Four years ago today, a 29-year-old Jon Ossoff announced that he would run for the 6th District open House seat. After winning on election night, but missing the 50% mark, Ossoff later lost a nationally-watched and very expensive runoff to Republican Karen Handel.
Fast forward to today, and Ossoff is back for another runoff that the whole country is watching. The Democrats have since flipped the 6th and 7th districts - and won the whole state by a whisker when Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump for the White House in 2020.
We reached out to Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to see how they’re feeling this morning, since neither is planning “victory” parties on a night when results aren’t expected to come in early, if at all. (We’ll share Warnock’s comments when we have them - and the Insider will be at the GOP’s event tonight.)
Ossoff said he’s feeling especially encouraged by Democrats’ turnout operation, which included making more than 1.5. million phone calls per day and knocking on tens, and in some cases, more than 100,000 doors every day in the last week. Ossoff has also hired thousands of young mobilizers to knock on doors and turn out voters.
And he called the large crowds he’s gotten in small towns all across the state proof that if Democrats compete in rural Georgia, their ideas can win the day.
We also asked about Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s announcement last night that she will vote to challenge the Electoral College results, which Biden won, in the Senate on Wednesday. Former senator David Perdue has said he would also challenge the results if he were in the Senate to vote.
Ossoff called Loeffler’s and Perdue’s moves “transparent pandering” and a “last-ditch Hail Mary,” And he had this to say about voters and the leaders they elect:
“People are sick of fake politicians who have no core and say one thing in private and another in public, or are just obviously doing anything right before an election. My sense is that voters of all ideological persuasions prefer candidates who are just real about what they believe and what they want to do, even if it’s not necessarily the precise policy platform that you agree with. You want someone who’s wearing their values on their sleeve and not B.S.’ing*.”
*(Ossoff used more colorful language, but this is a family newspaper.)
Asked for comment, Loeffler’s spokesman Stephen Lawson fired this back: “Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s closing message to voters: ‘B.S.’ I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
At a sign-waving stop in Sandy Springs, Loeffler said she had no regrets and “left it out on the field.”
“I’m the only candidate in my race that knows how to create jobs and help get this economy back on its feet and get back to our way of life here in Georgia and do it safely as we manage through this pandemic.”
And John Burke, Perdue’s spokesman, had this to say, in part: “Jon Ossoff is a desperate candidate whose only priority is pushing a socialist agenda on the people of Georgia. He knows Republican voters are showing up to the polls today and he will lose.” Burke also added that Ossoff will lose “again,” since Perdue finished two points ahead of the Democrat in November.
The best part about elections, though, is that voters eventually get the final word. We’ll see what Georgia voters say today.
Seth Bringman from Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action sent this let’s-all-take-a-deep-breath comment in response to reports that the Secretary of State’s office is looking into possible threats of violence at the polls today.
“While there have been isolated and vague threats to specific polling locations, the aim of these threats is to spread fear statewide, including through the media. Unless you believe that voters are in immediate danger, we advise that you do not take the bait. These threats are an intentional form of voter suppression. We encourage you to call out voter suppression in post-election reporting, but not report about it today in a way that will deter folks from voting.”
Loose tweets, wrong deets. That’s the nut of why Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger says he spilled the beans on President Donald Trump over the weekend by leaking the audio of the extraordinary call in which Trump told Raff to “find” enough votes from the November election to flip the result from Joe Biden to Trump.
In an interview with WXIA-TV, Raffensperger said he only leaked the call because Trump tweeted about the call earlier and lied about what happened in the process.
“If President Trump wouldn’t have tweeted out anything and would have stayed silent, we would have stayed silent as well. And that would have just been a conversation between him and I, man to man, and that would have been just fine with us. But he had to put it out on Twitter. And so, if you’re going to put out stuff that we don’t believe is true, then we will respond in kind.”
The Washington Post has a lengthy profile of U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams today, including the detail that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped her to second Pelosi’s nomination as Speaker.
Pelosi kept close counsel with the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, whom Williams succeeded after the Democratic Party of Georgia tapped her to be its nominee in the November election, which she won handily.
Williams is likely at the beginning of a high-profile career in Congress. Not only is she stepping into the seat of the Civil Rights legend, she’s also staying on at the helm of the state Democratic Party as its profile grows, too, including in today’s Senate runoffs.
“So, no, I feel zero pressure,” she joked to the Post.
We’re still not sure why former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak abruptly left his position as Atlanta’s top prosecutor. But we can offer some well-intentioned speculation.
