Who is Jon Ossoff? 4 things to know about Georgia’s Senate candidate

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Voters in Georgia, a longtime GOP stronghold that has begun to to look more purple in the run-up to the 2020 election, will decide between Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, a former Fortune 500 CEO, and Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old media executive. 

Here’s what to know about Ossoff:

His background is in investigative journalism 

Since 2013, Ossoff has served as the CEO of Insight TWI, a London-based media production company that creates documentaries on corruption and war crimes in foreign countries. As CEO, Ossoff led the charge on two BBC investigations of ISIS war crimes in Iraq and death squads in East Africa. 

Despite his close ties to the entertainment industry, Ossoff decries the “cultural elitism” of Hollywood. 

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“There is a sense in the rest of the country that some folks in Hollywood look down [on them] and that cultural elitism can be a distraction, and corrosive to the effort to build a broad coalition focused on improving our quality of life, solving our healthcare crisis and delivering investment and infrastructure,” he told Variety in an April interview. 

In the final debate between Ossoff and Perdue, the incumbent knocked his upstart opponent for his media firm’s ties to a Hong Kong media conglomerate whose owner has spoken out against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. 

In an amended financial statement, Ossoff revealed his firm had received $5,000 over the last two years from PCCW, the largest telecom agency in Hong Kong, for documentary work.

He was the Dem. candidate in the most expensive U.S. House race in history

Ossoff was the unsuccessful Democratic contender in a historically expensive 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th District House seat. 

When Ossoff entered the race, his district was not considered competitive, and had been held by Republicans since 1978. Tom Price, who vacated the seat to serve as Health and Human Services Secretary, had been re-elected with 62 percent of the vote two months before he left the seat. 

Ossoff’s campaign raised over $23 million, two-thirds from small-dollar donors across the nation. Ossoff’s opponent in the race Karen Handel criticized him for his donations from outside the state, though much of her funding came from super PACs and outside groups as well. 

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Republicans tried to drive out their conservative base by connecting Ossoff to then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Handel’s campaign ran ads portraying Ossoff as a San Francisco-style liberal who aligned with “Nancy Pelosi and outsiders who just don’t share our priorities.”

Ossoff steered clear of saying whether or not he’d vote for Pelosi’s leadership, and never ran ads tying his opponent to President Trump in the historically red district. He lost the seat by four percentage points.

He worked for prominent Ga. Democrats such as Hank Johnson and John Lewis

In high school, Ossoff interned for the beloved late Georgia Rep. John Lewis. Later, he worked as a national security staffer and aide for Rep. Hank Johnson for five years, before leaving Johnson’s office in 2012 to get a master’s degree at the London School of Economics. 

Ossoff’s House run was endorsed by Lewis, Johnson and Statehouse Democratic leader Stacey Abrams. He also received public support from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Ossoff recalls Lewis telling him: “if any Democrat can win the Sixth, you can.”

He’s distanced himself from his party’s more progressive platforms 

Ossoff in 2017 distanced himself from the national Democratic Party’s lurch to the left. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that Ossoff “often tried to avoid nationalizing that campaign over fears of losing moderate voters.”

He said he would not support any tax increases, even on the wealthy. “I don’t support any increase in income tax rates,” he said. 

And during a sit-down with the New York Times in 2019, Ossoff said he supported the Affordable Care Act with a public option over Medicare-for-All to save the private insurance market. 

When Trump weighed in on the 2017 race calling Ossoff a “super liberal Democrat” who wanted to “protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes,” Ossoff responded that the president was “misinformed.” 

“While I’m glad the President is interested in the race, he is misinformed. I’m focused on bringing fresh leadership, accountability, and bipartisan problem solving to Washington to cut wasteful spending and grow metro Atlanta’s economy into the Silicon Valley of the South.”

Ossoff, like his opponent Perdue, was motivated to move into public office by excessive government spending. 

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“Both parties in Washington waste too much of your money. When I worked there I helped expose waste and abuse by government contractors. We need stricter oversight and tougher penalties. They need to be held accountable. And there’s $16 billion in duplicate programs. That can be cut,” he said.

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