The Sixth District of Georgia: It’s where you’ll find the first competitive Congressional race since the November election, and the world is watching. The Democrats are hoping to turn this deep-red district blue for the first time in almost 40 years, and many see it as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency. (Has it only been 75 days? Longest 75 days ever.)
The Sixth is in the suburbs of Atlanta and was represented by Congressman Tom Price until President Trump appointed him as Secretary of Health and Human Services earlier this year. Price’s seat has been held by Republicans since former Speaker Newt Gingrich was elected there in 1978, and it will be filled in a special election on April 18.
Eighteen candidates are running in the special election, including several prominent Republicans, such as former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, local City Councilmember Bob Gray and state Senator Judson Hill, who’s been endorsed by Gingrich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Trump himself hasn’t endorsed in the race, but former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has backed Bruce LeVell, a businessman who headed Trump’s diversity coalition that consisted of non-white people supporting Trump’s candidacy. (Note that the district is 71 percent white, and it voted for Mitt Romney by 24 points in the 2012 presidential election.)
The frontrunner Democrat is a progressive millennial named Jon Ossoff, who is smart and scrappy and has the support of the Democratic establishment despite his youth and relative inexperience. Ossoff is a documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer who is endorsed by his former boss, Congressmember Hank Johnson, Georgia congressmember and civil rights hero John Lewis and internet celebrity George Takei. I have a soft spot for Ossoff because he’s Jewish and his mother is an immigrant who co-founded an organization that works to elect women to local office across Georgia. If I ever meet him, I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about. Also, his campaign is using this cute hashtag: #voteyourossoff.
Ossoff has raised a remarkable $4 million for his campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has placed nine full-time staffers on the ground in the district. Early voting estimates suggest that Democratic turnout is far outpacing Republicans, and the GOP is scrambling.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that Steve Bannon himself is tracking the race closely, as a White House official told the AJC that Bannon is “preoccupied” with the race, “following all the polls, following the kind of narrative out there.”
Here’s the exciting part: Two weeks ago, Ossoff was polling at 40 percent, with the Republican candidates splitting the rest of the voters. And only one of the Republican candidates is polling at higher than 10 percent. If Ossoff can squeak out 50 percent of the vote in the special election, he will win the seat outright.
This is his best shot at winning, since his Republican competitors are crowding each other out, splitting the GOP electorate. But if no candidate wins 50 percent in the April election, then the candidates who came in first and second place will go to a runoff on June 20. That will be Ossoff and the top Republican, and the conservative majority in his district will likely come together to elect a Republican to the seat in a one-on-one matchup.
It’s now or never, and the Republicans know it. The GOP is taking the race seriously, as it has unleashed an ad with footage of Ossoff dressed as Han Solo and advocating for an easing of his school’s alcohol policy when he was at Georgetown University. It is no understatement to say that if Ossoff wins this seat back for the Democrats, it will be a huge morale boost for progressives all over the United States and a warning shot across the GOP’s bow for the 2018 midterm elections.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
1. Fly to Georgia and volunteer.
OK, I know this is unrealistic for most people, but I thought I’d throw it out there. In case you’re willing to drop everything and go, you find the campaign offices at www.electjon.com/offices.
2. Donate to Ossoff’s campaign.
Every little bit counts! Lets help the 6th District #VoteYourOssoff! Donate here.
3. Send postcards to Democrats in the district.
Georgia Democrat Tony McMullin has organized a postcard-writing campaign urging registered Democrats in the district to vote on April 18. Email McMullin, and he will send you suggestions for what to say, and the addresses of Democratic households likely to vote in the district.
4. Make calls to Democrats in the district this weekend.
The Daily Kos and Democracy Action are organizing volunteers to help remotely. Sign up with the Daily Kos or attend a phone bank with Democracy Action in San Francisco this weekend.
Alix Rosenthal is a municipal attorney, nasty woman and progressive activist who mentors and trains women to run for political office. She can be found on Twitter at @alixro and her blog is at www.votealix.com.