Democrats across the nation experienced a major loss on Tuesday, June 20th, when Jon Ossoff, a political-newcomer and Democrat, lost a tight race for the seat in Georgia's sixth district. Advocating for student debt reform and making college more accessible and affordable, college students quickly joined Ossoff in his contentious campaign. Although he did not successfully flip the sixth, Ossoff challenged a historically Republican House seat, and the surprising momentum his campaign gained in Georgia and across the United States highlights the possibility for Democrats to win traditionally-held Republican seats in the 2018 elections.
Looking solely at numbers, Ossoff accomplished a lot during his Congressional bid. During April’s preliminary election, Ossoff fell only 1.9 points shy of immediately securing the House seat, holding a 28.3 point lead over his Republican opponent, Karen Handel. Because neither candidate won the 50% of votes needed to call the election, Handel and Ossoff then proceeded to a runoff election which took place this past Tuesday. Because of the potential implications of Ossoff's win, both parties poured a lot of money into the campaigns, making it the most expensive congressional race in history. Late Tuesday evening, election results show that Ossoff fell short of the House seat by a mere 3.8% of the vote, sealing the seat for another Republican for the next two years.
Even though Democrats did lose the actual seat, this does not mean the entire campaign was a loss. It is imperative that college students continue onward with optimism and an aptitude to implement change. Political commentator Dr. Brian Klaas noted the significant change of pace in Georgia’s sixth district that was shown from the election.
Though Georgian voters did stick along party lines during this special election, it is important to recognize the momentous growth of progressive ideology in a historically conservative district.
Even with this growth, there will still be negative effects of Handel's win, especially for college students. While Ossoff did not support Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Handel does support her. Handel's election is going to impact the education of college students, because it will provide DeVos more support in Congress. By getting politically involved in elections such as the Georgia Sixth District, students are not just fighting for the future, but for the present as well, from education policies to access to healthcare. This is why it is vital that progressive college students come together to push their ideals so their voices are still heard.
Looking forward, Democrats must consider new campaign strategies if they wish to win a majority come 2018. Many political analysts speculate that Ossoff’s downfall was primarily due to his centrists positions. In an era where party lines are deeper than ever, strong position taking makes for stronger candidates. To be more successful in flipping the house in 2018, it is vital that Democrats across the nation unify to campaign, register voters, phonebank, canvas and most importantly vote!
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