Jon Ossoff Has Energized Democrats—But Can He Reinvent Politics?

Georgia’s historically Republican Sixth district is full of leafy, quiet neighborhoods that are mostly white, with smatterings of immigrant families like mine. I recently returned there to interview Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, who faces a runoff against Karen Handel in June. The national attention Ossoff has gotten is significant, but for me it’s also a bit surreal—I went to high school with him. The Paideia School, where we went, was sort of the flower child of Atlanta’s private schools, and posed a stark contrast to our conservative, suburban surroundings. So to see the place where I grew up slowly inching its way from red to blue and embracing a candidate like Ossoff has been no small thing.

While home in Atlanta, I attended a rally full of Georgians who were proudly wearing blue stickers with Ossoff’s name. The hype surrounding this 30-year-old Democrat was apparent. But as he has said repeatedly in speeches to supporters, it’s not about him. It’s about people in a red district of a very red state who, for the first time in decades, want change. It’s about a real shift happening that’s convincing even longtime Republicans to vote for a young Democrat. And most importantly, it’s reflective of something bigger, a national wave of people power and political engagement that’s upending our notion of partisan politics as usual.

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For now, Ossoff has one goal: gain the trust of enough voters—red, blue, and in between—to beat his Republican opponent in June’s runoff election.

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