Os­soff touts LGBT rights views, Han­del stays mum

Sixth Dis­trict Con­gres­sional can­di­dates face off in June 20 runoff

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

By DAL­LAS ANNE DUN­CAN

ddun­can@the­gavoice.com

On the night of April 18, Ge­or­gia’s Sixth Con­gres­sional dis­trict — and the Pres­i­dent, who’d taken to Twit­ter hours be­fore — watched with bated breath to see who would take for­mer Sen. Tom Price’s va­cated House seat.

If it wasn’t go­ing to be Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff, the next step to fill the seat would be a runoff be­tween Os­soff and Repub­li­can can­di­date Karen Han­del, pre­dicted Robin Biro, po­lit­i­cal direc­tor with Ful­ton Democrats and com­men­ta­tor for Fox News.

Biro was right, and now a tightly con­tested race is un­der­way be­tween Os­soff and Han­del, whose per­spec­tives on LGBT rights and equal­ity take cen­ter stage. Thirty-year-old Os­soff is clear on his views. “I op­pose any leg­is­la­tion or pol­icy that al­lows dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT Amer­i­cans, and I op­pose this [‘re­li­gious free­dom’] ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which un­der­mines the in­tent of Congress in or­der to al­low more money into our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem,” Os­soff told Ge­or­gia Voice. “Same-sex cou­ples should have the same rights as ev­ery cou­ple in ev­ery con­text. There’s no ex­cuse for dis­crim­i­na­tion in fed­eral law or state law, and it’s a sad com­men­tary on the state of af­fairs in Wash­ing­ton that we’re still hav­ing these de­bates.”

Can Han­del han­dle her own record?

Speak­ing of de­bates, Han­del was chal­lenged to a six-de­bate se­ries by the Os­soff cam­paign, and orig­i­nally agreed to do three — but re­port­edly backed out of at least one, once it was re­vealed the de­bates would be open to the pub­lic, Re­porter News­pa­pers said.

Han­del’s team did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple calls and email re­quests for in­ter­views from Ge­or­gia Voice as of press time. Thus, her 2017 stance on LGBT rights is un­known, and her his­tory of sup­port is not the most re­li­able.

Dur­ing her cam­paigns for Ful­ton County Com­mis­sion in the early 2000s, Han­del sup­ported do­mes­tic part­ner ben­e­fits and was both a mem­ber of and en­dorsed by the gay GOP group Log Cabin Repub­li­cans — which, as of press time, de­clined to com­ment on Han­del’s race in the 2017 spe­cial elec­tion. She flipped from those po­si­tions dur­ing her cam­paigns for both sec­re­tary of state and gover­nor, say­ing she never joined Log Cabin Repub­li­cans and that emails stat­ing she sup­ported do­mes­tic part­ner­ships were writ­ten by cam­paign staff with­out her knowl­edge.

In June 2010, Ge­or­gia Voice spoke with a for­mer mem­ber of Han­del’s County Com­mis­sion cam­paign team about the re­ver­sal, and he said he “cer­tainly would not have made any state­ment like that if it had not been ex­pressed from her­self and clearly un­der­stood that that was her po­si­tion.” He also con­firmed Han­del was a mem­ber of the Log Cabin Repub­li­cans for at least two years. An email ex­change from July 2002 sup­ports his state­ments.

“As I’ve told you, I do sup­port do­mes­tic part­ner ben­e­fits, and con­firm my po­si­tion here, although I do have con­cerns about a do­mes­tic part­ner registry,” Han­del wrote in the email. “Bot­tom line is that I will work with you and other GLBT lead­ers to de­velop work­able leg­is­la­tion.”

Dur­ing her failed gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign, Han­del said in a TV in­ter­view that not only did she op­pose gay mar­riage, but would con­sider a law ban­ning gay adop­tion. In that 2010 in­ter­view with WXIA, Han­del said, “I am against gay adop­tion. … Do I think that gay par­ents is in the best in­ter­est of the child? No. But we do have our court sys­tem that deals with many and most of those is­sues.”

Fund­ing the fight

It was clear Han­del’s first goal in this elec­tion cy­cle was fi­nan­cial. In an April 19 email ti­tled “Democrats PAN­ICKED,” sent to those who signed up to re­ceive cam­paign up­dates, Han­del’s team called Os­soff’s cam­paign a fail­ure and pleaded with sup­port­ers to do­nate $50 in an “Emer­gency 48 Hour Money Bomb.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Elec­tions Com­mis­sion, Han­del re­ceived $463,744 in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions by March 29, and cam­paign emails in­di­cated she’d got­ten an ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion in the week fol­low­ing the spe­cial elec­tion — and the afore­men­tioned email blast. Os­soff, as of that same date, re­ceived $8.3 mil­lion in do­na­tions.

And two days later, this mes­sage from Team Han­del — al­legedly au­thored by the pres­i­dent: “Lib­eral Democrats are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars try­ing to steal a Con­gres­sional seat from Repub­li­cans in Ge­or­gia. They’re fight­ing to de­feat a strong con­ser­va­tive who wants to con­tinue to ad­vance our Amer­ica First agenda across the coun­try,” Trump’s email said. “Os­soff is funded by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who des­per­ately want to land a blow against my pres­i­dency.”

Another fundrais­ing email was sent out claim­ing to be from Newt Gin­grich — “This elec­tion means a lot to me. Not only does it have vast na­tional im­pli­ca­tions, but it’s also for my old seat in Congress.”

Ge­or­gia Democrats re­sponded on April 21 with a fundrais­ing email of its own: “The GOP will do what­ever it takes to hold on to this seat — even if they have to hold their nose and pre­tend to be united be­hind peren­nial can­di­date Karen Han­del. And they will burn through what­ever re­sources and dark money is at their dis­posal to get her elected.”

Though Han­del was keen to have the pres­i­dent fundraise for her at an event for huge donors in late April, Os­soff said he had no plans for any­thing sim­i­lar should a well-known Wash­ing­ton fig­ure come to Ge­or­gia on his be­half.

“I think the com­ings and go­ings of ma­jor fig­ures in Wash­ing­ton are a lot less im­por­tant than the can­di­dates’ vi­sion for rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the dis­trict,” he said. “I’m a lot more fo­cused on di­rectly talk­ing to vot­ers.”

He plans to con­tinue his field pro­gram as the cam­paign preps for the June 20 runoff.

“The whole team was hon­ored and thrilled to have beaten ex­pec­ta­tions by such a mar­gin, out­per­form­ing the polls. We’re ready to build on that huge mar­gin of vic­tory,” Os­soff said. “If I’m elected, I’ll be a pub­lic, out­spo­ken, unashamed ally of the LGBT com­mu­nity with a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy for hate speech, dis­crim­i­na­tion or scape-goat­ing — no ques­tions asked.”

May 12, 2017

The Con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Ge­or­gia’s Sixth Dis­trict will be de­cided in a runoff elec­tion on June 20. Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff will face for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Karen Han­del, a Repub­li­can. (Cour­tesy pho­tos)

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