Shortly after his first-place finish in April, Ossoff challenged Handel to six debates and later said he “confirmed” three of them: One with CBS-46, one with WSB-TV and a third hosted by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association. But Handel had declined to attend the Dunwoody debate, leading to a wave of criticism from Ossoff supporters and the debate organizers.
Tom Price’s congressional seat is vacant since he accepted a position in the Trump administration.
Handel supporters were quick to seize on Ossoff’s decision to skip the CNN debate.
“Ossoff still isn’t ready for prime time. Maybe if CNN lets him dress in ‘Star Wars’ attire he’ll reconsider?” tweeted Southern Region Young Republicans, referring to a video of Ossoff dressed as Han Solo from his college days.
Ossoff’s strategy has been to keep his personal message local, concentrating on federal spending and economic development. The Democrat has left it to others, including high-spending super PACs, to characterize his campaign as a protest against the administration of President Donald Trump.
That separation might be harder to maintain under questioning that would have likely been dominated by national correspondents from CNN.
Strauss expressed disappointment in the decision.
“The Atlanta Press Club has a 25-year history of providing Georgia voters fair and balanced debates through its Loudermilk-Young Debate Series,” Strauss said. “We regret Jon Ossoff has declined to be a part of this debate, which would have helped inform the voters of Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District and engaged viewers around the country.”