Jon Ossoff stood ramrod-straight and spoke in sparing phrases, as if a great burden rests on his 30-year-old shoulders. To hear from many of the 150 people who crowded a Dunwoody synagogue the other night to meet him, it’s easy to understand why.
“The Republican side has been showing up to vote here for years, and we haven’t been energized,” said Melanie Manning, among the Democrats pinning her hopes on Ossoff. “Now we are. This election will be different.”
No Democrat has represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional District since Newt Gingrich won the seat in 1978, and since then the reliably conservative district, which now spans from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County, has launched the congressional careers of Johnny Isakson and Tom Price.
But Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker who was until recently unknown to even veteran Georgia strategists, has quickly captured the imagination of Democrats hoping to notch an early victory against Donald Trump. The special election will be among the first in the nation since Trump became president.
His campaign claims nearly $2 million in donations in less than two months, an almost unfathomable amount for a political newcomer. He has racked up celebrity support and a string of big-name endorsements. And national Democrats are pouring staff and resources into his race.
Still, the odds are stacked deeply against Democrats in the 6th, which routinely elected Price by huge margins. The April 18 special election to fill Price’s seat has 18 candidates, and Ossoff isn’t even a shoo-in to make the June 20 runoff.
Democrats seem willing to take the risk. Many see him as a first chance to turn the wave of left-leaning outrage at Trump’s election and channel it into action. Trump eked out just a 1-point victory in the 6th, and Ossoff’s campaign casts him as a way to get under the president’s skin.
“Make Trump Furious,” his website proclaims.