Georgia special election is a Rorschach test for the Trump era

Democrat Jon Ossoff at an 18-candidate debate in Georgia’s special election (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

It’s a sultry weekend afternoon, and passing cars in a traffic-choked Brookhaven intersection are honking their support — and sometimes disdain — for the crowd of Jon Ossoff supporters waving his campaign’s bright-blue signs.

There stands Adriane Cooper, a Sandy Springs teacher wielding a “Vote Your Ossoff” placard and a chip on her shoulder from Donald Trump’s presidential win. She was drawn like a magnet to the Democratic newcomer who has put Tuesday’s special election to represent a swath of suburban Atlanta at the scorching center of the nation’s political debate.

“This is the first time I’ve been old enough to vote against the people in charge, the people I don’t agree with,” the 25-year-old said. “And this is my way to channel that energy.”

The once-sleepy special election to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District has become a Rorschach test for the Trump era: Some see it as an early barometer for Trump’s popularity or a test of the nascent resistance movement to the president. Others see a dry run for the 2018 midterm elections, or they dismiss it as an anomaly.

 


 

What’s not in doubt, though, is that the race has turned into a bruising proxy battle between national Republicans and Democrats. A stunning $14 million has been spent on advertising, most of it fueled by out-of-state money.

Ossoff’s dream of winning the district outright on Tuesday seems dim, although not out of the realm of possibility. And his chances of prevailing in a June 20 runoff are long as well. The district’s demographics and voting history tilt heavily in the GOP’s favor.

But the 30-year-old former congressional aide has built a formidable lead in polls. And the infighting among Republicans in the field has led national groups to pour millions of dollars into attack ads hoping to thwart Ossoff’s surprising campaign.

Jon Ossoff rallied supporters at a library in Dunwoody on Tuesday. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

“Republicans fear this becoming the national news. They fear it like the plague,” said former Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, whose defeat in 2002 heralded a conservative wave in the South. “They know this would put fear in the soul of every Republican running for office.”

The 11 Republicans in the race are shooting for No. 2 in Tuesday’s vote, which would net one of them a spot in the runoff — provided Ossoff falls short of the majority needed for victory. At this stage, the GOP contenders have turned on each other as much or more than they have taken aim at Ossoff.

“If it weren’t a fractious primary, it wouldn’t be a Republican primary,” said Rusty Paul, the mayor of Sandy Springs and a longtime GOP strategist. “The real race starts April 19th.”

Trump’s struggles in the district — he won it by about 1 point — have given Ossoff’s supporters a jolt of energy. So has his unprecedented $8.3 million fundraising haul that’s fueled a flood of TV ads, radio spots and mailers. Thousands of his volunteers — and scores of paid staffers — blanket the district.

An election worker looks over the map of the 6th District. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

An Ossoff victory would no doubt be cast as a rebuke to Trump’s young presidency. The district, which stretches from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County, has long been among the safest of Republican seats, and its last occupant, Tom Price, won landslide after landslide until Trump made him his health secretary.

That possibility of a Democrat winning the seat has fueled a tidal wave of coverage from national media outlets wondering whether a ruby-red district can turn blue overnight. The race has also generated intense interest in Washington from leaders of both parties; Trump’s top advisers are said to be closely monitoring the vote and Nancy Pelosi, the House’s Democratic leader, has championed Ossoff’s campaign.

A victory by Ossoff, an investigative filmmaker who was until recently unknown to most Democrats even in metro Atlanta, could make him one of the highest-profile Democrats in office in Georgia, with pundits, politicians and party operatives across the country chewing over what his win would mean.

Is he but a temporary vessel for anti-Trump sentiment, a simple mascot for the wave of frustrated Democrats seeking revenge on a president they can’t stomach? Or is he on the vanguard of a more lasting political realignment, a model for how Democrats can compete in once-solidly Republican districts?

We’re about to find out.

MORE: Read the rest of the story here.

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
Ken Murphy
Ken Murphy

I hope that part of the expense is because advertisers have jacked up their rates in order to bleed the political class dry for the election.

Misty M Spangler
Misty M Spangler

Stupid to waste money like that, What about the homeless people, the vets, people that need medical help, that can't afford the huge hospital bills, or the people who can't afford to get the medications?

Monte Poitevint
Monte Poitevint

Sounds like the talk of welfare junkies. You made your bed. You sleep in it.

Wendy Miller-Lynch
Wendy Miller-Lynch

Too bad some of that wasted money wasn't used for a better cause, like Hosea Helps. Showing commercials nonstop and littering our roads with signs does not change our minds on who we will vote for. Maybe each candidate could run one less commercial and do something useful with that money.

Brenda Addison
Brenda Addison

And the so-called democrats are trying to DESTROY THIS NATION. THEY HAVE BECOME OUR TOXIC WASTE AND CHOSE TO STAY CANCEROUS? ? ? ? ? They committed suicide when JFK was ASSINATED .

Brenda Schrampfer
Brenda Schrampfer

Don't put too much faith in trends. Atlanta went for Killery. Exurbs for Donald.

