Thomas Jonathan Ossoff|
February 16, 1987
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Georgetown University (BS)|
London School of Economics
Thomas Jonathan Ossoff (born February 16, 1987) is an American documentary filmmaker and politician. He was the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district.
Ossoff received 48.1% of the vote in the nonpartisan blanket primary on April 18. Since no candidate secured a majority, the top two vote-getters, Ossoff and his Republican opponent Karen Handel, competed in a runoff election on June 20, 2017, which Ossoff lost to Handel. The race received significant national attention after being perceived as an early test of how the first few months of Donald Trump's presidency may have shifted the opinions or voter enthusiasm of suburban voters who live in swing districts.
Early life and education
Ossoff was born on February 16, 1987, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised in Northlake, an unincorporated community in Georgia's 6th congressional district. Ossoff attended the Paideia School, a small private school in Atlanta. While in high school, he interned for Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.
In 2009, Ossoff graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service with a Bachelor of Science degree. He attended classes taught by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. Ossoff went on to earn his Master of Science degree from London School of Economics in 2013.
Ossoff worked as a national security staffer and aide to Rep. Hank Johnson for five years during which he drafted and managed legislative initiatives that passed the House and Senate. He had top-secret clearance for five months. Since 2013, he has been managing partner and CEO of Insight TWI, a small business which produces investigations targeting corrupt officials and organized crime for international news organizations. In 2016, Ossoff was an executive producer for a documentary film by Insight TWI for BBC Three; the film exposed atrocities committed by ISIL in Iraq.
2017 special election
After learning that Tom Price of Georgia's 6th district had been appointed secretary of Health and Human Services, Ossoff announced his candidacy for this special election on January 5, 2017. Ossoff quickly emerged as the most viable Democratic candidate out of a large field of candidates. He was endorsed by prominent figures such as Congressmen Hank Johnson and John Lewis, and state House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams. Ossoff raised over $8.3 million by early April of that year.
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." When Ossoff entered the race, the Cook Partisan Voting Index rated Georgia's 6th Congressional District at R+14; the district was not considered competitive, and had been represented in Congress by Republicans since 1978. Less than two months before Ossoff’s announcement, Republican Congressman Tom Price had been re-elected in a landslide with 62% of the vote.
Ossoff grew up in 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. As a result, he was unable to vote for himself in the primary. He has said that he temporarily lives in the neighboring 4th District so that his fiancée, an Emory University medical student, can walk to the hospital where she works. Ossoff says he intends to move back to the 6th district after his fiancée completes her medical studies.
On April 18, 2017, no candidate received 50% of the vote in the blanket primary ("jungle primary"). 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. Because no candidate secured an absolute majority, the top two-vote-getters, Ossoff and Handel, competed in a runoff election on June 20, 2017. 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.
Ossoff broke national fundraising records for a U.S. House candidate. In total, Ossoff's campaign raised more than $23 million, two-thirds of which was contributed by small-dollar donors nationwide. Ossoff's opponent, Karen Handel, and national Republican groups attacked Ossoff 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". Combined spending by the campaigns and outside groups on their behalf added up to over $55 million, which was the most expensive House Congressional election in U.S. history. During the campaign, Republican strategy focused on connecting Ossoff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a polarizing and unpopular figure amongst Republicans; Ossoff declined to say whether he would, if elected, support Pelosi for Speaker of the House.
On the June 20 runoff, Ossoff was defeated by Handel, 51.78% to 48.22%. 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." The New York Times reported that Ossoff "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," and nearly doubled youth turnout in the Sixth District from the 2014 midterm election. 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." Following reports of the election results, Frank Bruni in an op-ed for The New York Times characterized the race as "demoralizing for Democrats". 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; previously, Democratic challengers had only won more than 40 percent of the vote twice.
On February 23, 2018, Ossoff announced he would not seek the seat in the regular election in November.
According to The New Yorker, Ossoff has "progressive positions on women's issues and health care" and "moderate stances on jobs and security." According to Matthew Yglesias of Vox, Ossoff has run an" Obama-style campaign", and has placed himself in the middle between the progressive grassroots of the Democratic Party and the more conservative and moderate Blue Dog Southern Democrats. According to the New York Times, Ossoff's campaign has distanced itself from the national Democratic Party. According to the Washington Post, the 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."
Ossoff has been sharply critical of President Donald Trump, criticizing his "divisive approach to government" and saying: "I have great respect for the office. I don't have great personal admiration for the man himself." After Trump sent out a tweet the day before the April 19 primary, calling Ossoff a "super Liberal Democrat" who wanted to "protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes," Ossoff dismissed Trump's claims and called him "misinformed." 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. Nevertheless, Ossoff said that he would be willing to work with Trump on issues of mutual interest, such as infrastructure spending. He said, "If the administration introduces a fiscally responsible infrastructure bill, I'll work in a bipartisan way to make sure it delivers transformative solutions to Georgia." After Trump's disclosure of classified information to Russia, Ossoff said of impeachment that "I don't think we're there." Ossoff 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."
Ossoff opposes prison sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses. His website says, "Violent crime, murder, rape, human trafficking, and corruption are rampant, while we spend billions locking up nonviolent drug offenders."
Ossoff opposes tax increases, and has called for reduced taxes on small businesses and to simplify small business tax filing. He supports tax credits for small businesses. He 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." He has cast himself as an opponent of unnecessary government spending, saying, for instance, that "there's $16 billion in duplicate programs. That can be cut," an assertion that PolitiFact rated "Mostly True".
He accepts the scientific consensus on climate, and has said that "climate change is a threat to our security and prosperity". He supports American participation in the Paris Agreement, and has pledged to "work to make the United States a global leader against climate change."
He supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). His health care policy aims to serve three basic 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." He does not support pushing for a single-payer health care system.
Ossoff opposed both the March 2017 and May 2017 versions of the American Health Care Act, the House Republican bill that repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act. Ossoff said that the May 2017 version was worse than the earlier one "because it does even less to protect those with preexisting conditions. And those are children and families here in Georgia who need to be able to get affordable health insurance despite a pre-existing condition."
Ossoff supports comprehensive immigration reform that would both strengthen enforcement along the Mexican border and provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. This position is generally consistent with the stance of most congressional Democrats and a number of prominent Republicans, including President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain.
Ossoff's mother Heather Fenton, an Australian immigrant, co-founded NewPower PAC, an organization that works to elect women to local office across Georgia. His father, who is of Russian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish descent, owns a specialist publishing company. Ossoff was raised Jewish.
|2017||New Day||Self||Episode: "5.173"|
|2017||Deadline: White House||Self||Episode: "1.26"|
|2016||Stacey on the Frontline||Executive producer||Episode: "Girls, Guns and ISIS"|
|2015||Justice!||Executive producer||TV movie documentary|
|2014–2015||Africa Investigates||Executive producer||9 episodes|
|2014–2015||People and Power||Executive producer||2 episodes|
|2014||Living with Ebola||Executive producer & writer||TV movie documentary|
|2014||The Battle for Africa||Executive producer & writer||TV miniseries documentary|
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