By Mae Eldahshoury
After failing to repeal and replace the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act, what could be worse for former Rep. Tom Price than the possibility of being succeeded by one such Democrat? For almost 40 years, Republicans have cruised through elections in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, but after Price’s confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services, the suburban Atlanta district might be flipping blue.
The wealthiest district in the state, which includes parts of Cobb, Dekalb, and Fulton counties, is being pursued by 18 candidates – 11 Republican, five Democrat, and two independent – all of whom are running in the same April 18 general election. With a number of candidates, it won’t be an easy campaign. Special elections typically produce low voter turnout and without a majority vote, a June 20 runoff is almost guaranteed for the top two contesters regardless of their party affiliations.
Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker, is the front-runner with over 40 percent of the estimated vote, according to a recent poll conducted by ZPolitics and Clout Research. Democrats, including Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson, have already pledged resources and endorsed the leading candidate. The former congressional aide has raised reportedly $3 million dollars from supporters across the nation.
Other progressive groups, such as End Citizens United, and its Executive Director, Tiffany Muller, have voiced their support for him.
“We need an anti-corruption reformer like Jon Ossoff in Congress to lead the fight against President Trump and his allies, who are doubling down on a rigged system. Since taking office, Trump has surrounded himself with mega-donors and corporate special interests, and his policies cater to their needs.”
Although skeptical about Ossoff’s chances of winning with an anti-Trump campaign, Republicans are clearly apprehensive, and for good reason. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won the district by 24 points. In 2016, Donald Trump underperformed, winning the district by little over a percentage point. The momentum Ossoff garnered has pushed GOP-backed super-PACs like Congressional Leadership Fund to launch a $1.1-million-dollar ad in an attempt to diminish the Democrat’s credibility and experience, but the effects were counterintuitive. The attack ad, featuring Ossoff dressed as Hans Solo in a Star Wars skit while in a Georgetown University a capella group, lacked substance and instead, backfired, spurring attention and support from across the nation. This didn’t stop opponent Republican Karen Handel from also releasing her first campaign ad focused on Ossoff, labeling him a “lightweight liberal” and the CLF from releasing yet another ad.
But long-standing mayor of Roswell, Jere Wood, doesn’t see Ossoff as a threat.
“This isn’t a youth vote up here,” Wood told The New Yorker. “This is a mature voter base. If someone is going down the list, they’re gonna vote for somebody who is familiar. If you just say ‘Ossoff,’ some folks are gonna think, ‘Is he Muslim? Is he Lebanese? Is he Indian?’ It’s an ethnic-sounding name, even though he may be a white guy, from Scotland or wherever.”
Mayor Wood may have captured the sentiments of the population, or perhaps the voters of the sixth district are a little more open-minded and are doing their research on their candidates. The recent defeat of Republicans’ relentless attempts to repeal Obamacare exposed division among moderates and conservatives in both houses, and this is just one of many mishaps the GOP has had so far during Trump’s presidency. The failure of the healthcare repeal, the temporary federal block on the executive order on immigration, and a number of contentious cabinet nominations, to name a few, all contest for Trump’s highly unfavorable ratings, the lowest in presidential history.
This race is being viewed as a chance to send a message to Trump, that the people, mainly grassroots activists and their supporters, will continue to oppose any and all legislations that put their communities at risk. With the sixth district up for grabs, this is the opportunity for voters to make a statement of their own. Early voting began March 27, and Democrats are capitalizing on the backlash against the Trump administration to flip the district. The victory has the potential to set the precedent for the upcoming 2018 congressional elections, and while it may not tip the majority now, it could prove vital during hearings to pass legislations in the House. But until election day, candidates are bound to keep knocking on doors, making phone calls, and vying for the support of every voter in the sixth district.