Syrian refugees in the Sixth become a focus of GOP attack on Jon Ossoff

With the Sixth District race still 19 days from the finish line, House Republicans have leveled a new TV attack on Democrat Jon Ossoff, this time over Syrian refugees brought to the United States. Some of the ominous language:

“ISIS is infiltrating America, and is using Syrians to do it. The FBI warned we can’t simply screen every Syrian, and Jon Ossoff’s liberal party bosses brought 10,000 Syrian refugees to America.”

Watch it here:

There's a very specific Sixth District angle here. Within its boundaries is Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, pastored by the Rev. Bryant Wright, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, hardly a bastion of liberalism. Wright's church is the sponsor of a Syrian refugee family. Wright was on GPB's "Political Rewind" earlier this year, addressing President Donald Trump's first attempt to bar Syrian refugees. Said Wright:

“I understand he’s trying to fulfill a campaign promise. I understand he’s trying to protect citizens. There’s great fear about Islamic terrorism….


“These [refugees] are so well vetted. It’s just nothing like the European situation, when people are showing up on your shore. There’s always the chance that somebody can break through the system, but these people are so well vetted…”

At a rally this morning, Ossoff called the attack "over the top."

"The fear-mongering, I don't think it plays here too well. It's pretty standard partisan playbook - as it has been for months," he said.  "There has to be a balance struck between security and living up to our ideals and our traditions as a place that welcomes those fleeing violence and persecution. And that balance can be struck ... but I think this fear-mongering isn't going to be well received by voters here who are too darn smart for it.

The Ossoff campaign is already up with a TV response, which you can find here. As soon as we get an embedded version, we'll put it up. In the ad, Ossoff draws on his background as a documentary film producer. "I sent a team to the front line against ISIS, to expose their atrocities against women and girls," he says.

The attack ad, put out by the National Republican Congressional Committee, also attacks Ossoff's support for the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that he would vote against any efforts in Congress to undermine it. As a congressional aide for U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, Ossoff drafted a resolution demanding the inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Ossoff spokeswoman Sacha Haworth said the ads "are misleading voters with partisan lies that are proven false over and over again."

Handel has been sharply critical of the deal, which she said threatens the nation's security.


In the last week, both Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel have found that, when you're in the middle of a nationalized campaign for Congress, you can find yourself at the mercy of every loose cannon from your party's side of the ledger.

On Wednesday, Ossoff was handed the bill for a two-month-old Twitter endorsement by comedian Kathy Griffin.

Griffin provoked a firestorm for photos that showed her holding up a bloody head resembling President Donald Trump.  The Georgia Gun Owners quickly posted a web video describing her as one of the "Hollywood liberals" backing the Democrat's campaign. We would be shocked if that's the last word on the topic.

Griffin, for her part, has apologized and posted a video saying she "went too far." CNN cut her from her most prominent role - as co-host of the network's annual New Year's Eve bash.

Democrats, too, have tried to draw a line between Handel and some of the most incendiary Republican figures.

When Greg Gianforte, the 'body-slamming' future Montana congressman, sent a fundraising plea last week for House Republicans to defeat "liberals in Georgia," the Democratic Party of Georgia sent a dispatch wondering if Handel condoned violence against reporters.

"Georgia Democrats demand that Karen Handel condemn Gianforte’s violent behavior," wrote party spokesman Michael Smith, "and return every single dime raised by his email.”


Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul has found a new way to say today’s his birthday. From his Facebook page:

I qualify for Medicare today and officially become a ward of my children. Stay employed, kids. Daddy needs you.


The uncertainty surrounding Plant Vogtle and Georgia Power’s effort to build two new nuclear reactors there has given incumbent Public Service Commission member Chuck Eaton a Democratic challenger. Eaton, of course, is a Republican.

John Noel, a former state House member and 20-year resident of Atlanta, announced his candidacy for the District Three seat on Wednesday. The bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the firm in charge of construction of the reactors, was his chief emphasis. From the press release:

“I will not allow Georgia ratepayer money to be wasted as it has in the past and continues to be. I will be open and transparent about any issue that comes before the Public Service Commission. There has been a lack of proper oversight on certain recent projects, and it’s time for that to change.


“There is no excuse for something, paid for by Georgia ratepayers, to be billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, and at risk of never providing any benefit for the every-day people who footed the bill.”

Noel describes himself as president and founder of Energy + Environment, an energy-efficiency company he started nearly 20 years ago.

Keep an eye on this race. Bobby Baker’s election to the PSC in 1992 is still considered by many to be the real beginning of the GOP rise in Georgia. Baker was the first Republican elected to a statewide constitutional office since Reconstruction.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.