Georgia is a Republican stronghold with a majority representation in the United States Congress.
And Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff faces a tough hill to climb in Georgia’s special election for the 6th Congressional District in Georgia. The vacancy opened when President Donald Trump selected Republican U.S. Representative Tom Price as the Secretary of Health and Human Services earlier this year. And his former district will hold a special qualifying primary on April 18, 2017.
But who is Jon Ossoff? And does he qualify as a major threat for the Republican candidates in conservative district?
Diagramming district voters
In a television ad, Jon Ossoff appealed to moderates by announcing he would keep a close eye on Georgia interests, especially on issues such as war and political missteps endangering constituents’ lives. Foreign policy is an important issue many Americans. Locally, the closure of Fort MacPherson in Atlanta and downgrading of military bases throughout Georgia acts as a call-to-action for voters worrying about surviving a terroristic threat.
The young Democrat has some experience on his side, even compared some of the more established candidates, as a National Security aide in Washington, DC. Eighteen candidates look to replace the former Representative. Still Jon Ossoff’s limited experience in an elected role may make 6th district voters nervous. Nevertheless, he remains the Democratic front runner against Republican candidates such as former State Senator Dan Moody and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. It’s winner take all in this in the nonpartisan blanket primary, where conservatives and liberals face off no matter party. If one candidate wins by a large majority, a runoff is unnecessary.
VICE News Tonight correspondent Alexandra Jaffe’s interview with former state Trump campaign director Seth Weathers showcases the disconnect between parties and voters. Moderates typically don’t show up for special elections, so who will vote for Ossoff? “It’s a very traditional Republican district. And Star Wars cosplayers are not necessarily going to play well in that community.”
The negative connotation that cosplayers are people who like to spend some of their free time creating and wearing elaborate costumes is pervasive in more conservative, dismissive rhetoric. However, cosplaying is a business and with that business comes events like DragonCon. Over 50,000 people show up every Labor Day weekend to pour money into the economy–within the convention itself and surrounding businesses. It’s not quite so easy to dismiss “Han Solo” when the faces hold economic power.
Data analysis from the last Congressional District special election verifies Weathers’ assertion. The last state special election was for the 10th Congressional District in 2007, a result of a runoff. Only 11% of the registered voters went to the polls. And white men and women over the age of 65 showed up the most. Will moderates show up for the young, moderate investigative journalist? Only April 18 will tell.
But are the demographics changing as citizens become engaged in the political process after the 2016 election? Many metro area counties that typically stay red flipped blue on the 2016 presidential election. Does that shift the power balance of the race?
Demographic numbers tell a different tale than the last special election runoff’s voters and Price’s 62% win. Citizens of the 6th district make approximately $30,000 more than the average American and typically hold a college degree. And these are the voters the Democratic party needs. Rebecca DeHart is the Georgia Democratic Party’s executive director. Telling Jaffe that “I don’t think we would have gotten this type of support or attention in the 6th’s Congressional District if people weren’t terrified for their future.”
According to local NPR affiliate, WABE, the district stretches “from the wealthy neighborhoods of east Cobb County, northwest of downtown Atlanta, to the ever-growing suburbs of north Fulton and north DeKalb counties, northeast of the city.” These are major areas of Atlanta and metro Atlanta growth, especially in business and technological industries; yet the district typically falls out of step with most of affluent Atlanta politics and votes Republican. After all, the area bumps against Representative John Lewis’s 5th district. However, Georgia is facing contentions beyond the race, such as voter fraud and data breaches a month before the election.
At this point in the running, Ossoff has firmly established his name and platform in a very Republican district. A Masters degree from the London School of Economics with a concentration on trade relations between the US and China may prove to be beneficial for Georgia economic growth due to tax incentivisation. The district could easily handle another film studio, a strong industry in the state. An industry that helps small businesses around shooting locations and studios, a bump for his economic vision for the district and citizens. Investments which will bring local revenue and help maintain communities.
Ossoff’s community vision
Alexandra Jaffe spoke with the 30-year-old at his parents’ home, also known as campaign headquarters. Even though he currently lives outside the district’s borders, he “grew up in this district” and believes in the potential. But why would a voter chose to vote for a man who lives in another area?
“I live about ten minutes south of the line right now because my girlfriend’s a medical student at Emory University Hospital.” After a pause, he continues.“And I’ll let that speak for itself.” For non-locals, Emory University Hospital and the Emory medical system are major healthcare sectors for the region—providing a lot of medical research, patient care, and jobs. Emory’s assistance and work for the United Nations during the Liberian Ebola outbreak in 2014 became international news.
And there are plans to move back once his girlfriend graduates from medical school. The healthcare sector faces huge cutbacks as the Republican majority pushes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A fact that can help the millennial candidate. Atlanta’s deeply tied to the medical sector as the home of the Center for Disease Control offices and federal government programs across most state universities.
He’s more pointed on the topic of repelling the ACA than returning to his home district. “I think the solution is for everyone to commit to taking a problem solving approach to it rather than continuing to use it to score political points.”