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Ossoff Stops in Athens to Urge Voters to Flip the Senate

Jon Ossoff speaks in the 40 Watt parking lot Nov. 13. Credit: Tyler Wilkins

With all eyes on Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections, which could produce a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff spearheaded an effort to get out the vote with his Future of Georgia tour, stopping in Athens on Friday.

Surrounded by a crowd of about 200 supporters outside 40 Watt Club, Ossoff delivered sharp criticism of incumbent Sen. David Perdue, attacking his opponent’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of communication with his constituents. 

“You shouldn’t expect public servants to vote the way you want them to every single time,” said Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and mentee of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. “What we expect is for public servants to come out in public, answer questions and approach the people with an open heart and an open mind, listen to criticism and listen to scrutiny. If Sen. Perdue doesn’t want to serve the public, he can go home to his private island.”

Ossoff implored Perdue to join him in another debate and critiqued his downplaying of the pandemic. Ossoff also railed against Perdue’s purchase of stock in DuPont de Nemours, which sells personal protective equipment, on the same day he received a classified briefing about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Perdue denies any allegations of insider trading, saying his financial adviser executes transactions without his knowledge.

“I asked Sen. Perdue why, in the middle of a pandemic that has taken nearly 250,000 lives, he was persistent in trying to rip health care away from the very people he represents who pay his salary,” said Ossoff, referencing Perdue’s support of overturning the Affordable Care Act.

Kicking off his tour in Atlanta on Tuesday and visiting Albany, Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah, Ossoff finished his tour in Athens on the same day national news outlets announced that President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia, making Biden the first Democrat to win the state since President Bill Clinton in 1992. Ossoff attributed Biden’s success in Georgia to mobilization efforts by prominent Democrats like Stacey Abrams in recent years.

Biden’s triumph in Georgia “proved” the state’s residents care about ensuring better health care for all, combating climate change and addressing racial inequality, Ossoff said. To tackle these issues, Ossoff proposed an investment in clean, renewable energy and the passage of a new Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. 

“We’re living through a moment of historic crisis,” Ossoff said. “And in order for us to overcome this crisis, we need President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to be able to lead, to be able to govern and to be able to make things happen. And if we don’t win these two U.S. Senate races here in Georgia, y’all, it will be gridlock for six years in Washington.”

Prior to Ossoff’s arrival, former state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez threw her support behind Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, who’s running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s other runoff election. “Georgia is blue, folks. It is blue,” yelled Gonzalez, who’s currently in a runoff election for district attorney of the Western Judicial Circuit. “We all did that, we made Georgia blue for the first time in 28 years. But the fight isn’t ready yet. You know why? Because we can’t send Biden and Harris alone.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Ovita Thornton discussed the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, which led to the declaration of President George W. Bush as victor in the 2000 presidential election. “It is a heartbreaking thing when the Supreme Court decides who your president is,” Thornton said. “It’s not going to happen this year.”

In endorsing Ossoff, Thornton called for Christians to “stand up” for what’s right, criticizing people who “hide behind” Christianity and use it as a means to “oppress people.” Commissioner Russell Edwards shared his support for Ossoff, encouraging the audience to vote out “Trump’s top ally” and vote in Lewis’ mentee.

Voters will decide between Ossoff and Perdue, as well as Loeffler and Warnock, on Jan. 5. Under Georgia law, a candidate must garner more than 50 percent of the vote to win an election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two candidates head into a runoff election. Gonzalez’s runoff is Dec. 1.

In the general election, Perdue received 49.71% of the vote, while Ossoff received 47.96%, a margin of about 86,000 votes.