Georgia Special Election: What to know about the next race to replace a Trump Cabinet pick

Georgia Special Election: What to know about the next race to replace a Trump Cabinet pick
Source: AP
Source: AP

It wasn't just Kansas.

After Democrat James Thompson gave Republican Ron Estes a surprising run for his money in a special election for the 4th district of the typically deep-red Sunflower State on Tuesday, a Democrat in Georgia's upcoming special election is gaining momentum in what's also been a Republican stronghold.

Democrat Jon Ossoff — a documentary filmmaker — is one of 18 candidates vying for Georgia's 6th congressional district seat, which had been occupied by now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Though the district has not elected a Democrat in nearly 40 years, outside contributions and an anti-Trump message have helped give the 30-year-old Ossoff a shot to win April 18. 

"The grassroots intensity here is electric, and it's because folks are concerned that what is happening in Washington doesn't represent our values," Ossoff said in an interview with Reuters. "This is a chance for this community to stand up and make a statement about what we believe."

Here's what you need to know about the race for Georgia's 6th — the latest potential referendum on the President Donald Trump's administration.

The district

Newt Gingrich represented Georgia's 6th district for 20 years.
Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Georgia's 6th congressional district covers the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Price — the Affordable Care Act critic who served the district for six terms — won re-election in 2016 by 23.2%. The district narrowly favored Trump in 2016, with the president edging out opponent Hillary Clinton there by 1.5%, according to the New York Times.

Newt Gingrich — a Trump ally who represented the district from 1979 to 1999 — told Ballotpedia the race to fill Price's seat was an important one for Republicans.

"I do think Republicans have to pay attention, and I think it would be a big mistake to allow this district to go to Ossoff," Gingrich said, "partly because of the psychology nationally, and partly because once a relatively talented person gets in office, it's really hard to get rid of them." 

The candidates

Jon Ossoff is attempting to turn a red Georgia congressional district blue.
Source: John Bazemore/AP

Ossoff leads the crowded, 18-candidate field competing for the congressional seat, the Mercury News reported.

Ossoff, who's campaigning on a slogan of "Make Trump Furious," raised $8.3 million in the first quarter — largely with the help of donors from outside his home state who want to deal a loss to Republicans, and partly with stronger engagement from local Democrats.

"I've never seen the Democrats around here so engaged, and it's Donald Trump who got us so engaged," Carolyn Hadaway, a veteran party activist from Georgia's Cobb County, told Reuters.  

Ossoff, an investigative documentarian and former congressional aide, has never held elected office. He is one of five Democrats, 11 Republicans and two independents to run for the seat.

No primary will be held, and whoever wins more than 50% of the vote April 18 will take the seat. If no one reaches 50%, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election June 20.

What would it mean for Democrats if Ossoff wins?

Republicans fear losing ground in traditionally red districts due to voter backlash against President Donald Trump.
Source: Pool/Getty Images

In Kansas, Republicans were able to keep the seat vacated by CIA director Mike Pompeo — but the race was much tighter than expected in what many regarded as the first referendum on the Trump administration.

"Any takeaway other than that #KS04 is really worrying for Republicans is overthinking it," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver tweeted Tuesday. 

The Georgia race would seem to represent the second such test, and a victory for Democrats could cause some Republicans to question the political liability of aligning themselves with Trump.

"I'm ready to support him," former Georgia state senator Dan Moody, one of the Republicans running for the 6th district seat, said of Trump in an interview with Reuters. But "I'm not going to jump over a cliff with him."

A Democratic victory in Georgia would also notch the party one of the 24 congressional seats it needs to reclaim the House.

Still, as Graham Vyse noted in the New Republic, there have "been plenty of special elections that foreshadowed nothing," meaning the race may not be the referendum Democrats hope it will be.

"If Ossoff pulls off that feat ... many will hail it as a harbinger of the 2018 midterms," Vyse wrote. "If Ossoff loses, it will be interpreted as a major blow to the Democratic opposition to Trump. Both narratives would be wrong."