WASHINGTON ― The next big test of the activist energy within the Democratic Party will be the special election to replace Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Already, the leading Democratic candidate is receiving unprecedented grassroots support.
That candidate, 30-year-old former congressional staffer Jon Ossoff, has already raised more than $1 million from the liberal online website Daily Kos. That’s the most the 15-year-old online community has ever raised for a single candidate. So far, 59,000 donors connected to Daily Kos have donated to Ossoff’s campaign.
“We can scarcely describe how intense the Daily Kos community’s support for Jon Ossoff has been,” Daily Kos political director David Nir said in an email. “It’s literally unprecedented. In the first week after we endorsed him, our members gave more to Ossoff than they gave to our previous record-holder over an entire cycle — and that was Elizabeth Warren. What’s more, the pace hasn’t slackened at all. It’s only intensified, as Trump’s perpetual outrage machine keeps fueling people to contribute more and more. And it’s only going to escalate as we get closer to the election.”
Activists have poured into their local Democratic Party headquarters across the country looking for some way to direct their anger at President Donald Trump’s policies and, for many of them, to act on the positive energy that came out of the nationwide women’s marches attended by millions on Jan. 21. These activists have already helped push Democratic candidates in special elections in Delaware and Connecticut to perform far better than probably they would have in ordinary conditions.
Ossoff has also received just over $63,000 in donations through Flippable and $150,000 from small donors connected to the pro-campaign finance reform group End Citizens United. In addition, 3,500 Georgians have signed up to volunteer for Ossoff’s campaign. To take advantage of this grassroots energy on the ground, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is deploying nine staffers to the Georgia Democratic Party to help with turnout.
The Georgia district appears on the surface like it would be a place for Democrats to avoid. It is rated as R+14, meaning it favors Republicans by 14 percentage points. Price had never won the district with less than 60 percent of the vote.
But the district swung heavily toward Democrats at the presidential level in 2016. Where Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama there by 21 percentage points, Trump narrowly bested Hillary Clinton by a 1-point margin, 48-47. That was one of the largest shifts toward Democrats in the 2016 election.
Clinton’s near win in the district was driven in large part by her success among college educated white voters appalled by Trump. The district, which encompasses parts of Atlanta and its suburbs, has significantly more college-educated voters than Georgia as a whole. It also has more Asian and Latino voters and fewer African-American voters.
One of the biggest emerging splits in public polling surveys on Trump’s job performance has been on education. College educated voters and college educated white voters are significantly less supportive of Trump than those who have not graduated from college.
These demographics may help Democrats as they attempt to make the race a referendum on Trump’s first three months in office.
Republicans are already putting big money into holding the seat. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC connected to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), plans to spend $1.1 million attacking Ossoff ― a major investment for a district that hasn’t gone to a Democrat since 1979. The super PAC’s first ad goes after Ossoff for dressing up as Han Solo for Halloween when he was in college.
The election is held on April 18. Ossoff is one of five Democrats running, along with 11 Republican candidates. If no candidate surpasses 50 percent on April 18, the top two finishers will head to a June 20 runoff.