The race to fill a newly vacated Georgia seat in the House of Representatives started out a lot like the most recent presidential primary lineup. Eleven Republicans and just four Democrats campaigned for the seat of former Rep. Tom Price, now the Trump administration's secretary of health and human services. Unlike the presidential election, though, a the race was too close to call, as Democratic standout Jon Ossoff didn't win the special election with more than 50 percent of the vote, forcing a run-off election to take place in June.
Prior to his promotion to the executive branch, Price held his Atlanta-area district's House seat for more than 10 years. The sixth district that he represented is composed of several counties spanning the northern part of the Atlanta metro area. The constituency includes voters from the cities of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, and Roswell, among others. Generally speaking, it's an affluent, conservative part of the metro area, which could explain Price's success there over the years. How, then, did a young, relatively inexperienced Democrat almost upset a field of Republican candidates?
Despite the traditional voting record of his district, Ossoff made no secret of his distaste for the Trump administration throughout his campaign. His TV spots showcased his experience with investigative film-making and congressional politics. He even called the election of President Trump a "wake-up call."
Fortunately for Ossoff — or, perhaps, partly because of Ossoff — Atlanta's party loyalty seems to be swaying. In November, Trump easily won the state of Georgia, but he notably lost in some Atlanta-area counties. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hillary Clinton won Cobb and Gwinnett counties, both of which sit on the northern side of the Atlanta metro area. It was the first time since the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1976 that Gwinnett voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. (Georgia-born Carter may have even had a hometown advantage.)
Although the sixth congressional district does not include any portion of Gwinnett county, it does include part of Cobb. Ossoff led the vote in Cobb and throughout the sixth district for much of Tuesday night. Ultimately, though, he needed more than 50 percent of the vote to secure a victory.
In other words, Ossoff is still a concern for the Republican Party. The changing tides in Georgia seemed apparent to Trump, who tweeted about the special election — and Ossoff, specifically — on Tuesday. Trump called Ossoff a potential "disaster" in Congress.
Democrat Jon Ossoff would be a disaster in Congress. VERY weak on crime and illegal immigration, bad for jobs and wants higher taxes. Say NO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2017
Tuesday wasn't the first time that Trump expressed interest in Atlanta politics. Back in January, Trump criticized Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat who represents much of the Atlanta area, on Twitter. In scolding Lewis about his district, Trump called the Atlanta area "crime-infested," saying that it was "falling apart" and "in horrible shape." (Speaking as someone who has recently come to know the city of Atlanta well, I can attest that, aside from the highway bridge that just recently collapsed because of an alleged arson, the city is far from falling apart.)
The city that Trump once called "in horrible shape" will get another chance to fire back at Trump in June. Ossoff's failure to exceed the 50-percent threshold could still turn into a victory come the run-off election. In other words, Price's long-Republican House seat remains up for grabs, and Trump may not be finished mingling with Atlanta.