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With Bid To ‘Make Trump Furious,’ Democrat Ossoff Rattles Georgia GOP

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With Bid To ‘Make Trump Furious,’ Democrat Ossoff Rattles Georgia GOP


SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (Reuters) – After the crushing electoral losses that swept Donald Trump into the White House and sealed Republican control of the U.S. Congress, the Democrats’ road to recovery winds through the leafy, well-heeled suburbs of north Atlanta.

Here, Democrats are threatening a stunning special election upset that could signal how well the party can turn Trump’s low approval ratings into political gains. And they appear to have an ally in the April 18 vote: Trump himself.

In the first congressional election of the Trump era, a wave of grassroots anti-Trump fervor has positioned Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political newcomer, to possibly capture a House of Representatives seat held by Republicans for decades, one of 24 seats Democrats need nationwide to reclaim the House.

“The grassroots intensity here is electric, and it’s because folks are concerned that what is happening in Washington doesn’t represent our values,” Ossoff said in an interview. “This is a chance for this community to stand up and make a statement about what we believe.”

With Democrats desperate for signs of hope after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump, Ossoff’s underdog “Make Trump Furious” campaign has endeared him to national anti-Trump activists and pushed him well ahead of 17 rivals in polls. The documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide raised a jaw-dropping $8.3 million in the first quarter, his campaign said.

“I’ve never seen the Democrats around here so engaged, and it’s Donald Trump who got us so engaged,” said Carolyn Hadaway, 77, a veteran party activist and retired software engineer from Marietta, a city of about 60,000 people in Georgia’s central Cobb County.

Georgia would seem an unlikely venue for a Democratic revival. Trump won it by about 5 percentage points in November. And its voters backed Republican nominees in eight of the last nine presidential contests, including the last six in a row.

But demographic changes are brewing. Growing minority communities and transplants from other regions have made Atlanta’s suburbs increasingly competitive for Democrats. Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the location for April’s special election, exemplifies changes common in booming southern cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville.

The district is white collar, educated and doing well economically, with median household incomes of $80,000 versus $50,000 statewide, and nearly 60 percent of adults holding a college or professional degree, more than twice the statewide average. It is also increasingly diverse, and in recent years became a magnet for well-educated immigrants from India and other parts of Asia.

The district was about 80 percent white at the turn of the century. But since then, the black share of the population has grown from 10 percent to 13 percent, the Hispanic share has doubled to 12.5 percent and Asian representation doubled to more than 10 percent.

About a fifth of the district is now foreign born – twice the statewide average, according to census data.

Though newer immigrants may not be eligible to vote, census data indicate more than 40 percent are naturalized citizens, potentially bringing a different set of views on issues like immigration to the table than the voters in this district who sent Trump adviser and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to Congress for 10 straight terms.

April’s special election fills the seat vacated by Tom Price, the new secretary of health and human services. It gives both parties a chance to test their messages for election battles next year in suburban districts where Democrats need to make inroads and where Trump’s populist economic message did not sell well in November.

While Price sailed to re-election with 62 percent of the vote, Trump barely beat Clinton in Georgia’s sixth district by one percentage point. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney beat Democratic President Barack Obama in the district by 23 points.

Republican candidates nationwide will closely watch the result as they calculate whether to embrace the president.

The 11 Republicans in the race have split between those who portray themselves as Trump supporters and establishment candidates who keep a respectful and sometimes wary distance.

“I’m ready to support him,” former state senator Dan Moody, who was endorsed by U.S. Senator David Perdue, said of Trump in an interview. But “I’m not going to jump over a cliff with him.”

Grassroots Democratic groups flood the district’s tidy suburban neighborhoods on the weekends, busing in volunteers from as far away as Maryland to go door to door on Ossoff’s behalf.

The Ossoff momentum worries Republicans, say party officials, and outside help has arrived. A super PAC aligned with House Republican leaders put more than $2 million into ads painting Ossoff as too young and inexperienced.

Ossoff played down the strategic value of a possible upset.

“The national implications here will be about how this affects the political calculus for folks in the Republican conference in the House, not about how Democrats are supposed to run in the midterms,” he said.

In a low turnout special election, getting supporters to the polls is vital, and Democrats have voted early in greater numbers than Republicans so far.

“We aren’t panicking, but there is concern,” said Maggie Holliman, a member of the Republican state executive committee.

Ossoff’s best chance is to win the April 18 vote, a “jungle primary” that features all 18 candidates from both parties on the same ballot. If no one reaches 50 percent, the top two vote getters square off on June 20.

Republicans are confident they can win a one-on-one race with Ossoff, as the party unites with organizational and financial help pouring into the Republican-majority district.

“There is a chance Ossoff can win without a runoff, but that’s his only chance. He’s benefiting from unified Democratic support and Republicans being highly divided,” said Georgia-based Republican strategist Joel McElhannon.

Polls show Ossoff hovering in the low 40s, not enough to avoid a runoff. The leading Republican, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, is well behind.

Handel has been cautious in talking about Trump. She said in an interview she expected to work with him on issues such as tax reform and border security, but “first and foremost” she would be a conservative advocate for her district.

By contrast Republicans Bob Gray, a local business executive, and Bruce LeVell, head of Trump’s national diversity coalition, pledge undivided loyalty to the White House. Gray said he was the Republican in the race who performed the behind-the-scenes political groundwork for Trump in the district.

LeVell pulled out his cellphone and showed a reporter text messages from Trump aides Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and even Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner to prove his insider status with the White House.

