Who is Jon Ossoff, Loser of the Georgia Special Election?

Karen Handel won the runoff election.

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff lost the runoff election for Georgia’s sixth Congressional district on Tuesday in a narrow defeat to Republican Karen Handel, who received 52.5 percent of the vote to Ossoff’s 47.5 percent (as of 10:30 p.m. Eastern; the race was called by the Associated Press at 10:13 p.m. Eastern).

It was one of the most heavily scrutinized state elections in recent years. The candidates were competing for a spot recently vacated by Tom Price, who left Congress to join the Trump administration as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Commentators across the United States suggested that the election could serve as a preliminary indication of whether “The Resistance” movement against President Donald Trump might lead Democrats to win a Congressional majority in 2018.

So, who is Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old who suddenly shot to fame this year during his first bid for political office?

In his three decades of life, Ossoff has gained a wide range of political experience by interning for Representative John Lewis, earning a degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and working as an aide to and drafting legislation for Representative Hank Johnson. For the past few years, he’s been running a business that produces investigative documentaries, including one about ISIS and human trafficking.

In this special election campaign, Ossoff — though he was running as a Democrat — became known for rejecting traditional partisan labels.

“I’m not that interested in labels or litmus tests,” Ossoff has said. “I’m interested in delivering results that requires bipartisanship and that’s what voters in this district want.”

Ossoff on the day of the runoff election.

Getty Images / Joe Raedle

To that end, he also rejected some of the ideas associated with the modern progressive movement, such as Medicare for all and single-payer healthcare. He did, however, oppose every version of the Obamacare replacement bill that the Republicans released.

Throughout the campaign, Ossoff came under fire for living slightly outside the district for which he was running. He had temporarily moved a little over a mile away to live with his fiancé while she finished medical school at Emory University, but planned to move back to the sixth district as soon as her studies were complete.

This situation caused many to liken Ossoff to a “carpet-bagger,” a Reconstruction-era term for someone who moves someplace to which they’re unaffiliated to exploit a chance to win political power.

Whether for that reason, or a host of others — that Handel received 2.5 times his amount of donations, or that Ossoff lacked the progressive ideology necessary to galvanize the left, or that the sixth district is unshakably Republican-leaning, or that the recent attack on Republican congressmen in an Alexandria baseball field allowed the GOP to villainize Democrats — Ossoff was unable to secure a win on Tuesday.

It remains to be seen whether this is a bad omen for the prospects of a liberal congressional takeover in 2018; regardless, this is a disappointment for the Democratic Party.

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