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Jon Ossoff Is Running for Senate in Georgia, But Some Democrats Worry He Can’t Deliver — Again

But the imperfect politician might be their best chance at turning the state purple.

by Morgan Baskin
Sep 10 2019, 4:33pm

Ever since Donald Trump took office in 2017, Democrats have eyed the increasingly liberal Georgia as a potential path to picking up seats in Congress.

And now, they have someone with the name recognition to compete for one.

Jon Ossoff, the former Congressional aide and documentary filmmaker, announced Monday night that he will challenge first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue –– first cousin of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue –– for his Senate seat in Georgia.

Ossoff quickly became a national star in 2017, when he ran to represent Georgia’s sixth district. He raked in over $23 million from Democrats across the country, raising five times as much as Republican rival Karen Handel and setting a record for what was then the most expensive House race in history.

After former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said she would not run for Senate, Ossoff, the imperfect politician, might be Democrats’ best chance at turning the state purple.

Read more: Democrats spent $30 million to lose Georgia’s special election.

“Georgia is the most competitive state in the country and the Senate majority will be decided in Georgia,” Ossoff told Politico this week.

He is also, by far, the highest-profile Democrat running: Ossoff is challenging Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico in the primary.

But questions remain about his ability to deliver the seat.

During his 2017 House race, Ossoff struggled to adequately address criticism from the GOP that he didn’t even technically live in the district he was running to serve. They also dinged him for receiving support from Democrats across the country, painting him as an outsider who didn’t understand the district.

And Democrats on the left wing of the party –– who went on to help Rep. Lucy McBath win that same district in 2018 on a platform of gun control — jabbed Ossoff for being “Republican lite.” Pundits and activists said that Ossoff, who declined to endorse single-payer healthcare, free college, or the elimination of student debt, missed an opportunity to galvanize young voters.

But the language he’s using this time around sounds like it’s cribbed straight from the playbook of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“We have squandered trillions on endless war. We have squandered trillions on bailouts for failed banks. We have squandered trillions on tax cuts for wealthy donors. Then we’re told there’s nothing left over for the people,” Ossoff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after announcing his candidacy.

Ossoff also kicked off his campaign with one influential endorse endorsement already on board: Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the civil rights leader.

“Like the many thousands Jon has already organized and inspired, I am ready to work tirelessly to elect him,” Lewis said on Monday. “Georgia and America need Jon.”

Cover: Democratic candidate for 6th congressional district Jon Ossoff, left, concedes to Republican Karen Handel while joined by his fiancee Alisha Kramer at his election night party in Atlanta, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Jon Ossoff