Democrats at loss over an­other de­feat

Ge­or­gians say party fields bad can­di­dates

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

AT­LANTA | Af­ter los­ing an­other spe­cial elec­tion that party lead­ers had hoped would sig­nal a re­buke of the Trump pres­i­dency, Democrats on Wed­nes­day cast about for some­one or some­thing to blame: from Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats, to ill-man­aged cam­paigns to can­di­dates who were too lib­eral — or not lib­eral enough.

Vot­ers in Ge­or­gia, though, who dealt the lat­est blow to Democrats this week, said the prob­lem is much sim­pler: The party just isn’t field­ing good can­di­dates.

Jon Os­soff, the party’s of­fer­ing in Tues­day’s spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion in Ge­or­gia, was a 30-year-old elec­toral novice who didn’t even live in the district, and whose chief ex­pe­ri­ence in his short adult life was as a staffer on Capi­tol Hill. Last month’s con­gres­sional race in Mon­tana, mean­while, fea­tured a cow­boy poet whose col­or­ful past weighed down his cam­paign.

Both men lost races that Democrats and their al­lies had deemed winnable — blow­ing tens of mil­lions of party dol­lars in the process.

“Run for some­thing at least some­where where you live,” Mary Julve, 52, said as she voted Tues­day in nearby Roswell, de­cry­ing Mr. Os­soff’s can­di­dacy. “Maybe if he would have lived here a lit­tle longer

at least, I think maybe that would have swayed us a lit­tle more.

“There is no vested in­ter­est,” she said. Democrats have gone 0-for-4 in spe­cial elec­tions this year. Each of the four con­gres­sional seats came open af­ter a House Repub­li­can left to join the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, and in three of the races — Ge­or­gia, Mon­tana and Kansas — Democrats ap­peared to have a clear chance of win­ning.

Each of the Demo­cratic Party can­di­dates ran firmly against Mr. Trump, urg­ing vot­ers to send some­one to Wash­ing­ton to act as a check on Repub­li­cans and to de­liver a pow­er­ful state­ment about the strength of the anti-Trump re­sis­tance.

But af­ter the sting­ing de­feats in South Carolina and Ge­or­gia, Democrats and lib­eral pres­sure groups are search­ing for what went wrong.

“‘Hope’ is not a strat­egy, and ‘re­sist­ing’ is not a plan,” said D. Tay­lor, pres­i­dent of Unite Here, a la­bor union act­ing in pro­gres­sive causes. “Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are des­per­ate to be led by po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who stand for some­thing, are will­ing to take risks, and are will­ing to tell the truth and en­gage Amer­i­cans where they live. That just isn’t hap­pen­ing.”

Jim Dean, chair­man of Democ­racy for Amer­ica, a pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee that de­ployed staff to Ge­or­gia and in­vested $65,000 in the race, blamed “un­forced er­rors” by the party and the Os­soff cam­paign.

Democrats, he said, need to tilt fur­ther to the left and take that mes­sage di­rectly to vot­ers.

“De­feat­ing Repub­li­cans in dis­tricts that they have tra­di­tion­ally held re­quires do­ing some­thing dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent than es­tab­lish­ment Democrats have done be­fore — specif­i­cally, run­ning on a bold pro­gres­sive vi­sion and in­vest­ing heav­ily in di­rect voter con­tact to ex­pand the elec­torate,” he said. “The same tired cen­trist Demo­cratic play­book that has come up short cy­cle af­ter cy­cle will not suf­fice.”

Other lib­er­als, though, saw rea­son to be op­ti­mistic. They said Democrats man­aged to im­prove their per­for­mance in each of the com­pet­i­tive dis­tricts this year from how they did in those same seats last year.

They said the fact that Democrats fielded lib­eral can­di­dates en­dorsed by the likes of Sen. Bernard San­ders helped.

“The best way for Democrats to max­i­mize gains in 2018 — es­pe­cially in pur­ple and red dis­tricts — is to har­ness the power of the re­sis­tance and field can­di­dates who proudly chal­lenge power on be­half of the lit­tle guy,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “Gone are the days of Blue Dogs who ac­tively cam­paign as Repub­li­cans.”

Emily’s List, which backs pro-choice Demo­cratic can­di­dates, also saw the Ge­or­gia race as a good sign. The group said 71 Repub­li­can-held House seats lean more Demo­cratic than Ge­or­gia’s 6th Con­gres­sional District and each of those could be an op­por­tu­nity.

At the White House, Pres­i­dent Trump mocked Democrats’ los­ing streak, while Repub­li­can groups basked in vic­tory and said their strat­egy of ty­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates to national party lead­ers such as House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia is work­ing.

“The truth is, vot­ers across the coun­try find what Nancy Pelosi rep­re­sents to be out of the main­stream, so while can­di­dates mat­ter, their ideas are far more im­por­tant,” said Court­ney Alexan­der, a spokes­woman for the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee that in­vested $7 mil­lion in the Ge­or­gia race.

Vot­ers in Ge­or­gia said the anti-Pelosi mes­sage res­onated in the con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing district, re­mind­ing some wa­ver­ing Repub­li­cans about the stakes in the elec­tion.

Even some Democrats ac­knowl­edged that Mrs. Pelosi is hurt­ing their chances in deep-red dis­tricts.

Joe Cun­ning­ham, a Demo­crat who wants to chal­lenge Repub­li­can Rep. Mark San­ford in South Carolina next fall, an­nounced his break with the long­time party leader.

“The Demo­cratic Party needs new lead­er­ship now. If elected, I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Time to move for­ward and win again,” he said in a Twit­ter post.

Tyler Law, a spokesman for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, pre­dicted bet­ter luck for his party next year.

He said the DCCC is op­ti­mistic about the crop of po­ten­tial can­di­dates lin­ing up to run in the midterm elec­tions, which tra­di­tion­ally test a sitting pres­i­dent’s pop­u­lar­ity.

“We’ve al­ready seen a huge in­crease in re­cruit­ment this cy­cle,” Mr. Law said. “In­cred­i­ble can­di­dates are step­ping up to run across the largest bat­tle­field in a decade, and frankly, that isn’t de­ter­mined at all by what hap­pens in deep-red spe­cial elec­tions.”

Char­lie Cook, of the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, said the DCCC never wanted to play in Mon­tana or Kansas, but the left wing pushed it into in­vest­ing in those races.

“In spe­cial elec­tions, be­cause they pop up un­ex­pect­edly, of­ten par­ties are at the mercy of who­ever pops up,” he said be­fore turn­ing to the Ge­or­gia 6th District race. “I don’t think the DCCC re­cruited Os­soff. They gen­er­ally don’t go af­ter rel­a­tively un­ac­com­plished 30-year-olds who don’t live in the district.

“But when you have few politi­cians in a district from your party and an un­ex­pected spe­cial elec­tions comes up, you sort of get what gen­er­ally walks in the door,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

RED-STATE BLUES: Jan Yanes and other back­ers of House Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff tried to make sense of their loss Tues­day night in At­lanta.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jon Os­soff, the Demo­cratic can­di­date for Ge­or­gia’s 6th Con­gres­sional District, waved to a crowd of sup­port­ers while step­ping off­stage with fi­ancee Alisha Kramer af­ter con­ced­ing to Repub­li­can Karen Han­del at his elec­tion night party in At­lanta. The 30-year-old was an elec­toral novice who didn’t even live in the district.

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