ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Jon Ossoff is a 30-year-old Democrat who has never served in an elected position, running for Congress in a decidedly conservative district. But thanks to his online pitch to voters — "Make Trump Furious" — he has improbably found himself awash in donations: roughly $3 million, his campaign says, while 11 Republican candidates are scrapping for attention.
"Certainly, I'm the underdog. But in a special election, energy is everything," said Mr. Ossoff, who, if he makes the runoff after the vote next month, will most likely face off against the leading Republican in the race to fill the congressional seat vacated by Tom Price, President Trump's new secretary of health and human services.
If Democrats have any hopes of recapturing the 24 seats needed to take back the House, they will depend on a lot of anti-Trump energy and underdogs like Mr. Ossoff. The race in Georgia, in a district Republicans have held for a generation, will be an early test of Democrats' ability to capitalize on Mr. Trump's polarizing presence — he barely won the district last year — and the ability of both parties to choose candidates within their divided ideological factions who can win a general election.
Fueled by the conviction that affluent, educated suburban areas are at least trending toward competitive in the strange and shifting battlefields of Mr. Trump's America, Democrats believe this is the kind of district where they have a shot.
Republicans are confident that Democrats will be inclined to nominate candidates from the most progressive wing of the party, who may energize their base but prove a poor fit for general elections in even the most anti-Trump Republican districts. At the same time, Republicans are going to have to decide whether candidates who distance themselves from Mr. Trump or those who run as his mini-me are their strongest candidates.
The outcome of the election here may provide clues to how Mr. Trump's presidency might, or might not, be deployed in local races. That is particularly true in wealthy suburban districts where Mr. Trump did not fare particularly well in November — and where Republicans may be especially vulnerable in 2018.
The Democrats are expected to wage a similar, though even more uphill, fight in Montana for an at-large House seat left vacant by Mr. Trump's appointment of Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior. There, they chose a musician, Rob Quist — whom Montana Republicans quickly yoked to Senator Bernie Sanders — in a state where Democrats have had sporadic success in recent years.
"It's a base election, and our base is very energized right now," said Nancy Keenan, the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.
Both parties, Nathan Gonzales, the editor of Inside Elections, said, "are trying to figure out whether it is an example of a new movement, or just people who always vote Democrat just being more vocal."
"History is on their side," Mr. Gonzales said of the Democrats, "because the president's party often loses a significant number of seats in the midterms. But in 2016, there was a disconnect between how voters viewed Trump and Republican candidates down the ballot. Democrats assumed that voters would hold other Republicans responsible for Trump's sins, and in most cases, they didn't."
It remains to be seen how Republican-leaning moderates will end up perceiving Mr. Ossoff here in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District, a tony swath of golf courses, cul-de-sacs and pristine strip malls just north of Atlanta. Mr. Ossoff grew up in the district and attended Paideia, an Atlanta private school known for nurturing creativity and individualism, followed by Georgetown University and the London School of Economics. He was a high school intern in the office of Representative John Lewis, a Democrat who represents a large part of Atlanta, and was a Capitol Hill staffer for Representative Hank Johnson, also from Georgia. He currently works as a documentary filmmaker.
In an interview at his parents' spacious suburban home this month, the boyish Mr. Ossoff, in a dark, narrow-cut suit, struck a serious tone focused on repairing the Affordable Care Act and on local economic issues.
"I'm not campaigning across the district talking about Donald Trump at every event," he said. "There are many in this district who are concerned that the president may embarrass us on the world stage, that he may be incompetent and that he's dishonest. I share those concerns, but by running a positive campaign focused on core American values, the contrast is obvious."
But Mr. Trump's election has catalyzed liberal activists and given hope to a diffuse group whose underdog status is baked into its messaging: One organization is called Needles in a Haystack , while the Facebook page of another, the Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb , declares, "You're not the only one."
