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.
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.