Jon Ossoff Has No Answer for Republicans' Main Line of Attack

Ossoff still hasn't given 'an ounce of thought' to whether he would back Nancy Pelosi

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff / Getty Images
June 13, 2017

MARIETTA, Ga.—It's rare to make it through a commercial break on the radio when driving through Atlanta's suburbs without being told that Jon Ossoff would be nothing more than a rubber-stamp for Nancy Pelosi if elected to Congress, even if you're listening to a Spanish station—yet Ossoff claims that he hasn't given "an ounce of thought" to whether he would vote for her to lead the caucus.

Ossoff first said he hadn't given "an ounce of thought" to voting for Pelosi in an April 20 interview with CNN, saying that he was "focused on winning an election here in Georgia's 6th District," not a "leadership contest that's at least a year and a half away."

The Washington Post asked him the question again for a May 1 story, and he again said he hadn't given it "an ounce of thought" because he's "focused on winning here in Georgia's 6th District," not a "hypothetical leadership contest a year and a half or more down the road." The New York Times reported on Sunday that Ossoff told them he hadn't given an "ounce of thought" to whether he would vote for Pelosi. Politico was told by Ossoff that he hadn't "given an ounce of thought" to the same question.

The Ossoff campaign didn't respond to questions into whether Ossoff plans to think about supporting Pelosi before the June 20 election. An interview request with Ossoff was denied.

Ossoff's continued deflection has not stopped attacks from his Republican opponent Karen Handel, who says that both Ossoff and Pelosi know where he stands.

"Of course, Jon Ossoff is going to vote for Nancy Pelosi," said Handel spokeswoman Kate Constantini. "He knows it, his donors know it, and Nancy Pelosi knows it."

Republicans back up their claims that Ossoff would be another vote for Pelosi by pointing to her financial support for his campaign.

Pelosi has already headlined a fundraiser for Ossoff and transferred money to his campaign from both her own campaign and her affiliated political action committee PAC To The Future. There was also a "red alert" to House Democrats last week asking for additional member contributions to Ossoff for the final weeks of his campaign.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D., Mich.), who campaigned with Ossoff on Monday and was recently awarded a top party appointment from Pelosi, also refused to predict whether Ossoff would support Pelosi if he wins.

"That kind of attack is such a played, conventional, predictable attack on a person who's not in Congress," Kildee told the Free Beacon. "He just wants to represent his community in Congress."

"A person who's willing to work with anyone, who will contribute to solving a problem, is what I'm looking for," Kildee said.

Ossoff has struggled to maintain a stable position along the current divide in the Democratic Party.

He launched his campaign as the "make Trump furious" candidate and used the anti-Trump resistance movement to get Democrats nationwide to contribute to a massive fundraising haul, more than 95 percent of which came from outside of Georgia.

Since the race transitioned to the current run-off between him and Republican Karen Handel, however, Ossoff has run away from the resistance movement.

He told the Times this week that he was against raising taxes on the wealthy and opposed "any move" toward a single-payer health system. His campaign's one-sentence pitch to undecided voters is that Ossoff will "stand up for Georgia families by reducing wasteful government spending, while protecting our country and investing in high tech jobs for the future." On Tuesday he dropped a new ad saying that he wants to see "ISIS destroyed."

In two campaign stops on Monday, Ossoff ignored political stances altogether in two speeches to volunteers, neither of which lasted longer than a minute.

Ossoff said that the race would come down to the wire, urging his army of volunteers to keep knocking on doors and to stay "kind" and "humble." His closest thing to a political statement came when he said that the election was "not about a political party."

The New Republic wrote that Ossoff's unclear positions have made him a "mystery" to many in the "desperate, divided" Democratic Party.

"Even as Democrats are largely united in rooting for Ossoff, there's no clear consensus among them—or among the media—on what his victory would mean for the broader party, especially as it pertains to the persistent rift between its progressive and centrist wings," wrote Graham Vyse. "There's not even any consensus on where, precisely, Ossoff resides on that political spectrum."

Ossoff's shift is attributed to the fact that there are more Republicans than Democrats in Georgia's sixth district.

In the April 18 round of voting where Ossoff beat Handel by 28 percentage points, there were about four thousand more votes cast for Republican candidates than cast for Democrats.

Handel's campaign says that Ossoff's refusal to tackle the question of whether he would support Pelosi is another example of her opponent "misleading voters about who he is."

"It's just another example of Ossoff misleading the voters about who he is, who supports him, and what he really stands for," said Constantini.

Polling suggests that the race between Ossoff and Handel is currently a toss-up.