Bik­ers for Trump bring mes­sage to vot­ers

Group stumps for Han­del in cru­cial con­gres­sional race against Os­soff

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

MA­RI­ETTA, GA. | This neigh­bor­hood might have got­ten quite a jolt when Bik­ers for Trump — sport­ing tat­toos ga­lore, black vests and a mas­sive flag with the group’s in­signia — showed up in this At­lanta sub­urb to po­litely ask peo­ple to vote for the Repub­li­can can­di­date in this week’s spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion.

At one stop, Chris Hum­mel and his wife, Karen, as­sured Chris Cox, founder of Bik­ers for Trump, and the six other men and women who were go­ing door to door that they had voted early for the Repub­li­can, Karen Han­del, over Demo­crat Jon Os­soff.

Mrs. Hum­mel even shed some tears af­ter learn­ing that three of the bik­ers had served in the mil­i­tary. Her fa­ther served as a bat­tal­ion leader in the Viet­nam War and re­turned a dif­fer­ent man. Years later, when Mrs. Hum­mel was a baby, he took his own life.

“We have heard about them,” Mrs. Hum­mel said about the group. “I just think it is cool that it is just kind of grass­roots door-to-door, just com­mon folks. Be­cause that is re­ally what Amer­ica is.”

Mr. Cox and his crew of vol­un­teers had vis­ited this well-groomed neigh­bor­hood be­fore and re­turned Tues­day to make cer­tain that its heav­ily Repub­li­can vot­ers planned to — or al­ready had — voted for Mrs. Han­del. The bik­ers are hop­ing to punch a hole in the Democrat­driven sto­ry­line that Pres­i­dent Trump’s sup­port­ers are turning their backs on him.

“For us, it is more about ‘Sup­port Don­ald Trump,’ and by sup­port­ing Karen Han­del we are sup­port­ing Don­ald Trump,” said Mr. Cox, stand­ing in a cul-de-sac next to his Har­ley-David­son mo­tor­cy­cle and steps away from a minia­ture soc­cer goal. “This is kind of like a crown jewel of the Repub­li­can Party right now — hold­ing on to this thing.”

The po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity from Bik­ers for Trump is sym­bolic of the in­ter­est that the Ge­or­gia race has drawn from

both par­ties as well as out­side groups bat­tling for brag­ging rights in a closerthan-ex­pected bat­tle. The his­tor­i­cally Repub­li­can 6th District was once Newt Gin­grich’s seat, but Mr. Trump car­ried it by less than 2 per­cent­age points over Hil­lary Clin­ton in Novem­ber.

Roughly $50 mil­lion has been spent on the race, which is neck-and-neck, ac­cord­ing to polls, cam­paigns and ac­tivists from both sides.

For his part, Mr. Cox is look­ing to win a pub­lic re­la­tions game, and is ea­ger to spread the mes­sage that are Bik­ers for Trump are not the law­break­ers por­trayed by Hol­ly­wood stereo­typ­ing, but their blue-col­lar work­ers and mil­i­tary vet­er­ans are an un­tapped re­source that Repub­li­cans can turn to over the years to come.

“I am hop­ing that when this is over the head­lines read that Bik­ers helped swing District 6 for Han­del,” he said, adding that his goal is to bring 1,500 to 3,000 bik­ers to the polls that oth­er­wise would not have voted. “If she wins this by a small mar­gin, we cer­tainly did swing this thing.”

Fi­nal push

Over the week­end, Mrs. Han­del and Mr. Os­soff de­liv­ered their clos­ing mes­sage to vot­ers. The Repub­li­can ar­gued that her ex­pe­ri­ence should give her the edge, and the Demo­crat said he would bring an in­de­pen­dent voice to Wash­ing­ton.

The win­ner will re­place Rep. Tom Price, who re­signed to be­come Mr. Trump’s health and hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary.

Mr. Price and for­mer Gov. Sonny Per­due ral­lied be­hind Mrs. Han­del on Satur­day, re­mind­ing ac­tivists that Repub­li­cans have held this seat since Mr. Gin­grich’s first victory in 1978.

“You all want lower taxes, right?” Mr. Price said at a rally. “You all want a gov­ern­ment that re­spects you. You all want pa­tient-cen­tered health care and you all want na­tional se­cu­rity to be an ab­so­lute pri­or­ity for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. If you want any one of those items, then who you want for this race is Karen Han­del for the 6th District of Ge­or­gia.”

Di­rect­ing his mes­sage to vot­ers who might be dis­mayed by Mr. Trump, Mr. Per­due said the pres­i­dent has shown over the course of his ten­ure that he “keeps his prom­ises.”

“The pres­i­dent is a true pop­ulist. He cares for the lit­tle peo­ple, and he will look out for you as well,” he said.

Mrs. Han­del said vot­ers should not be fooled when Mr. Os­soff talks about cut­ting spend­ing, bal­anc­ing bud­gets and reach­ing across the aisle to work with the other party.

