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Jon Ossoff

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Jon Ossoff
Jon Ossoff 2020 2 (cropped 2).jpg
Ossoff in 2020
United States Senator
from Georgia
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Serving with Raphael Warnock
Preceded byDavid Perdue
Personal details
Born
Thomas Jonathan Ossoff

(1987-02-16) February 16, 1987 (age 33)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Alisha Kramer
EducationGeorgetown University (BSFS)
London School of Economics (MSc)
WebsiteSenate website

Thomas Jonathan Ossoff (/ˈɒsɒf/ OSS-off; born February 16, 1987) is an American politician who has been the senior United States senator from Georgia since 2021. A member of the Democratic Party, Ossoff was previously a documentary film producer and investigative journalist.

Ossoff was the Democratic nominee in the 2017 special election for Georgia's 6th congressional district, which had long been considered a Republican stronghold. After finishing first, but without a majority in the all-party primary election, he lost the runoff with 48.2% of the vote to Republican Karen Handel's 51.8%. This was the most expensive House race in United States history.[1][2][3][4]

In mid-2020, Ossoff won the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Georgia to run against then-incumbent Republican senator David Perdue.[5] Neither candidate reached the 50% threshold on the November 3 general election, triggering a runoff election on January 5, 2021.[6] On January 6, Ossoff was projected as the winner of the election.[7][8][9][10]

Ossoff serves alongside fellow Democrat Raphael Warnock, who defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler in the 2020 Senate special election runoff, also on January 5, 2021. The two races attracted significant national attention and spending, as they decided which party would control the Senate in the 117th Congress. With Warnock's and Ossoff's victories, Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 Senate seats, but Vice President Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote gives Democrats an effective majority. With his victory, Ossoff became the youngest member of the Senate elected since Don Nickles in 1980 as well as the first Jewish member of the Senate from Georgia and the first Jewish senator from the Deep South since Benjamin F. Jonas of Louisiana, who was elected in 1879.[11]

Early life and education

Thomas Jonathan Ossoff was born on February 16, 1987, in Atlanta, Georgia.[12] He was raised in Northlake, an unincorporated community.[13] Ossoff's mother, Heather Fenton, was born and raised in Sydney, New South Wales,[14] and moved to the U.S. at the age of 23.[15] She co-founded NewPower PAC, an organization that works to elect women to local office across Georgia.[2][16] His father, Richard Ossoff, who is of Russian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish descent, owns Strafford Publications, a specialist publishing company.[15] Ossoff was raised Jewish.[17] His ancestors fled pogroms in the early 20th century, and he noted in an interview that he grew up among Holocaust survivors, and his understanding of history instilled in him a conviction to fight for the marginalized and be wary of authoritarianism.[18] He previously held Australian citizenship through his mother.[14]

He attended the Paideia School, an independent school in Atlanta.[15] While in high school, he interned for civil rights leader and U.S. representative John Lewis.[15] In 2009, Ossoff graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service with a Bachelor of Science degree. He attended classes taught by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.[19][20] He earned a Master of Science degree in international political economy from the London School of Economics in 2013.[19][20][21]

Early career

Ossoff worked as a national security staffer and aide to U.S. representative Hank Johnson for five years.[22] He left Johnson's office in 2012 to earn a master's degree at the London School of Economics.[23] Before working for Johnson, he served as an intern for U.S. representative and civil rights leader John Lewis, who recommended him to Johnson.[24][25]

Since 2013, Ossoff has been managing director and chief executive officer of Insight TWI, a London-based investigative television production company that works with reporters to create documentaries about corruption in foreign countries.[26][27] The firm produced BBC investigations about ISIS war crimes and death squads in East Africa. He was also involved in producing a documentary about the staging of a play in Sierra Leone.[27]

2017 U.S. House campaign

After learning that Republican Tom Price of Georgia's 6th congressional district had been appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ossoff announced his candidacy for the special election on January 5, 2017.[2] Ossoff quickly emerged as the most viable Democratic candidate out of a large field of candidates.[28] He was endorsed by congressmen Hank Johnson and John Lewis,[4][29] and state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams.[30][31][dead link] He also received public support from U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.[32][33][34] Ossoff raised over $8.3 million by early April of that year.[35]

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ossoff "transformed what was expected to be a quiet battle for a long-safe Republican seat into a proxy fight over Trump, the health care overhaul and the partisan struggle for suburbia".[36] When he entered the race, the Cook Partisan Voting Index rated Georgia's 6th congressional district at R+14;[37] the district was not considered competitive, and had been represented in Congress by Republicans since 1978.[38] Less than two months before Ossoff's announcement, Price had been re-elected in a landslide, with 62% of the vote.[39]

