Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff with 52 percent of the vote Tuesday night in a special election that took place in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Sec. Tom Price created the vacancy by accepting a position in the Trump Administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services late last year.
Democrats hoped to win in this historically Republican district in order to point to it as a referendum against the Trump Administration and its agenda, and in response, Republicans hoped to win to demonstrate that they weren’t losing support from their own base during and because of the new Trump presidency.
The political importance for both parties led to massive amounts of spending by all involved. This wasn’t just 1/435th of the house that was being fought for — this special election morphed into a national battle that would help determine how well each side can recruit candidates and fundraise for the 2018 midterms. With a total price tag of more than $55 million dollars, the Georgia Sixth was the most expensive congressional race in history.
For Ossoff, the vast majority came from out of state — mainly California and New York. Overall, Ossoff had a big push in the form of individual donations larger than $200 a piece that, as of May 31st, totaled $8 million according to the Federal Election Commission. Compare that to Handel’s $2.1 million brought in from individual contributions, coupled with the fact that just 14 percent of Ossoff’s $8,000,000 in donations came from Georgia. Juxtaposed with Handel’s 56 percent coming from her home state, it’s clear that the Democrat was heavily funded by outside interests. How else does one explain nine times more donors from California than Georgia? It makes more sense when you realize that this is from a candidate that doesn’t even live in the district he ran for — a weak point for Ossoff — as highlighted in a congressional debate between the two when Handle stumped Ossoff with a simple question, “Who are you going to be voting for in this election?”
Ossoff, obviously, cannot vote in this election. He lives five minutes outside of the district.
For Handel however, most of her financing came from Super PACs such as the Congressional Leadership Fund ($6.2 million), the National Republican Congressional Committee ($6.0 million) and other major PACs. The majority of these Super PACs contributions are from outside sources as well, but one could argue that this was a necessary move by the Republicans in order to put up a proper fight against the money that was being dumped into the district.
What did all this massive spending amount to?
According to a Huffington Post article by progressive minister and Georgia 6th voter Billy Michael Honor, “[I’ve] never seen anything like the Jon Ossoff campaign”. The heaps of money that was funneled into the district reportedly saturated every aspect of life with Ossoff’s face and name. From Honor’s perspective, he felt that this brought out a lot of conservative voters as well as new Democratic ones because it fed into a sense of being attacked by the left in their traditionally conservative district.
Top Democratic celebrities in Hollywood and elsewhere are some of the most vocal supporters and biggest contributors to Democratic campaigns across the country, but what does it do for the candidates in these regions, far-removed from the progressive strongholds of the rich and famous? What does it accomplish in terms of victory? The Georgia 6th is an affluent suburb — these voters do not want their district to be influenced by the occupiers of these liberal citadels of the Hollywood and New York elite. Middle-Americans seem to not only reject this interference, but be motivated even further at the sight of this outside money coming in and attempting to take away their voice as actual citizens of their district. Right-wing Super PACs would never have countered with the contributions they did had it not been for having to fight back against the onslaught of outside influence. Even progressive voters like Minister Honor maintain that this level of campaigning may have felt like a “political siege” for many of the older voters in the district.
Had the democrats not attempted to turn this special election into a national level anti-Trump referendum, their center left candidate would have done much better.
The DNC is now facing the stark reality of a 0-5 record in special elections, and with around $200 – $220 per vote spent on, as Donald Trump Jr. put it, a “participation trophy,” Democrats have a lot to ponder as they attempt to flip congressional districts in the 2018 mid-terms. As of now, it seems that they will not learn from this series of losses, and will continue beating the resistance movement drums which will get them nowhere. In terms of gaining back the House or Senate, it seems that the Democrats are oblivious to the public’s desires.