Polls will close in the north metro Atlanta suburbs in just over an hour from now (at 7 pm). This is the special election to fill the House seat long-held by Tom Price, whom the president appointed to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As you've no doubt heard on national television news, this is the most expensive (at $50 million), and the most closely watched congressional race, ever. And pollsters say its too close to call. Early voting has been record-breaking for a special election.
The "why" of all that is that the race is being seen as a referendum on President Trump, with pressure on the reluctant Trump voters. However, I think it's a bit more than that. We could be seeing a new political star in his first-ever political race.
Jon Ossoff is a 30 year old documentary film maker whose works has mostly been on exposing corruption in international governments. With a degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, he also went on to get a masters in global economics from the London School of Economics. He got his start during college working part time as an aide in the Washington office of Rep. John Lewis; then after graduation, worked full time as a staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson. Both have enthusiastically endorsed him.
Jon also happens to be a friend of my grandson from elementary school days, so I take a special interest in this race, in addition to the fact that I live and cast my vote in this district.
Jon came in first in the "jungle primary," that started with 18 contestants. This is the runoff between him and second place winner, Republican Karen Handel. Ossoff got 48%, Handel 20%. But she had four fairly strong Republicans to divide the votes with, while the few other Democrats in the race had token support.
Handel has been endorsed and tweeted about by President Trump, as well as attending a fund-raiser for her when he was in Atlanta. She's also had help from congressional Republicans coming for rallies (Pence, Ryan and others). Plus lots of money pouring in from super pacs.
On the other side, Jon has raised a good bit more money than Handel. The progressive-activist website Daily Kos early on did online fund-raising for him, which yielded millions in small donations from large numbers of people. He's also had some support from the other liberal groups. However, he has kept the Washington Democrats away from coming to Atlanta, because this is a Republican district he's trying to win. Too many smear ads have very derisively referred to him as "a Nancy Pelosi Democrat."
Jon has appealed to those who are dissatisfied with President Trump, as well as to the growing diversity of the area. At the same time, he has portrayed himself as more of a centrist willing to work with anyone to improve out government, eliminate waste. He does support keeping and improving the Affordable Care Act, while Handel can't very well run away from the debacle the Republicans are concocting as a replacement.
In polls, Ossoff consistently holds a small lead, but usually within margin of error. But the web site 538 suggested an advantage for him. In the primary, he outperformed the polls by a few points. So, their reasoning is that if the polls are deadlocked now, he might win. Another winning factor is that some 8,000 new voters have been registered since the primary. There's reason to believe more of them may vote for him.
But really, it will come down to turnout. The Ossoff campaign has had as many as 10,000 people volunteering, over 1,000 of them really dedicated neighborhood canvassers. They're well organized for a get out the vote campaign. But the Republican National Committee also sent organizers in from outside to help Handel's campaign.
So we'll know soon -- maybe by the time you read this.