These two arguments will collide in an upcoming special election in suburban Atlanta for the seat of just-confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price—the first congressional election during Trump’s presidency. A lengthy roster of Republicans and Democrats are vying to win a once-solidly Republican district which has become highly competitive in the age of Trump. Nestled in upscale Fulton and Cobb counties, the district is filled with affluent Republicans working for Fortune 500 companies like Home Depot and Coca Cola. Trump carried the district by only 2 points in 2016, a 20-point drop-off from Mitt Romney’s winning margin four years earlier.
On paper, this election should be a golden opportunity for Democrats to make political inroads. The district is filled with the type of college-educated voters who have gravitated away from Trump—including independents who don’t strong have strong partisan loyalties but tend to vote Republican. Eleven Republicans will be fighting against each other on an all-party primary ballot, making it likely the eventual GOP standard-bearer will be wounded heading into an expected runoff. Trump’s presidency has gotten off to a rocky start, giving any Democrat plenty of material to work with.
But the early Democratic favorite in the race is about as awkward a fit for this particular district as Democrats could find. Jon Ossoff, a self-described investigative filmmaker, is a 29-year-old Bernie Sanders backer and a former national security staffer for liberal Rep. Hank Johnson. His candidacy has been endorsed by Rep. John Lewis and championed by the liberal Daily Kos website, which has helped him raise nearly $1 million for his campaign—a remarkable sum for an obscure candidate in an off-year House election. He’s facing another Democrat, former state Sen. Ron Slotin, whose more-moderate credentials are passé at a time when his party is looking for confrontational voices.