Gary Dichtenberg, an organizer of Needles in a Haystack, said about 500 people had said they planned to attend a March 12 Democratic candidates' forum the group is sponsoring, forcing a venue change from a Unitarian church to an indoor go-kart racing complex. Mr. Dichtenberg said he was optimistic about Mr. Ossoff's chances.
"In a special election, only a small percentage of the electorate votes to begin with — and only the most energized," he said. "And look how Trump has energized."
Mr. Ossoff's campaign fund includes more than $1 million donated to him thus far by readers of Daily Kos , the left-wing political site. But longtime observers of Georgia politics say that he may have a tough road ahead. Georgia uses a "jungle primary" system in which the two top vote-getters face off, no matter their party, unless one clears 50 percent in the first round.
Kerwin Swint, chairman of the political science department at Kennesaw State University, predicted that a Republican would "probably crush" the Democrats in the runoff. For Democrats in the Sixth District, and in Georgia generally, Mr. Swint said, "the numbers just aren't there yet."
Republicans vary in how much they embrace Mr. Trump here, in a district that he won in the general election — but only by one percentage point. Karen Handel , a former Georgia secretary of state who is a likely front-runner in the race, seems to be threading the needle carefully. "As much as I support the president, there also has to be some willingness to be independent and stand up for what is best for the people of the Sixth District," she said in an interview. "That's my mind-set."
Another candidate, Bob Gray , a business executive and former councilman in the city of Johns Creek, has taken as his motto "America First. Conservative Always." Mr. Gray appears to naturally share some of Mr. Trump's populist, Master of the Universe vibe: He pulled up for a recent interview in a late-model convertible Jaguar XK with a license plate frame that said, "Follow me to Waffle House."
He said that Democrats were not the only ones in the district imbued with a new political energy.
"A lot of these people I'm talking to are conservatives, and people that have never voted before that are Trump voters, if you will," Mr. Gray said.
Charles S. Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, said that a Democrat might fare best in a runoff against an overtly pro-Trump candidate, given the president's extremely narrow victory here. But Mr. Bullock also said that it was impossible to know what constituted a good bet given the wild ride of the Trump era thus far.
By the time June comes around, he said, "who knows what Donald Trump would have done by then?"
- Finding an animating issue is Democrats' biggest 2020 challenge — not Trump
- At noisy town hall, a vulnerable U.S. Democrat says 'yes' to impeaching Trump
- Democratic Congressman With Most Pro-Trump District Leaning No on Impeachment, Doesn't Plan to Quit Party
- ‘Conservative’ David Frum Hypes ‘Trump-Russia’ Narrative
- Nancy Pelosi’s Drug Plan Pits Trump’s Base Against GOP Orthodoxy
- Black Conservatives Don’t Need to Be Brainwashed to Be Wrong
- Donald Trump's impeachment proceedings compared to trial that led to the crucifixion of Jesus
- BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump is IMPEACHED by 230 to 197 with just two Democrats voting against their party - making him only the third president ever to be put on trial in the Senate
- The Memo: GOP discontent deepens on Trump impeachment messaging
- Democrat defects to GOP after opposing impeachment
- House Democrats in Swing Districts Support Impeachment Despite Trump Campaign's Warning They Could Lose Seats
- Impeachment stole all the attention from the fifth Democratic debate. Here are the key takeaways
- Trump announces Van Drew will become a Republican in Oval Office meeting
- Donald Trump celebrates Democrat Jeff Van Drew's defection to Republican Party
- New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew Pledges ‘Undying Support’ For President Donald Trump As He Switches To Republican Party
- CNN Poll Shows Support for Impeachment Dropping, Even Among Democrats
- Trumpcare Proves That Conservatives Would Rather Increase Inequality Than Create Jobs
- Minnesota Democrat Peterson prepares to vote on impeachment
A Democrat in Conservative Georgia Rides Opposition to Trump have 1550 words, post on www.nytimes.com at March 8, 2017. This is cached page on Auto News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.