Chalk this one up as an example of saying precisely the right thing in precisely the wrong way. In the special election to replace Tom Price (now at HHS) in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, a debate was held last night. Democrat Jon Ossoff is a political novice in a district where he would normally have no business seriously challenging Republican candidate and former Secretary of State Karen Handel. But for some reason, the race is currently in a dead heat according to the most recent polls. Handel didn’t do herself any favors when a question about the minimum wage came along, flubbing what should have been a straight forward answer regarding the Democrat’s call for a “living wage” by saying she didn’t support a “livable wage.” Liberal sites, such as Talking Points Memo, were quick to jump on that one like a raw steak dropped in front of a doberman.
During Tuesday night’s debate for an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, Republican candidate Karen Handel said that she does not support a “livable wage.”
“I do not support a livable wage,” she said on Atlanta’s WSB-TV in response to a question about raising the minimum wage. “What I support is making sure that we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation.”
Handel said that raising the minimum wage could hurt small businesses.
Here’s the video of the awkward moment, also from TPM.
It took the Ossoff campaign no time at all to get that quote out on social media and start fundraising off of it.
"Someone working full time should earn a decent standard of living." – Jon Ossoff pic.twitter.com/hf1yO7YfLX
— Team Ossoff (@TeamOssoff) June 7, 2017
For his part, Ossoff pretty much gave the best answer possible for a Democrat running in a more conservative area. He took the progressive line of supporting a “living wage” but eased one of the major fears among conservatives about a sudden spike in labor costs by saying he favored a “gradual” increase in the pay rate.
Handel had a fairly easy answer available to her and she actually tried to bring up some of those points after the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad opener she handed to her opponent. What she needed to say was that not every job is intended to have a “living wage” because not every job is fitted for one person to raise an entire family on. Some jobs, particularly in the fast food industry among others, are better “first jobs” where people learn some skills and get some entries on their resume. They are not meant to provide an income for a family of four to thrive on. That could have led to a productive discussion of how jobs have been lost in several cities where the minimum wage was raised massively in a short period of time.
Unfortunately, all of that good data was likely lost in the firestorm which immediately erupted after she said she was opposed to “a livable wage.” For what it’s worth, the rest of her debate seemed to go pretty well and she’s still got a couple of weeks to clean this up before voters head to the polls. Still, GA-06 is shaping up to be far tighter than we’d have liked to see even if the Republican pulls it out.