First, the facts. Pak, who declined to comment, wasn’t expected to step down for a few more weeks at least. Instead, he submitted his resignation on Monday — the day after President Donald Trump referred to him as a “Never Trumper” in the leaked audio recording.
Perhaps the president, who appointed Pak in 2017, is referring to the attorney’s remarks in a November 2016 New York Times article. Then a Republican state representative, Pak said that Trump has “made it extremely difficult” to win over minority voters in his own Gwinnett County.
The gut instinct by some state operatives assumes that he was pressured by Trump to take action that ran afoul of his principles, a la Sally Quillian Yates. There’s no evidence of that yet. But a savvy senior Republican strategist had a different theory.
“He’s a professional guy who takes the job seriously and has a bright political future. Now you have the Democrats calling for a criminal investigation of Trump. He’s in a lose-lose. He does nothing and Democrats scream. He does something and he’s the next Kemp/Duncan/Raffensperger show on Twitter. Biden will replace him in a couple of months, so why not go ahead and move to the private sector? He’s avoiding a no-win fight. Seems pretty smart to me.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter had a fascinating note about the audience for stories about Georgia’s runoffs in his latest newsletter:
Are Americans enthralled by this election or exhausted at the very sound of it? Hard to say in sweeping terms, but SocialFlow’s analysis of “social click data from all 50 states” shows that blue states, in general, are paying closer attention to the Senate runoffs than red states. Users in Michigan and Massachusetts “lead the nation in terms of engaging with stories about the GA runoff -- more so by far than the state of GA itself,” according to the company. And “Florida is by far the most interested red state, followed by Ohio.”
Florida’s interest makes sense. Folks who live in the northern realms of the Sunshine State, between Jacksonville and Pensacola, are being inundated with campaign ads because their TV markets reach south Georgia residents.
New U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is trying to thread the needle when it comes to why she believes her general election victory was accurate and legitimate, but Joe Biden’s win in Georgia was not. She is among more than 100 members of Congress who said they will object to the Electoral College tally in Georgia and several other states Wednesday.
Here is what she told CNN Monday, before traveling to President Trump’s Dalton rally:
“I think our secretary of state has failed Georgia,” Greene said. “I believe our elections should be decertified.”
But when CNN asked what that means for her and other Georgia Republicans who won on the same ballot, the Rome Republican replied: “We’re just talking about the President’s race.”
An interesting Wall Street take on today’s runoffs, from The Hill newspaper in D.C.:
Though the two Senate races are considered toss-ups, Republicans have an edge in the sense that they only need to win one of the two elections to keep control of the Senate. Those odds have led markets to price in a GOP majority in the Senate for the next two years.
“I would say that if the Republicans win one or more seats, nothing changes,” said Michael Cembalest, chairman of market and investment strategy at J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management.
“If the Democrats win, markets will be on edge until they see what kinds of policy choices it leads to.”
Catching you up: Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, hospitalized last week for a minor stroke, is back at his Atlanta home and resting. “He’s doing great,” a family spokeswoman told us.
It looks like some Republican groups are already thinking about 2022. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC controlled by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, are already targeting the Democrats who hold seats in two Georgia battleground districts.
The PAC is running ads attacking newly minted 7th District Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux that will show up when constituents use Google for searches. The ads link Bourdeaux to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and direct people to a fundraising link for Republicans. The group says it spent five figures on ads targeting Democrats in 21 swing districts across the nation.
The NRCC also put out critical statements after Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, who represents the neighboring 6th District in Metro Atlanta, voted in favor of re-electing Pelosi as speaker.
POSTED: Plenty is happening in Georgia apart from today’s headline-grabbing runoff elections, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ efforts to curb the troubling rise in crime in the city.
Bottoms has been under intense pressure to do more to address violent crime and street racing. She called a press conference yesterday to discuss measures she’s proposing to address the growing crisis:
“Among the proposals: expanding enforcement of nuisance properties, increasing targeted enforcement on gangs and gun violence, continuing focus on disrupting street racing and improving police recruiting and retention.
And the Bottoms’ administration is also proposing to transform the city’s jail into a center for equity that would provide after-hours child care, educational and job training along with other social services to address the root causes of crime.”
Proving that all politics are local, the Chicago Sun-Times has a profile today of Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s years growing up in the Midwest, including the fact that Loeffler was both a high school basketball player, which we knew, and a woodwind player in her high school marching band, which was new information to your Insiders.
Loeffler also worked in Los Angeles and in Chicago in equity research before moving to the state that would eventually make her a senator.