“There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween my op­po­nent, who likes to talk about what he is go­ing to do, and me, some­one who has ac­tu­ally done it,” she said.

Mr. Os­soff, mean­while, cam­paigned with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who said this year that he does not con­sider Mr. Trump a “le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Lewis said at a cook­out that Mr. Os­soff is “smart, young and just good.”

“What I have said in the past is that the vote is pre­cious,” Mr. Lewis said. “It is al­most sa­cred in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. It is the most pow­er­ful non­vi­o­lent in­stru­ment or tool that we have, and we must get ev­ery­body to use it, OK?”

Money and ads

Mr. Os­soff nearly won the seat in the April pri­mary when he fell just shy of the 50 per­cent needed to win the seat out­right, with­out a runoff.

Mrs. Han­del fin­ished a dis­tant sec­ond in a crowded race that has grabbed the at­ten­tion of ac­tivists and donors from across the coun­try, though that was partly be­cause Mr. Os­soff was the only ma­jor Demo­crat in the “jun­gle pri­mary,” while sev­eral high-pro­file Repub­li­cans split their party’s vot­ers.

Mr. Os­soff had raised more than $23 mil­lion through May 31, ac­cord­ing to his lat­est cam­paign fi­nance fil­ing — $15 mil­lion of which he raised since April. Most of that came from out­side the state. The Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee also has in­vested more than $6 mil­lion in the race.

Mrs. Han­del has raised $4.5 mil­lion. Mil­lions more have been spent on her be­half by out­side groups — most no­tably the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund, which has poured $7 mil­lion into ra­dio and TV ad­ver­tis­ing as well as phone bank­ing and get-out-the-vote ef­forts.

Polls show the race is tight, and even some Repub­li­can op­er­a­tives fear the mo­men­tum fa­vors Democrats.

“You could have had Ron­ald Rea­gan and this guy would have been do­ing well,” said Jay Wil­liams, a Repub­li­can Party strate­gist. “We gave him oxy­gen, we gave him the abil­ity to breathe and he was able to par­lay that into some­thing.”

The Bik­ers, though, said they couldn’t imag­ine Mr. Os­soff pulling out a victory. They said the idea that vot­ers are sour­ing on Mr. Trump in this district is a bo­gus sto­ry­line pushed by in­side-the-Belt­way talk­ing heads.

“I love Trump be­cause as far as I am con­cerned he is al­ready a suc­cess be­cause he al­ready broke the sys­tem,” said Mark Sims, 59, a Naval Academy grad­u­ate who has a tat­too on his fore­arm of the A-6 at­tack air­craft, which he flew in the Marine Corps.

“The sys­tem was telling me who we had to vote for, who we had to sup­port, telling me ev­ery­thing else. Trump comes along, and he is out­side all of that,” Mr. Sims said.

Vot­ers are split

Democrats, though, say the pro-Os­soff en­ergy is high.

“I have seen more signs of his than I had seen of Obama,” said Scott Cobb, 45. “I have seen more signs of his than Hil­lary. So there is more of a fol­low­ing around him than re­ally any other can­di­date I have seen in this area.”

Mr. Cobb said he be­lieves peo­ple who sat on their hands in the last elec­tion re­al­ize they made a mis­take.

Jon McPhail, a 64-year-old lawyer, can­vassed for the first time over the week­end.

“It was great — woke a cou­ple of peo­ple up,” he said with a laugh be­fore ex­plain­ing what per­suaded him to do some­thing he had never done be­fore. “The time is now. I think democ­racy hangs in the bal­ance. It is time to make some changes.”

Repub­li­cans told can­vassers from the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund that Mr. Os­soff is too young, too lib­eral and too in­ex­pe­ri­enced.

“I think he has had a sil­ver spoon shoved up his butt since he was born,” said Daniel Smith, 30. “He just seems very en­ti­tled. Also he speaks na­tion­ally like he’s fur­ther left than what­ever that is and he speaks here as if he is on the right side of mod­er­ate. So why would I trust him?”

Asked why she sup­ports Mrs. Han­del, Joyce What­ley said, “Be­cause I am a Repub­li­can, be­cause I am a con­ser­va­tive.”

She said Mr. Os­soff and other Democrats seem to be against ev­ery­thing she is for: a strong mil­i­tary, se­cure bor­ders, fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and stricter voter ID laws.

“To me, those things are com­mon sense, so things work like they are sup­posed to work,” the 73-year-old said.

SETH MCLAUGH­LIN/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

SUP­PORTER: Chris Cox and other mem­bers of Bik­ers for Trump can­vassed in sub­ur­ban At­lanta this week­end be­fore a hard-fought con­gres­sional elec­tion.

SETH MCLAUGH­LIN/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Bik­ers for Trump founder Chris Cox and his crew of vol­un­teers have another mes­sage for vot­ers in Ge­or­gia and across the coun­try. They in­tend to punch a hole in the Demo­crat-driven sto­ry­line that Pres­i­dent Trump’s sup­port­ers are turning their backs on him.

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