Jon Ossoff, who rose from relative obscurity to become a nationally known, albeit unsuccessful congressional candidate, has entered the Democratic field challenging Georgia’s incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue in the 2020 election.
News of Ossoff’s intention to seek the Democratic nomination was reported first on Monday night by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The 32-year-old Ossoff, who grew up in DeKalb County and became a bar mitzvah at The Temple, becomes the fourth candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. The others are former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, and Sarah Riggs Amico, who lost to Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan in the 2018 election.
The Democratic primary is scheduled for March 24, 2020.
In late August, Georgia’s other senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, announced that he would step down at the end of the year, two years before the scheduled end of his term, because of health issues. Ossoff told the AJC that planning for his Senate campaign was underway before Isakson’s announcement.
Republicans currently hold a 53-47 margin in the U.S. Senate.
“David Perdue is a caricature of Washington corruption. My campaign will expose him, and a historic grassroots army of Georgians will defeat him. Georgia is now the most competitive state in the country, and the Senate majority will be decided in Georgia,” Ossoff said in a statement issued Tuesday morning by his campaign.
“We’re in a state where one in three rural children live in poverty, where we have the worst maternal mortality in the entire country, and in a half a decade, this guy hasn’t come down from his private island to do a single town hall meeting,” the statement said. “He hands out favors to his donors. He runs errands for the president.”
The campaign also touted an endorsement by Rep. John Lewis, the Democrat and civil rights movement icon who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.
Ossoff will seek to rebuild the grass-roots operation and fundraising machinery that propelled his bid for a seat in the U.S. House from Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
A special election in the traditionally Republican district was required when Republican Rep. Tom Price became Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration, a position he resigned several months later following controversy surrounding travel expenses.
In April 2017 Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote in an open primary of 18 candidates, falling short of the majority that would have won him the seat outright. He was forced into a runoff with Republican Karen Handel, who finished second with 19.8 percent of the vote.
At the end of a campaign in which an estimated $55 million was raised (more than $31 million by Ossoff), Handel defeated Ossoff, 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent. Handel was later defeated in her re-election bid in the November 2018 by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath.
Ossoff graduated in 2005 from The Paideia School. He received a bachelor’s degree in 2009 from Georgetown University in Washington, where he studied at the Walsh School of Foreign Service.
He worked as deputy communications director on Hank Johnson’s successful 2006 campaign to replace fellow Democrat Cynthia McKinney in Georgia’s 4th District. In 2007, while still a student, Ossoff acted as a legislative aide for Johnson, primarily on military and national security issues, and continued in that position after graduation.
In 2013, Ossoff received a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.
He became the chief executive officer (and a 50 percent stakeholder) of Insight TWI, which produces documentaries focusing on government corruption and conflict around the world.
Ossoff’s wife, Alisha, is an OB-GYN resident working at Emory University Hospital. The couple lives in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta.
Looking back at his 2017 race for Congress, Ossoff told the AJC, “I learned never to be intimidated from telling my own story and touting my own accomplishments by the inevitable partisan smears that will come from super PACs in Washington. I’ve been through the fire. I no longer care what they say about me.”