Jon Ossoff, the former congressional candidate who lost a nationally watched special election in Georgia in 2017, is launching a campaign for Senate on Tuesday, a person familiar with the Democrat’s decision said.
Ossoff, 32, became a political sensation during his run for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in 2017, one in a series of special elections that attracted wide notice amid backlash against President Donald Trump before Democrats took the House majority in the midterm election.
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News of Ossoff’s Senate campaign launch was first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He had been widely expected to run, and he now joins a Democratic primary to take on first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue.
Ossoff, a former congressional aide who ran a documentary film company and was making his first bid for political office in 2017, raised nearly $30 million for what became the most expensive House race in history. But he lost the district in suburban Atlanta to Republican Karen Handel. Handel held the seat for a year and a half before she lost to Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in last November’s general election.
Georgia has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in two decades, but the party sees the changing state as a major opportunity in 2020 after several close statewide losses in 2018. Democrats need to net three seats to win back the Senate majority, if they also win the presidency, and they have the opportunity to go after two Republican seats in Georgia alone, after GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his resignation and triggered a special election next November.
Ossoff told the Atlanta Journal Constitution he would build on his 2017 campaign as he runs for Senate.
“I narrowly lost that race, but we built something special and enduring,” Ossoff said. “And I’m still standing and ready to fight.”
The newspaper also reported that Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman, was endorsing Ossoff’s campaign. Lewis said he was “ready to work tirelessly to elect him.”
The race to face Perdue, who is running for a second term, is already crowded. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and Sarah Riggs Amico, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, are all running for the Democratic nomination.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement for Isakson, and a number of Democrats are considering running in the special election for that Senate seat. But Ossoff opted to join the race against Perdue.
He will likely rely on the small-dollar donor network built during his House campaign, and he will begin with a head start over his primary opponents: Ossoff had $425,000 remaining in his House account as of June 30, according to his most recent Federal Election Commission disclosure. Tomlinson had $350,000 on hand through the same time period, and neither of the other two candidates have filed fundraising reports yet.