Democrats at loss over an­other de­feat

Ge­or­gians say party fields bad can­di­dates

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

AT­LANTA | Af­ter los­ing an­other spe­cial elec­tion that party lead­ers had hoped would sig­nal a re­buke of the Trump pres­i­dency, Democrats last week 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 the 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 con­ser­va­tive­lean­ing 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.

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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