Ossoff grew up in what is now the 6th district, where his family still resides, although as of the election he lived about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) outside the district's boundaries in the neighboring 4th district. He said he only lived in the 4th temporarily so that his live-in girlfriend, who was then an Emory University medical student, could walk to work. Members of the House are only required to live in the state they represent.[40][20][41] The two became engaged during the campaign.[42]

Ossoff with his now-wife, Alisha Kramer, during his congressional campaign

On April 18, 2017, no candidate received 50% of the vote in the blanket primary.[43] Ossoff led with about 48.1% of the vote, Republican candidate Karen Handel received 19.8%, while the remainder of votes were scattered for 16 other candidates.[44][45] Because no candidate secured an absolute majority, the top two vote-getters, Ossoff and Handel, competed in a runoff election on June 20, 2017.[46][45] Ossoff won all but 1% of the Democratic vote, while the Republican vote was more heavily split. Republicans collectively won 51.2% of the overall vote.[47]

Ossoff broke national fundraising records for a U.S. House candidate.[48] In total, his campaign raised more than $23 million, two-thirds of which was contributed by small-dollar donors nationwide.[49] His opponent, Handel, and national Republican groups attacked him for raising significant small-dollar contributions from outside of Georgia, although Handel's campaign received the bulk of its support from super PACs and other outside groups, including those funded anonymously by so-called "dark money".[50][51] Combined spending by the campaigns and outside groups on their behalf added up to over $55 million, which was the most expensive House election in U.S. history.[52] During the campaign, Republican strategy focused on connecting him to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a polarizing and unpopular figure among Republicans; Ossoff declined to say whether he would, if elected, support Pelosi for Speaker.[53]

On the June 20 runoff, Ossoff was defeated by Handel, 51.78% to 48.22%.[54] According to Atlanta Magazine, "while his percentage of the total vote remained steady from April to now, Ossoff garnered 32,220 more votes in those three months, a 34 percent increase ... Ossoff and his allies might have scooped up nearly every Democrat vote there was to get—and it still wasn't enough to overcome the GOP's numerical advantage."[55] The New York Times reported that he "produced probably the strongest Democratic turnout in an off-year election in at least a decade", "brought a surprising number of irregular young and nonwhite voters to the polls,"[56] and nearly doubled youth turnout in the 6th district from the 2014 midterm election.[56] However, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "surging Democratic turnout wasn't enough to overcome heavy GOP voting in a district where Republicans far outnumber Democrats".[36] Following reports of the election results, Frank Bruni, in an op-ed for The New York Times, characterized the race as "demoralizing for Democrats".[57] This was as close as a Democrat had come to winning this district since it assumed its current configuration as a northern suburban district in 1992; Democratic challengers had won more than 40 percent of the vote only twice before.[58]

On February 23, 2018, Ossoff announced he would not seek the seat in the regular election in 2018; the seat was won by Democrat Lucy McBath in November 2018.[59]

U.S. Senate

2020–21 election

Ossoff ran in the Democratic primary election to try to unseat then-incumbent Republican senator David Perdue in the 2020 Senate election in Georgia.[60] On June 10, Ossoff advanced to the general election by winning 50.5% of the vote, just over the threshold to prevent a run-off election. In July 2020, Perdue's campaign ran a Facebook advertisement in which Ossoff's nose was digitally altered to be larger, which Ossoff criticized as "one of the most classic anti-Semitic tropes".[61] Perdue's campaign said that Perdue had not seen the image and that the widening and elongation of his nose was done by a vendor.[62] The Perdue campaign pulled the advertisement.[63]

Since October 2020, Ossoff has raised over $100 million for his campaign, making him the best-funded Senate candidate in U.S. history.[64][65]

The closing argument of the Ossoff campaign focused on the $2,000 stimulus payments that he and Raphael Warnock would approve if they were to win their elections and give Democrats a majority in the Senate.[66]

In November 3 general election, Perdue received 2,462,617 votes (49.73%) while Ossoff received 2,374,519 votes (47.95%).[67] Since no candidate received a majority of the vote on November 3, the top two finishers (Perdue and Ossoff) advanced to a January 5, 2021 runoff election.[6][5]

Ossoff declared victory on the morning of January 6, 2021, and most major news outlets called the race for him later that day.[68] While Perdue won more counties, Ossoff swamped him in the inner ring of the Atlanta area. He won Cobb and Gwinnett counties, which have recently swung Democratic, by over 40,200 and 74,200 votes, respectively. The latter both exceeded his statewide margin of about 55,000 votes.[69] He ran slightly behind Warnock, who defeated Kelly Loeffler by 70,400 votes, also by running up his margins in the Atlanta area. Perdue conceded the election on January 8.[70]

The vote was certified on January 19, an action that allowed the newly elected senators to take office the following day.[71] On January 20, Ossoff was sworn in to the Senate by vice president Kamala Harris.[72]

