Democrats poured a record amount of money into Tuesday’s special congressional election in Georgia’s sixth district, hoping to embarrass President Trump. But their neophyte candidate, Jon Ossoff, who finished atop a crowded field, came up just short of the majority required for outright victory, and will now face a run-off on June 20 as an underdog against Republican Karen Handel.
This result, together with the GOP victory in the recent special congressional election in Kansas, suggests that Democrats have failed to gain strength since their devastating defeat in the 2016 elections.
In fact, while Democrats will point to Ossoff’s 49% of the vote – thirty points ahead of his closest competitor – he was still outpaced by the 51% accumulated among eleven GOP candidates. That two point margin actually exceeds Trump’s one point win over Hillary Clinton in the district. So, it may well be that little has changed in the suburbs of Atlanta – and perhaps around the nation – since November 8th.
This seat, vacated by Tom Price when he was named HHS Secretary, has been held by Republicans since the 1970’s, most famously by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Thus, the prospect of turning the district blue in this heavily hyped race would represent a particularly meaningful victory – at least symbolically – for the beleaguered Democrat party.
The 30 year old Ossoff grew up in the sixth district, but moved to an adjacent district twelve years ago, making him ineligible to vote for himself. Undoubtedly, his Republican opponent will exploit that fact to label the 30 year old candidate as a carpetbagger.
Though he has become a darling of the celebrity left, and the beneficiary of nationally-funded ads by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Ossoff’s name was rarely invoked in the ads. Instead, Democrats who rained more than eight million dollars on the district turned the election into a pure referendum on Trump – and came up short.
They will have one more chance on June 20, when voters will be presented with the conventional choice of one Republican and one Democrat.