Opinion: Handel’s real experience vs. Ossoff’s practiced promises

The first debate between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel was Tuesday night, and it’s pretty clear there are a couple of reasons Ossoff wanted to avoid a nationally televised showdown.

First, he surely didn’t want too many of his liberal benefactors in California, Massachusetts and New York to see him playing the moderate budget-and-defense-hawk he’s selling to voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Second, and more important, none of his act makes up for the fact his promises to work across the aisle and be fiscally responsible look pretty wimpy compared to Handel’s record of doing such things.

After using a “make Trump furious” slogan to gain national notoriety and then quietly backing away from it — he even said Tuesday night he’d be willing to work with President Trump on some issues — Ossoff has recast himself as the “independent” in the race who is “willing to work with anyone.” (Of note: This special election is technically a non-partisan affair, and anyone including Ossoff could have run as an independent; two candidates did.)

One supposes voters are expected to believe it’s merely a coincidence he has benefited from some $5 million spent by House Democrats’ campaign arm and raised well over $1 million through the efforts of the left-wing Daily Kos.

Perhaps voters are also supposed to forget how Democrats under Nancy Pelosi have treated their “independent” voices in the past. Blue Dog Democrats, those self-described moderates, were wheedled and brow-beaten into voting for Obamacare and then left for (political) dead once the law proved unpopular. Even if you somehow have been convinced Ossoff is truly a moderate, you can count on Pelosi & Co. sacrificing him on the altar of liberalism at their convenience.

Yet, his mechanical happy talk about bipartisanship continues. It might play better if Handel couldn’t point to concrete examples of what she’s done in this regard.

As chair of the Fulton County Commission, she came into office facing a Democratic majority and a proposed budget that included tax hikes. She wound up passing a balanced budget anyway, without tax hikes, by working with the Democratic commissioners.

Ossoff? He apparently had to be goaded last month into saying he'd support a Republican bill to block funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops providing aid to terrorists. He initially insisted on introducing his own measure, but retreated after proving unable to describe how it might differ from the GOP legislation. Perhaps he's willing to work with almost anyone?

Likewise, Ossoff talks often about the need to develop industry and jobs in the district. Handel, on the other hand, first rose to local prominence by turning around a struggling North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. The same goes for her record as Georgia’s secretary of state of cutting her budget by millions of dollars, despite an Ossoff ad claiming otherwise that PolitiFact, in an understatement, deemed “Mostly False.”

Time and again, the contrast Tuesday night was between what Handel has done and what Ossoff can merely claim he’ll try to do. If voters in the 6th want someone who knows how to represent them well in Washington, the experience gap couldn’t be any wider.