Bernie Sanders' Remarks About Jon Ossoff Are Confusing

by Samantha Mendoza
Scott Eisen/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Congressional candidate Jon Ossoff has been gaining a substantial amount of Democratic support, both vocal and monetary, in his race to win a seat in the House of Representatives for Georgia's 6th District. But apparently, he doesn't necessarily have the full support of Senator Bernie Sanders. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Sanders questioned how progressive Ossoff is.

"I don't know," Sanders told the Journal. "If you run as a Democrat, you're a Democrat. Some Democrats are progressive, and some Democrats are not." Sanders was then asked if Ossoff is a progressive. "I don't know," he responded.

Sanders' comments were made public just as Ossoff came one step closer to beating 17 other mostly Republican opponents to take over Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's vacant congressional seat. In a special election in Georgia's Sixth District on Wednesday, a district that has been under Republican control for decades, Ossoff came out on top, receiving 48.1 percent of the vote. Since he needed over 50 percent to win the election, he will now face leading Republican candidate Karen Handel in a run-off election in June.

So far, 30-year-old former investigative filmmaker Ossoff has been uniting Democrats across the country. Party leaders have supported Ossoff's candidacy, seeing his high polling numbers as a sign that Trump's presidency is causing conservative voters to turn away from Republican candidates, even in small local elections. His campaign even raised 17 times more than an average candidate in a "competitive district," according to the Washington Post, with 95 percent of his funding coming from outside the state.

Given the significance of the Georgia race, and the fact that it could potentially flip a historically red district blue, many have found Sanders' criticism odd — especially since Sanders recently endorsed a pro-life Democrat in a Nebraska mayoral race.

Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential elections, held a campaign rally in Omaha on Thursday for mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a Nebraska state senator who sponsored a bill in 2009 that would require women to be told they have a right to a fetal ultrasound prior to deciding to have an abortion, according to Politico.

Ossoff, however, has advocated for abortion rights, and many other traditionally Democratic values, including environmental regulation and criminal justice reform, some of the very issues that Sanders espoused in his presidential campaign.

To be fair, in his interview with the Washington Post, Sanders conceded that he doesn't know enough about Ossoff to make a fair assessment of him. But the fact that he hasn't taken interest in supporting a Democratic candidate in such a high-profile election, while hosting a rally for a controversial candidate in a smaller race, is certainly confusing.