The latest confirmation that Democrats have a wind at their backs came early Saturday morning. The man fighting to take the seat once occupied by Newt Gingrich announced that he is the first congressional candidate in history to rack up more than a million online donations.
Jon Ossoff turned a lot of heads in April when he came within a few thousand votes of winning the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district in a single round. This performance is all the more remarkable considering that this district has long been the stereotypical affluent suburban Southern district–very Republican, with a strong social conservative tint. Ossoff’s momentum has continued unabated since then ahead of the June 20 runoff against Republican Karen Handel, with most polls showing the race a toss-up at best.
Early Saturday morning, Ossoff blasted out a happy email to his followers.
This is nothing short of remarkable on several counts. As most of us know, most congressional districts are drawn in such a way that the district’s minority party cannot possibly win. Even the few remaining swing districts rarely attract online donations in six figures, let alone a million.
Let’s also consider the 6th’s history. It was first created in 1993 in an attempt to draw Gingrich out of office. The old 6th, which he had represented since 1979, was anchored in Atlanta’s southern exurbs. The Democratic-controlled state legislature merged much of that territory with the Columbus-based 3rd District and created a new, heavily Republican 6th District in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. However, Gingrich simply moved to Marietta in the new 6th and won the Republican primary there, all but assuring victory in November.
In its current incarnation, this district has never even been on the radar screen for Democrats. Counting the 1992 election, a Democrat has only cracked the 40 percent barrier in this district twice. On paper, the 6th was made even more Republican after a 2006 mid-decade redistricting moved most of northern DeKalb County–including, ironically, Ossoff’s hometown in Northlake–from the heavily Democratic, black-majority 4th District to the 6th.
A Republican state lawmaker all but admitted that the new map was intended to pack as many blacks and as many Democrats into the 4th in order to ensure that the 6th and 7th Districts both stayed Republican. But that plan nearly blew up in the GOP’s faces in the 2016 election. Donald Trump only carried the district 48-46–down from a 61-37 win for Mitt Romney in 2012. That was part of the Atlanta suburbs’ dramatic shift from red to blue–one that nearly delivered Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton. The message is clear–there’s only so much packing and cracking you can do when the demographics are moving against you.
So a Democrat running in a district that was not only drawn specifically to lock the Democrats out, but has not even been seriously discussed as a potential flip in more than a quarter-century, has managed to rack up one million online donations. No wonder the Republicans are running scared here. Since the first round, Paul Ryan and Trump himself have come to the 6th to campaign for Handel. It hasn’t been enough to stop Ossoff’s momentum, which now looks to be moving at the speed of a MARTA light rail train.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, however. Mother Jones reports that a major push is underway to get as many new voters registered as possible before the rolls close on May 21, and get them to the polls. Specifically, Ossoff and outside groups supporting him are trying to sign up minority and young voters who are more likely to back him in the runoff.
There’s no denying it–Ossoff has the momentum. Now it’s time to turn that into a win on June 20. Click here to donate and help make it happen.
(featured image courtesy Ossoff’s Facebook)