Race for Tom Price's Vacant Seat Seen as Bellwether for Resistance
With Democrat Jon Ossof gaining momentum, special election considered a test case for an energized Left
The fight for Georgia's sixth district, left vacant by the newly-installed Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price, is being seen as the first test of the resistance movement with Democrat Jon Ossof, riding a wave of frustration over President Donald Trump, emerging as the race's leading contender.
Monday marks the deadline to register for the April 18 special election, and the national organization Swing Left said it is focused on making sure every voter in the district is prepared.
A documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)—who has endorsed him—Ossof is campaigning on an unabashed message of being a thorn in Trump's side (his campaign slogan is "make Trump furious") and the race is being seen as a bellwether if the Left can succeed in winning over traditionally conservative districts.
Though Trump won the sixth district by a razor-thin margin of 1.5 percent, it hasn't voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter was president, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which observed that a low-turnout special election "could hinge on whether [Trump's] supporters return to the polls—or energized Democrats bent on handing the president an electoral defeat show up in force."
And the national grassroots resistance movement is energized, particularly after a recent poll found that Ossof leads the field of 18 candidates. In a so-called "jungle primary," all contestants are on the ballot. Unless one wins more than 50 percent, the top two finishers compete in a run-off, which in this case would be June 20.
Ossof is campaigning on a platform that includes defending Medicare, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood; standing up for voting rights; protecting the right to privacy; and opposing "unnecessary military intervention." He says he is dedicated to making the U.S. "a global leader against climate change" and reforming campaign finance laws.
To that end, he has been endorsed by the End Citizens United political action committee (PAC), and has boasted grassroots funding success. "We've raised more than $3 million in average contributions of less than $30," Ossoff has said, which was helped in large part to a national fundraising effort launched by the Daily Kos.
Speaking to the outpouring of enthusiasm, Ossof told Esquire's Charles Pierce, "The basic job of any campaign is to translate grassroots energy into turnout. That's what my people in the community are doing here, working with the people here who are fired up and helping channel all their good will and energy into the result we all want to see."
"I've never seen more grassroots enthusiasm than I've seen here, and it's not me," he added. "It's just the times we're living in. It speaks to the intensity of people's engagement in the political process."
With all that attention, the GOP is "rattled," according to recent reporting by the Journal Constitution, which noted that many of his Republican opponents have been exclusively focused on attacking him while the House GOP has been running a "series of ads featuring footage of Ossoff in Star Wars outfits and playing a robust game of rock-paper-scissors."
As Daily Kos' political director David Nir explained to the Daily Beast, Ossof's success will largely depend on the enthusiasm of the Trump resistance movement. "If that enthusiasm translates into the ballot box, that could make all the difference in a district like this one," Nir told reporter Patricia Murphy.
Georgia resident Aisha Saeed, who has volunteering for Ossoff, agreed. "I have never voted in a special election," she told Murphy."I don't even think I've voted in midterms. But the election really woke me up. I hope it has woken up everybody else."