed expectations in every case. This loss, in particular, will hurt as it was considered their best chance to send a message to Trump and instead became another instance where Democrats ran a strong race but ultimately fell short.
What remains to be seen is whether the party will take a hard left toward Bernie Sanders or continue to move to the center with candidates like Jon Ossoff. While Sanders is popular with a faction of the party, he is a polarizing figure and would stamp the Democrats as firmly on the left side.
Are you surprised at Handel’s win? What path should Democrats follow? What about Republicans, is this a positive sign that Handel won or a warning sign that the race was close? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Facebook