Could Georgia’s Sixth Move to the Left?

BY ADRIAN LOPEZ

(Dustin Chambers/The New Yorker)

(Dustin Chambers/The New Yorker)

A special election will take place in Georgia’s 6th congressional district after President Donald Trump appointed the district’s former congressman, Tom Price, as Secretary for Health and Human Services in the executive cabinet. With a myriad of Democratic and Republican candidates announcing their bid for the seat, one particular individual has stood out among the rest: Jon Ossoff.

A thirty-year old born and raised in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, Ossoff quickly gained popularity with Democratic voters and appears to be the candidate best positioned to garner the Democratic vote; however, as Georgia is a relatively conservative state, it is unlikely that Ossoff alone can seize the district from Republican hands with Democratic voters alone. In particular, Georgia’s “jungle primary” system elects any candidate with more than half of the vote, and Ossoff in a recent poll has only 43 percent.

Yet all is not lost. In fact, voters in the 6th district on both the left and the right are energized and attracted by Ossoff’s youthfulness. Although Republican opponents charge that Ossoff’s youth makes him inexperienced and therefore unfit for office, Ossoff’s sway can capture many young liberal and conservative millennials, and there is a real chance the district can turn blue.

In fact, many advertisements attacking Ossoff seem to have had a negligible effect on voters in the district, with recent polls, as mentioned, showing him at 43 percent just weeks away from the April 18th election. Such negative advertisements, using social media footage from his profiles to attack his political competency, may even dissuade Republican millennial voters in this age where social media profiles and political and personal identity are inextricably intertwined.

The age of the electorate is important here: Donald Trump won the 6th district vote for the presidential general election by just a 1 percent margin. This slim margin of victory for the conservative presidential candidate suggests that many young millennial Republicans are disillusioned and alienated by Trump, who is a different generation and thus possibly out of touch with millennials’ concerns. Specifically, in the 2016 congressional election, Tom Price won 62 percent of the vote, his Democratic opponent winning 38 percent. Considering how Ossoff is polling now, there are implications that capitalizing on millennial Republican voters unimpressed with Trump could flip the district blue if Ossoff is able to unite their votes with his party’s own.

Republican donors in particular seem to be aware of Ossoff’s popularity and have subsequently poured resources into the district to keep Republican votes; so far, Republican donors have contributed some $3 million to Republican candidates. In response, Democrats from all over the country, particularly from California and New York, have helped Ossoff raise more than $8.3 million, an enormous amount of money considering Ossoff only began his campaign in January 2017.

While the fate of Georgia’s 6th congressional district is important, this special election is more significant because it indicates the generational gap in America’s electorate; many millennials, both on the left and right, may not see eye-to-eye with the generation of their parents, and this special election in particular will highlight how elections may be decided more on the differences between voters in terms of age rather than partisanship or policy positions. Young candidates, like Jon Ossoff, who realize that young voters on both sides of the aisle can be persuaded to support millennial candidates versus older ones, have the potential to take the lead in pushing the establishment Democratic and Republican parties in new directions centered on the millennial generation.

 

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