Randy Cannady
Randy Cannady

JerkOff, 100 liberal, is trying to buy the election, $13 million plus. With the money he has spent on the campaign, coupled with voter fraud, it'll be the only way he gets in!

Constance Rutledge
Constance Rutledge

Gerrymandering & voter suppression are the only way republicans win.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

It's about time Georgians benefited from a contested election. Too many republican politicians have NO competition and just walk right into the job/slot and NEVER held accountable..

Janice McMahan
Janice McMahan

Mostly freak dem fool ossssooooffff. He's disgusting liar..security guard....

Robert Lee
Robert Lee

ossoff is a super liberal with NO accomplishments .

Lou Davis
Lou Davis

Pelosi's Pajama Boy doesn't have a chance in Georgia.

Barbara Austen Cheng
Barbara Austen Cheng

I don't care how much money's been spent. You bet I'm voting to protect my family who relies on everything from public schools to clean air and water to consumer protections. And sorry - but I'm kind of done with wanting to take my affordable healthcare so some billionaire can have another tax break. I also don't like corporate monopolies ... silly me. Enough with the Republican parrots who can't deviate from the party line - who can't consider constituents first above the polluters and Wall Street. You bet I'm voting for Ossoff. And I could care less what the rest of the country thinks. GO OSSOFF. We've had GOP parrots for far too long!!!! Turn this sucker blue!!!!

Maggie Weems
Maggie Weems

Richard Cowan, hey you, the wall has been built. Carry on.

Matt Soss
Matt Soss

You don't realize that while your healthcare may be affordable, it is much less affordable for those who have to pay for yours, as well as theirs.

Brenda Addison
Brenda Addison

Never assoff! Lying 2 cent bargain politician . Cheap.

Cecelia Landress
Cecelia Landress

How can you listen to someone who lies about what they have accomplished and vote for them? The millions coming into his organization is from out of state and from Federal Democrats. You also have no clue about the economics behind the ACA and the drain it is putting on tax dollars while driving up the cost of insurance for hard working people to the point they can not afford it. Are you willing to pay 1,000 a month for yours and have a 7000 deductible. plus the cost of your medical bills???

Lou Davis
Lou Davis

Greedy liberals want to take money from working people and give it to lazy people to buy votes.

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

Republican spending, and the President's yapping, are a measure of their sagging faith in their voters. With just a little information anyone can see that the Republican elites have no interest in the welfare of average folks. One blip of insight and they will be gone.

Blue Smith
Blue Smith

Welfare of the average folks caught my attention. The Constitution was established for the People. That means the average folks. All of the systems we set up to serve the People have turned against us. The servants we have put in office do not even know who they are suppose to be working for and we the People pay their salaries. They are not suppose to make a move against the People without OUR say so and they act like we are not even here. I have been watching a long time and things in America are on a down hill slide to destruction of the People and picking up speed every day. Republican, Democrat, whatever!!!! They work for us!!!! The average folks, the common People.......just saying

Robert Lee
Robert Lee

how's that been working for you since 2010?

Jerry Marlin
Jerry Marlin

voting republican always the dem's destroyed this nation..

Jeri Henson Dies
Jeri Henson Dies

Wow, gotta keep the South's hatefest going on year after year.

Robert Lee
Robert Lee

Report .me and see where that gets you

Jeri Henson Dies
Jeri Henson Dies

Must be what keeps the South's hatefest going year after year. Poor white people resent other poor people--especially those with darker skin--getting the same welfare benefits they get. And so they vote for Republicans to stop the "freeloaders" from getting help--except they're going to be losing theirs as well. So everyone suffers because of resentment and racism.

Blue Smith
Blue Smith

Yes sir there is two sides to everything and the politicians laughing all the way to the bank.

Doug Rogers
Doug Rogers

Robert Lee LBJ explained people like you best... Look above. Get someone to read and explain it to you.

Doug Rogers
Doug Rogers

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s is better than the best colored man, he won’t know you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him someone to look down on and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Lyndon B Johnson

Nolan Sims
Nolan Sims

Jeri Henson Dies are you really that ignorant? if so i feel sorry for anyone who has to deal with you on a regular basis!

Roberta Cromlish
Roberta Cromlish

Nolan Sims Jeri Henson Dies is a typical college liberal. Parents, be careful of the idiots who are brainwashing your children.

Doug Rogers
Doug Rogers

Anthony Byerly much more credibleability than fox fake news. They Google there are several stories which confirm it is a lie. The quote was made up by combining what a questionable author wrote in a book and what another wrote in a opinion piece. Oh yea do they have Google in Russia? I mean since yo are a troll paid to lie.

Doug Rogers
Doug Rogers

Robert Lee another Russian paid troll

Mark Cotner
Mark Cotner

Jeri Henson Dies . . . and yet continues to vote

Khalid Avito
Khalid Avito

Robert Lee yes, not like they post all of their sources and reference material unlike the Right Wing hate sites.