Today’s special election in Georgia’s 6th district has political observers across the country taking notice. Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker, has a legitimate shot at winning a seat in the House of Representatives.
Aside: if you’re in that district and haven’t voted yet, stop reading and go vote for him. This blog will still be here when you get back.
Although the district has leaned heavily Republican in recent years (Tom Price, who vacated the seat to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, won his last election by 23 points), Donald Trump won the district by only 1.5 percentage points. The district is suburban, with a higher proportion of college graduates and minority voters than the country as a whole.
With a crowded field of 18 candidates, today’s contest is what’s known as a “jungle primary,” in which all candidates compete for votes. If no candidate breaks the 50% mark, then the top two finishers–regardless of party–go on to a runoff, currently scheduled for June.
Recent polling has Ossoff at 46-48%, under the threshold needed to avoid a runoff, but far ahead of his closest challenger, Republican Karen Handel. Handel, you may remember, was widely regarded as responsible for the (as it turned out, temporary) decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut off its funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood.
It will be ironic if the two end up competing against each other in a runoff, since Jon is an explicit supporter of Planned Parenthood and women’s health care generally. This support, along with the unpopularity of the current administration, has drawn unusual levels of support from Georgia women, who have mobilized by the thousands to send a message to Donald Trump. They’ve seen his attacks on Planned Parenthood, his draconian budget cuts, and his amped-up version of the Global Gag Rule. They’re not impressed. And they’re fighting back.
Jon Ossoff might not win this House seat. The district leans right, and that’s a hard thing to overcome. But even if he loses, he’ll have shown that there’s a real appetite to fight back against Donald Trump’s wild agenda. And that women are going to be on the front lines.