When Ossoff took office, he became the first Jewish senator from Georgia, the first senator born in the 1980s, and, at 33, the youngest member of the chamber.[73] He also is the first Democrat elected to a full six-year term in the Senate from Georgia since Max Cleland, who served from 1997 to 2003. He was sworn into office using the Bible of Jacob Rothschild, the Rabbi of Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple in Atlanta which was bombed in 1958.[74]

Ossoff is the first Democrat elected to a full term in the Senate from Georgia since Max Cleland in 1996. He and Warnock are also the first Democratic U.S. senators from Georgia since Zell Miller left office in 2005. Ossoff is also the first millennial senator to be elected.[75] Ossoff assumed the role of senior U.S. senator from Georgia once he was sworn into office, making him the youngest senior senator since Robert M. La Follette Jr. and the most junior senior senator since Hiram Fong, who was 99th in seniority from Hawaii's admission until the end of the 86th Congress in 1961.

Tenure

On January 20, 2021, Ossoff was sworn into the United States Senate in the 117th Congress by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Ossoff supported President Biden's cabinet nominees. He voted in favor of Avril Haines's nomination for Director of National Intelligence[76] and General Lloyd Austin's nomination to serve as Secretary of Defense,[77] as well as the required waiver for Austin to legally hold the position.[78]

Committees

Caucuses

Political positions

According to The New Yorker in 2017, Ossoff has "progressive positions on women's issues and health care" and "moderate stances on jobs and security".[79] Matthew Yglesias of Vox called his 2017 run for office an "Obama-style campaign", placing himself in the middle between progressive and conservative members within the Democratic Party.[80] According to The Washington Post, the 2017 Ossoff campaign opted not to turn the special election into a referendum on Trump's alleged scandals, but to focus on "policy decisions by the president and congressional Republicans".[81] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that he "often tried to avoid nationalizing that campaign over fears of losing moderate voters".[82] Likewise, The New York Times observed that his 2017 campaign distanced itself from the national Democratic Party.[83]

In 2020, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Ossoff was "more unapologetic about embracing liberal policy ideas than his Democratic predecessors during past statewide races. And where he once hesitated to hit Trump directly, he now pulls no punches as he seeks to tie Perdue to his White House ally."[84]

Abortion

Ossoff is pro-choice on abortion rights.[85]

Cannabis legalization

On the subject of cannabis legalization, Ossoff says "It's past time to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis – whose prohibition only enriches cartels, bail bondsman, and the owners of private prisons."[86] Ossoff says that as a member of the Senate he will push for "nationwide legalization" of cannabis, a substance that he says is "much less dangerous than alcohol".[87]

Capital punishment

Ossoff is against the death penalty and supports its abolition.[88]

COVID-19 relief

Ossoff supports increasing economic relief for businesses and households affected by COVID-19 pandemic,[89] and believes testing, treatment, and vaccines for COVID-19 should be free.[90][91]

Criminal justice

Ossoff opposes prison sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses.[92] His website says, "Violent crime, murder, rape, human trafficking, and corruption are rampant, while we spend billions locking up nonviolent drug offenders."[93]

Ossoff opposes both defunding the police, as well as abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.[94]

Environment

Ossoff waves to supporters after a campaign rally in 2020.

He accepts the scientific consensus on climate, and has said that "climate change is a threat to our security and prosperity".[95] He supports U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement.[83] He is not in favor of the Green New Deal.[94]

Government reform

Ossoff has called for the repeal of "wasteful, anti-competitive special interest subsidies that make it hard for entrepreneurs to raise capital, enter the market, create jobs, and compete with larger firms who have lobbyists in Washington".[93][better source needed] He has said the government funds "$16 billion in duplicate programs. That can be cut," an assertion that PolitiFact rated "Mostly True".[96]

Ossoff supports statehood for the District of Columbia and for Puerto Rico.[94]

Healthcare

Ossoff supports the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).[46] His health care policy includes three principles: "One, no American should suffer or die from preventable or treatable illness. Two, no one should go broke because they get sick. And three, no business should go under or lay off employees because it can't keep up with health insurance premiums."[97][dead link] He does not support pushing for a single-payer health care system, such as Medicare for All.[83][94] He opposed both the March 2017 and May 2017 versions of the American Health Care Act, the House Republican bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act.[98] He said that the May 2017 version was worse than the earlier one "because it does even less to protect those with preexisting conditions".[99]

Ossoff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he supported tax credits for small businesses related to health care.[100]

Immigration

Ossoff supports comprehensive immigration reform that would both strengthen enforcement along the Mexican border and provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.[100]

Minimum wage

Ossoff supports raising the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.[101][102]

