Next month, Republican Karen Handel will square off against Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff to replace former Georgia congressman Tom Price, who resigned when he was appointed Donald Trump’s health and human services secretary. Handel and Ossoff were the top two finishers in an all-party primary, in which Ossoff received 48 percent, outperforming Hillary Clinton’s 46 percent in the district.
One thing is for sure: the Georgia special election is set to be the most expensive House race in history. Both Republicans and Democrats are slated to pour tens of millions into the campaign over the next month.
Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending — highlighting the outsize importance a sliver of the Atlanta suburbs has taken on in national politics.
It is plainly more money than one House race out of 435 needs. Cash is flowing in at such saturation levels that Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign had the money for everything from Korean radio ads to free Lyft rides for voters on primary day. The Atlanta NBC station has even bumped reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” from their regular slot in order to extend its local newscasts and make more room for political ads.
Ossoff’s campaign is being propelled by small-dollar donations, mostly from outside of the district. He’s tapped into the progressive anger over President Donald Trump’s election and effectively nationalized the race.
Meanwhile, President Trump had a fundraiser for Handel that raised hundreds of thousands for her campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also stepped up for Handel by raising hundreds of thousands more. In addition, House Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund plans on dumping $8.5 million into the race, which has set a new record for outside spending.
Why is this race so important? For starters, it already is a defeat for Republicans. The fact that Ossoff got 48 percent of the vote in what was a deeply red district means that Republicans are vulnerable nationwide. Progressives are as energized now as the tea party was in 2010.
This district is also important because it’s a must-win for Democrats if they plan on taking back the House of Representatives in 2018. Georgia’s Sixth is a suburban enclave of Atlanta that is trending younger and has had an influx of minority voters. If Democrats cannot win here, they will have a tough time flipping other Republican seats.
The battle in Georgia’s special election will go down to the wire, but one thing is for sure: neither party is leaving anything on the table.