Insights On The Eve of The GA 6th Special Election with Kim Mellen

Editor's note: Like all political junkies, I woke up today with a keen eye on the final movements of what can only be described as the most visible House of Representatives race I can ever remember in Georgia's 6th District, and the most expensive House race in history. I know from ongoing conversations with our listener and Atlanta native, Kim Mellen, that she's been heavily involved in the GOTV effort for Jon Ossoff, so I touched base with her today to get her thoughts going into voting day. 

This race is incredibly close. I've been following the coverage and it seems as if the enthusiasm for Karen Handel is tempered at best from a national standpoint. What are you seeing in the district? Well, she's had Trump, Pence, Tom Price, and the Perdues campaign for her and Senator Johnny Isakson has radio ads endorsing her. So she's got national support, but I'm not convinced that they care about her as much as they care about retaining her seat. When I was canvassing, the Ossoff yard signs were 12:2. There is a lot of excitement in the district about Ossoff and excitement is coming primarily from women and younger people. The campaign office I worked out of was (literally) run by high school kids led by a young man named David who just graduated college. Ms. Handel has run for every office north of dog catcher and has not been very successful in terms of legislation or policy in any office. 

The knock on Ossoff has been his national support, that he's only gaining traction because of Hollywood and outside money, so you're saying that in the district that bears out a little more normal to what we'd see in a typical congressional race? No, the energy and attention is like nothing I've ever seen in the 30 years I've been following state races. It's through the roof. The energy for Handel is muted and not nearly as enthusiastic from what I've seen. Of course, I am not likely to be closely related to her orbit, so her supporters may be enthusiastic. but it's not visible to me. She is at best, a tepid politician with a dangerous anti-gay, anti-women agenda who will be a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda. 

What would you say are the key issues in the district, the stuff that doesn't necessarily fall under the national platform umbrella? Healthcare and jobs. People here want to keep the ACA and make it better. Ossoff also has a vision to make Georgia 6th into the Silicon Valley of the southeast, investing in technical jobs and enticing large tech companies to come to Georgia. 

So the AHCA is a central issue to voters you've talked to in the district. What would you say you've learned knocking on doors? Honestly, That Dems, Independents, and moderate Republicans are all concerned about the same things. The older Republicans are concerned about "experience" which is ironic given who they elected to the presidency, and that Ossoff is one of "them" (other, Millennial, Jewish, progressive, etc). All these things seem threatening to older Republican voters here. 

What was your most surprising encounter knocking on doors? The most surprising (and encouraging) thing I've encountered since March has been the absolute dedication of women (several liberal Mom groups have spring up in the district) and young people. Specifically, teens not yet of voting age. They are knocking on doors, going to campaign events, phone banking, writing post cards, getting their parents involved, etc. Being in the campaign office is inspiring. Every canvas effort from Chamblee has had no less than 30 people in the room for the brief before going out. The Latino community is heavy in this area of the district and the Latinas are out in force as well. 

When you said earlier that Dems and moderate Republicans were concerned about the same things, what are those things? Aside from healthcare and jobs, which you mentioned. Issues that are paramount besides the ACA/AHCA and jobs are women's reproductive health, protecting Planned Parenthood, the environment, Trump's ties to Russia, education and infrastructure. Recently more people are talking about America's reputation in the international community. The ICE raids have been a big deal too. 

And you said you heard these issues come up with moderates as well as Democrats? Yup. I grew up in the 6th. For it to potentially go blue is both incredible and very exciting. 

Does it concern you that so much national attention and money (from both sides) is influencing a House race? Nope. Elections have consequences. Rebekah and I have sent money to Democratic candidates all over the country and will continue to do so. I am considering going to California to work against Darryl Issa. The way people vote affects us directly - especially in national office. It feels very disingenuous for Rs to specifically call out national money as an issue give the money they pour into local, state, and federal races for PACs, etc. Most of Ossoff's money has come in the form of donations of $50 or less and they've been raised locally. But I'm not mad about out of district money on either side. Rs are mad because it seems Dems are spending like them, and it's taken the RNC by surprise and it's making a difference here. I can't overstate how big it will be if Ossoff wins tomorrow. 

You said earlier if the 6th "finally" goes blue. Finally implies it was trending there. What factors would you say have influenced that trend? Finally may have been the incorrect word. Actually turn blue would be more appropriate. 

Well, what factors would "actually" make it happen? The 6th is very red, and contains a large portion of metro Atlanta's wealth. I believe that the growth of Atlanta's economy regionally has contributed to the influx of younger, more socially progressive people. I also think that the women in the district have finally had it. Hillary's loss and Trump's rhetoric against women are directly responsible for the grassroots women-led efforts occurring in the 6th.