Jon Ossoff faced tremendous headwinds in the Georgia special election that kept him inches away from crossing the finish line, and NOW congratulates him for coming as close as he did.
We are disappointed that Karen Handel will be going to Washington to promote policies, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Care Act, that will inevitably increase maternal death rates nationally and in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Nonetheless, the fact that Ossoff came as close as he did, in a district where Handel should have won by 20 points or more, tells us that the resistance to the Trump agenda is a force to be reckoned with.
Jon Ossoff’s run was especially impressive because of the scourge of voter suppression that confronted him. His opponent, Karen Handel, had a long record of making it harder for people to vote—particularly people of color. She said that Georgia’s restrictive voter ID law was one of her “most important accomplishments” as Georgia’s Secretary of State, and acted during her term to purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls.
In return, Handel was the beneficiary of millions of dollars in corporate and super PAC donations. A handful of wealthy individuals and unregulated committees poured record amounts into her campaign, while Jon Ossoff ran with the support of hundreds of thousands of individual small donors giving an average contribution of less than $50.
Finally, the media focused on the horse-race aspects of this election, downplaying the crucial issues at stake. This had the effect of diverting attention away from Jon Ossoff’s focus on issues like health care and the economy. Ossoff drew a bright line between his opposition to repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and Karen Handel’s support for the Republican plan to throw millions off their health insurance while giving a trillion-dollar tax cut to billionaires and corporations—but voters were largely kept in the dark.
In 2018, voter suppression, super-sized spending and divisive campaigning may play an even bigger role. NOW and its hundreds of chapters and hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists will be leading the fight to elect a new generation of feminist lawmakers who, unlike Karen Handel, will champion pro-woman policies. Working in solidarity with our allies, we will increase the turnout of progressive women voters, and ensure that the people–not the oligarchs–run Congress.