“If people are looking for someone to help Trump, I’m their guy,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Howard Schneider in Washington; Editing by Jason Szep and Mary Milliken)

IMAGE: Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff greets supporters after the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election to replace Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services, in Marietta, Georgia, April 3, 2017.   REUTERS/Bita Honarvar



  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 9, 2017

    Decades-old stench in Georgia is slowly dissipating, thanks in large part to the groper himself, Donald John Trump. My home state of Miss. hopefully will get a chance to breathe some revivifying breezes as well.
    The rank odors of Gov.’s Ross Barnett, Paul Johnson, Haley Barbour, and noisome fumes of the KKK, and Senator Bilbo, hangs like a thick pall, suffusing the humid air, choking off creativity, civility, and the intellect of their supporters.

    1. dbtheonly April 9, 2017

      I contributed to Osoff’s campaign & now I’m getting at least one pleading email a day, sometimes two or three.

      I’m rethinking my opposition to anonymous donations.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 9, 2017

        It’s an occupational hazard contributing to anyone’s campaign. Once you’re on a list like that, you’ll have more attention than you care for.
        Some day, soon I hope, we’ll all come to realize that a different method of electing people will be needed where money isn’t needed accept to arrange for the actual election. If someone can demonstrate to me that she/he has a well-trained mind, knows how to consult, and has shown that they have mature experiences, then I can base my decision, independently, on whom to vote for.

        This has already been shown to happen, effortless, and without ANY campaigning, except to have a list of who lives in the electoral unit and is eligible to vote and be voted for.

        We use this electoral process in Baha’i communities, at the local and national levels each year, in April-May, and at the international convention in Haifa, Israel, every 5 years. Refer to http://www.bahai.org for more details on the process and procedure.

        1. dbtheonly April 9, 2017


          Not sure how that works in a Congressional District or, worse, the USA in total.

          There is the other issue of by what right the government forbids anyone from spending his money to announce, support, or oppose any political issue or person.

          Flagged the spam for you.

          Ted Bilbo was the butt of jokes even 70 years ago. Lord Willing, our grandchildren will think of Trump the same way.

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 9, 2017

            Congressmen and former presidents, including Reagan, and both Bushes, were/are aware of the Baha’is—many Congressmen are well aware of the Baha’i Electoral system and who the Baha’is are, have been given briefings by the Baha’i External Affairs Office in DC and Wilmette, Ill. to talk about the fate of the Baha’is in Iran, about Race Amity initiatives, etc.
            It would be political suicide, for now, for the current politicians to show a preference for something beneficial to all aside from the current partisan mode. But change has always occurred in the past, albeit with mush difficulty.

            Changing the mind-set of Americans won’t happen with the current generation of adults—once one is committed to a certain way of doing things, it’s hard to change. That’s the essence of “conservative”. But the current generation of Baha’i youth in America, and across the world, are informing their peers about this radically new concept of governance which works in a manner diametrically opposed to what clearly is too divisive to be able to be of lasting benefit. At best, the current system does beneficial things in fits and spurts, before settling back into a mode of bickering.

            Can we afford to let this go on in perpetuity??

          2. dbtheonly April 10, 2017

            Good Morning.

            We’ve discussed this in the past and I still feel the Democrats are more sinned against than sinning. Equally, unilateral disarmament is a foolish policy. The Republicans show no slacking off on their hyper-partisanship. Democrats would be foolish to believe that Mitch, Paul, Graham etc. will become kinder and gentler. As for Trump, I don’t see him as a partisan Republican as much as the Fuhrer of his own Party. Bannon and Preibus however…

            No, we can’t allow this to go on in perpetuity. But I’m sick of getting steamrolled by Republicans.

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 10, 2017

            Goo morning to you as well. One Party definitely is more mature in attitude for certain, and they’ve been that way since the late 60’s. This same Party generally is more bellicose, divisive, and naturally is more attractive to the KKK and all other hate groups than the other.
            And the firmly entrenched ideologists within that Party will remain so. If a tree as a sapling is leaning to one side and doesn’t get corrected by constraining it to grow straight up, then it will be impossible to correct its posture once fully grown. It’s more difficult to make the crooked straight.

            Which is why most efforts have to be directed on training the youth to cultivate spiritual virtues at a young age, making it easier for them to be adaptive and open to new ways of thinking and perceiving the world. A lack of proper education and moral training will lead one to join a dysfunctional and disreputable organization, and incorporate its dysfunctional principles.

          4. dpaano April 10, 2017

            I personally think our youth and young people in their 20’s and 30’s have become MUCH more aware of politics than ever before, especially after this last campaign! More and more are getting involved as activists, marchers, etc. and more and more are reading the newspapers and making valid opinions. We can only hope that they see the problems that the conservatives are pushing and the consequences of these actions! We need their votes during midterms in 2018 to get rid of as many conservatives in the House, the Senate, and Congress as possible. We need to balance the boat from yawing to the right!!!

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        3. 788eddie April 10, 2017

          Hopefully when the Citizens United decision is finally taken away.

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  2. Independent1 April 9, 2017

    I’d certainly like to see Ossoff win, but given what I’ve read about the GOP rigging of elections, I’ll be very surprised if he pulls it off in the GOP-run state of Georgia . The GOP will stop at nothing to win even if that involves manipulating the vote count. Note the pattern here on what’s claimed as the early voting turn out results: Ossoff + 24 on Day 6; +9 by Day 7; +2 by Day 9.

  3. secondclassguy April 9, 2017

    I’d love to see Dr Death’s seat go to a democrat while he’s forced to enforce the laws of Obamacare

  4. dpaano April 10, 2017

    Keeping fingers crossed that Ossoff takes the seat!! We may be able to turn Georgia into a more democratic state if everyone gets out and votes during this election on 4/18/17!!! Hang in there Democrats….VOTE!!! Let’s show the Republicans that they have awakened a sleeping giant!


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