This is the last issue of the AJT before Georgia’s 6th District elects its new congressman or congresswoman, so if you’re among the roughly 40 percent of Jewish Atlanta living in that district across Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties, it’s time to make your choice.
Through the first two debates, the options are clear: a career politician who makes mistakes like a newcomer and a political newcomer who sticks to the script like the old pro he aims to be.
By conventional political wisdom, Karen Handel should win by a comfortable margin. She entered the race in February with a huge lead in name recognition, having won and lost statewide elections. She has experience and a record as an officeholder. She’s a Republican in a district that has elected members of her party for nearly 40 years.
But, much like Hillary Clinton last year, Handel doesn’t elicit much passion or excitement in her party base, nor is she a great campaigner. And she often stumbles in debates, an arena in which she should thrive against an inexperienced opponent.
In debates Tuesday, June 6, and Thursday, June 8, Handel’s gaffes undid her efforts to chip away at Democrat Jon Ossoff’s cool, calm persona and tie him to California liberalism.
In the first debate, she said, “I oppose a livable wage.” She meant that she is against a government mandate for companies to pay a particular wage, but she enabled her foes to mock her and claim that she revealed the true view she and other conservatives hold toward working Americans.
That slip of the lips was at least understandable; she simply left out a word. We have a harder time deciphering what she was going for in the second debate when she declared in her closing remarks, which she presumably prepared in advance, that she has “tremendous tentacles” in the 6th District. Tweets featuring Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” were inevitable, and her success at emphasizing that Planned Parenthood performs no mammograms, contrary to Ossoff’s rhetoric, was forgotten.
Ossoff, as usual, was excellent at sticking to a script packed with promising nuggets, such as his plan to save $600 billion in federal overspending over 10 years, his support for lower corporate taxes and his promise to oppose any income tax increases. He talked tough on Iran, although we fear that he’s mistaken if he believes that violations of the nuclear deal would lead our European allies to snap back sanctions.
We wish he would stop saying that “97 percent of scientists” believe in human-caused global warming (there’s no actual measurement of the opinions of all scientists). It’s strong enough to talk about the scientific consensus or even the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.
And enough of criticizing Handel for being a career politician. It’s an accurate description, but it also fairly describes the career goal of someone running for Congress at age 30.
In the end, fair or not, we expect the results June 20 to be based as much on D.C. politics as on Handel and Ossoff. What might give Ossoff the edge is the willingness of some conservatives to lose this election in the hope of running a stronger Republican against him next year.