Outside Influence Upsets 6th
OpinionEditor's Notebook

Outside Influence Upsets 6th

National Democrats' determination to flip the district have frustrated party candidates not named Ossoff.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

We’re now a month away from the special election for the 6th Congressional District seat vacated by Roswell Republican Tom Price when he became U.S. health and human services secretary.

We wrote about one of the candidates, Democratic former state Sen. Ron Slotin, at the start of January, before the vacancy officially existed. But this week’s articles about Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Abroms, who, like Slotin, are Jewish, mark the start of a concerted effort to profile as many of the 18 candidates as we can before the election April 18. (Early voting begins March 27, but people who are ready to cast ballots that soon probably don’t need the information we can provide.)

Our interest in this race stems from the relatively heavy concentration of Jewish voters in the 6th, which sweeps from East Cobb through North Fulton into DeKalb in an area packed with synagogues, day schools and the Marcus Jewish Community Center. But it also presents the possibility that Georgia could elect a Jewish congressman for the first time since Elliott Levitas lost a bid for his sixth term in 1984.

Most of the attention is on Ossoff, who has benefited from an early endorsement by Rep. John Lewis and the hunger of Democrats nationwide to claim a symbolic anti-Trump electoral victory.

Ossoff has been involved in Washington politics since he was a student at Georgetown and is as well informed about the issues as any of the 11 Republicans, five Democrats and two independents running.

But as his fundraising churns past the $3 million mark — Republican Judson Hill said he expects Ossoff’s war chest to top $4 million by Election Day — it’s clear that much of the money is coming from out-of-state progressives who have trouble imagining more than one Democrat running in a district that has elected Republicans for nearly 40 years.

At least one Republican super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has helped Ossoff claim the mantle of the Democratic hope by running silly ads featuring decade-old footage of Ossoff having fun in college.

It was always going to be tough for Slotin and fellow Democrats Ragin Edwards, Rebecca Quigg and Richard Keatley to emerge from the crowded ballot and at least make the runoff between the top two vote-getters June 20. But seeing Democrats and Republicans alike obsess over Ossoff has caused frustrations that erupted into public view Sunday, March 12, at a Democratic forum held by the group Needles in a Haystack.

Slotin, who has the experience and connections in the district to have entered the race with the reasonable hope of being the progressive voice his party would rally around, criticized national Democratic organizations for rushing to support one candidate instead of letting the democratic process play out.

“I knew I was going to have to take on the Republican political machine,” Slotin said, but not Democratic Washington insiders. “You don’t know anything about this district.” He cited Sen. Bernie Sanders’ uphill, unsuccessful campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination as another example of those insiders picking a candidate, obstructing the process and offending voters.

The national Democratic fixation with Ossoff shouldn’t be held against him, but it also shouldn’t be decisive in the choice of a candidate. I hope our articles and various forums and guides will help voters in the 6th (myself included) make their decision.

I can’t promise we’ll profile all the candidates — some have ignored requests for interviews — but we’ll talk to everyone who will talk to the AJT.

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