From the time Donald Trump announced he would nominate Tom Price for health and human services secretary, we knew national politics would make the election to fill Price’s congressional seat extra-special.
After all, the voting April 18 represents one of the first chances in the nation for people to respond at the ballot box to the start of the Trump administration, and it comes in a congressional district, the 6th, with a history of electing conservative Republicans going back 40 years to Newt Gingrich’s first victory. Despite that history, and despite Price’s easy re-election in November, it’s also a district that nearly backed Hillary Clinton over Trump for president.
That combination of factors guaranteed national interest, which in turn guaranteed big money being spent to try to flip the seat to the Democrats or to preserve its Republican status.
We’ve just begun to talk to the 18 candidates — 11 Republicans, five Democrats and two independents — who each paid $5,220 to appear on the ballot, but it’s already clear that this will be an expensive election.
Democrat Jon Ossoff has benefited from the early endorsement of Rep. John Lewis, which led to the progressive website Daily Kos backing him and raising money for him online. Ossoff said in an interview Wednesday, Feb. 22, that he already had more than $1.8 million in donations, as well as more than 5,000 volunteers (a total that topped 6,000 by the time he went door to door to meet potential voters in the district Feb. 25).
Republican David Abroms said in an interview Feb. 22 that he has committed $250,000 of his own money to his campaign — this from a man who a few years ago subsisted on cheese-and-ketchup sandwiches while living with a cousin so he could put everything he had into a business converting gasoline-powered vehicles to compressed natural gas.
During Democrat Ron Slotin’s kickoff event at Hudson Grille in Sandy Springs on Saturday night, Feb. 18, his campaign manager said it would take at least $500,000 to run a successful race. Presumably, that total didn’t include the extra cash needed for the inevitable runoff June 20 between the top two vote-getters, regardless of party (all 18 candidates are on the same ballot).
Ossoff, Abroms and Slotin — 17 percent of the candidates in this wide-open election — are Jewish. While that Jewish involvement might be reflective of the makeup of the 6th District, which sweeps through some of metro Atlanta’s most Jewish areas — including East Cobb, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Alpharetta and Johns Creek — it’s still unusual in Georgia. As we’ve written, our state has few Jewish legislators who could jump into the race to try to follow in the footsteps of Elliott Levitas, who represented an Atlanta-area district in Congress from 1975 to 1985.
I live in the 6th District, and I don’t know whether any of these three men will be my next congressman. I don’t know whether I’ll vote for any of them. But I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be represented by any of them — in part because, unlike most of Jewish Atlanta, all three of them are Southern Jews by birth and upbringing.
Look for profiles of 6th District candidates to start running March 17. I can’t promise we’ll go in depth on all 18 of them, but I’m hopeful that we’ll give you the information you need if you’re voting April 18 or if you’re an interested observer outside the 6th. And with our new website, the whole community can use those forthcoming articles to talk about the merits of the candidates and the needs of the district, the state and the nation.