ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) — Republicans are pushing to prevent a major upset in a conservative Georgia congressional district where Democrats stoked by opposition to President Donald Trump have rallied behind a candidate who has raised a shocking amount of money for a special election.
Tuesday’s primary lumps all 18 candidates – both Republicans and Democrats – on one ballot. It is expected to be more competitive than Republicans’ single-digit victory in Kansas last week that also tested both parties’ strategies for the 2018 midterm elections with Trump in the White House.
Trump did not perform as well as other Republicans in the suburban Atlanta district, an affluent, well-educated swath filled with the kind of voters Democrats need if they hope to reclaim a House majority next year.
Republicans essentially concede that Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer, will lead Tuesday’s voting. That leaves 11 Republican candidates hoping the 30-year-old investigative filmmaker fails to reach a majority. If he doesn’t, Ossoff and the top GOP vote-getter would meet in a June 20 runoff.
Five Democrats will appear on the ballot, but Ossoff is the GOP’s greatest threat. He raised more than $8.3 million, most from outside the district. Two independent candidates also are running. The winner will succeed Tom Price, who resigned to become Trump’s health secretary.
Cedrick Gulley, a 25-year-old Georgia State University student from Sandy Springs, compared Ossoff to President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. He said both “make me feel like my generation is being heard.”
He said Democrats were shocked into action by Trump’s victory in November.
“I’ve always said that Democrats can be a little lazy, and I do believe since November there’s an emergence of people fighting,” Gulley said. “I think we have a chance to pull it out today.”
The president took to Twitter on Tuesday morning, declaring Ossoff “would be a disaster in Congress.”
A day earlier, Trump blasted an unnamed “super liberal” Democrat in the contest, saying that candidate “wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”
In a statement Monday, Ossoff, who has used anti-Trump sentiments in his campaign, answered that Trump is “misinformed,” but added that he’s “glad the president is interested in the race.”
However, Ossoff has tried to walk a line between liberals looking for a chance to oppose Trump and Republicans who couldn’t support him in November. He has pledged to fight Trump when he “embarrasses” the country. But he tells voters in one ad, “I’ll work with anybody in Washington who respects your tax dollars.”
Both parties alike see the contest as an important barometer of Trump’s standing ahead of 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats will try to regain control of Congress.
And both parties have dispatched paid field staffers. Republican groups are running a blitz of ads trying to tie Ossoff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; a political action committee backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan has spent more than $2 million.
Karen Handel, Georgia’s