Georgia Democrat Falls Short in $9 Million Anti-Trump Gambit

Hollywood star power, massive advantage in campaign cash couldn't get Ossoff over finish line

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 19 Apr 2017 at 9:32 AM

The Democrats could not quite claim their trophy they spent so extravagantly to win.

Desperate for evidence of voter dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, left-wing activists hoped for an upset special-election victory Tuesday in a suburban Atlanta congressional district that last voted Democrat in a House of Representatives race in 1976.

“The fact that this was as close as it was is a wakeup call for Republicans, not only in Georgia but around the country.”

Despite a massive advantage in campaign cash and a cleared Democratic field, documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff fell just shy of the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright. He will square off in a June runoff against former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who trudged through an eight-way Republican brawl with just five percent of the cash at Ossoff’s disposal.

The liberal activist group did not even bother waiting for the votes to be counted Tuesday night to declare Ossoff the winner.

“Jon Ossoff’s first-place finish tonight is a huge triumph for the Resistance and for progressives, who boosted Ossoff to the top of a crowded race in a Republican-leaning district,” Executive Director Anna Galland said in a prepared statement.

Galland argued it was a referendum on Trump.

“Tonight once again proves that momentum is clearly on the side of the Resistance and that Donald Trump has no mandate for his dangerous, reckless and hateful policies,” she stated.

But Ossoff will face a much more difficult task in June. Instead of a widely divided field of Republicans, he will be facing a unified GOP and a candidate in Handel who has won statewide office.

Nevertheless, a GOP strategist in the Peach State says Republicans should not take a runoff victory for granted.

“The fact that this was as close as it was is a wakeup call for Republicans, not only in Georgia but around the country,” said Julianne Thompson, a Republican strategist and former chairwoman of the Atlanta Tea Party.

Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide, almost certainly would not have been the force that he was in an ordinary election cycle. But he benefited from a tidal wave of donations from progressive activists all over the country wanting to send Trump a message in the district that had been represented by his health and human services secretary, Tom Price.

Ossoff raised nearly $9 million, one of the highest totals ever for a House race. He collected more money from California than he did from Georgia.

Thompson said she expects more of the same.

“I believe that the Democrats are going to continue fundraising outside of Georgia,” she said.

But Thompson said she expects Republicans to approach the race with a sense of urgency after Tuesday's results.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) congratulated Handel.

"In Karen Handel, Georgians will have a dedicated public servant representing them in Washington, D.C., and someone who understands how to get the job done," he said in a statement. "Her record of getting results for the Peach State is exactly why I'm proud to fully support Karen Handel's candidacy for Congress."

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