Trump administration

Ossoff has been sharply critical of President Donald Trump, criticizing what he calls Trump's "divisive approach to government"[103] and saying: "I have great respect for the office. I don't have great personal admiration for the man himself."[104] After Trump sent out a tweet the day before the April 19 primary, calling him a "super Liberal Democrat" who wanted to "protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes," Ossoff dismissed Trump's claims and called him "misinformed".[105] FactCheck.org found that Trump's claim was a distortion, and that there was no evidence that Ossoff had ever advocated for any broad-based tax hikes.[100] Nevertheless, Ossoff said that he would be willing to work with Trump on issues of mutual interest, such as infrastructure spending.[104] After Trump's disclosure of classified information to Russia, Ossoff said of impeachment that "I don't think we're there."[106] He called for "a full and transparent and independent assessment of what level of interference there was by Russian intelligence services in the U.S. election. And overseers in Congress and any independent counsel or commission to do so should follow those facts wherever they lead."[106]

Voting rights

Ossoff supports passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.[107][108]

Public image

Ossoff has been described as able to appeal to the younger generation by using TikTok, the social media app most popular with teenagers.[109] On the night he was elected to the Senate, Ossoff's posts on Twitter from the previous decade have attracted renewed attention on social media, including several references to Star Wars, the musical group Imagine Dragons, and anime.[110] He is described as the "first Extremely Online senator".[111]

Personal life

Ossoff is married to Alisha Kramer, an obstetrics and gynecology resident at Emory University.[112][113] Ossoff married Kramer in 2017 after 12 years of dating. On the night of Ossoff's election to the United States Senate in January 2021, Kramer was working an overnight shift as an OB-GYN in Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.[114]

Electoral history

U.S. House

Georgia's 6th congressional district special election, 2017[115]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jon Ossoff 92,673 48.12
Republican Karen Handel 38,071 19.77
Republican Bob Gray 20,802 10.80
Republican Dan Moody 17,028 8.84
Republican Judson Hill 16,870 8.76
Republican Kurt Wilson 1,820 0.95
Republican David Abroms 1,639 0.85
Democratic Ragin Edwards 504 0.26
Democratic Ron Slotin 491 0.25
Republican Bruce LeVell 455 0.24
Republican Mohammad Ali Bhuiyan 415 0.22
Republican Keith Grawert 415 0.22
Republican Amy Kremer 351 0.18
Republican William Llop 326 0.17
Democratic Rebecca Quigg 304 0.16
Democratic Richard Keatley 229 0.12
Independent Alexander Hernandez 121 0.06
Independent Andre Pollard 55 0.03
Total votes 192,569 100.00
Plurality 54,602 28.35
Georgia's 6th congressional district special election runoff, 2017[116]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Karen Handel 134,799 51.78% −9.90%
Democratic Jon Ossoff 125,517 48.22% +9.90%
Total votes 260,316 100.0%
Majority 9,282 3.57% −19.8%
Turnout 260,455 58.16%
Republican hold

U.S. Senate

United States Senate Democratic primary in Georgia, 2020[117]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jon Ossoff 626,819 52.82%
Democratic Teresa Tomlinson 187,416 15.79%
Democratic Sarah Riggs Amico 139,574 11.76%
Democratic Maya Dillard-Smith 105,000 8.85%
Democratic James Knox 49,452 4.17%
Democratic Marckeith DeJesus 45,936 3.87%
Democratic Tricia Carpenter McCracken 32,463 2.74%
Total votes 1,186,660 100.00%
United States Senate general election in Georgia, 2020[118]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican David Perdue (incumbent) 2,462,617 49.73% -3.16%
Democratic Jon Ossoff 2,374,519 47.95% +2.74%
Libertarian Shane T. Hazel 115,039 2.32% +0.42%
Total votes 4,952,175 100.0
United States Senate runoff election in Georgia, 2021[119]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jon Ossoff 2,269,923 50.61% +5.40%
Republican David Perdue (incumbent) 2,214,979 49.39% -3.50%
Total votes 4,484,902 100.0
Democratic gain from Republican

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
2014 The Battle for Africa Executive producer and writer TV miniseries/documentary
2014 Living with Ebola Executive producer and writer TV documentary
2014–15 People and Power Executive producer 2 episodes
2014–15 Africa Investigates Executive producer 9 episodes
2015 Justice! Executive producer TV documentary
2016 Stacey Dooley Investigates Executive producer Episode: "On the Frontline: Girls, Guns and ISIS"
2017 Deadline: White House Himself Episode: "1.26"
2017 New Day Himself Episode: "5.173"

See also

Notes

References

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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Michelle Nunn
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
(Class 2)

2020
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
David Perdue
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
2021–present
Served alongside: Raphael Warnock
Incumbent
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Josh Hawley
Baby of the Senate
2021–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Alex Padilla
United States Senators by seniority
99th
Succeeded by
Raphael Warnock