Ossoff mostly lets others make anti-Trump attacks in Georgia’s 6th

Democrat Jon Ossoff often doesn’t mention Donald Trump’s name at campaign events unless pressed by voters or reporters. He doesn’t make much hay about the controversies plaguing the Republican’s young presidency. And he steers well clear of the i-word: impeachment.

For someone once branded by his campaign as a “Make Trump Furious” candidate, Ossoff has stayed away from serrated-edged criticism of the president ahead of the nationally watched June 20 runoff with Republican Karen Handel in the 6th Congressional District.

He typically dodges chances to take a swipe at Trump and clung to a relative silence during the president’s visit to Atlanta in April to stump with Handel. And Ossoff is not running on the latest string of setbacks besetting Trump, saying instead that voters are “tired of partisan rhetoric and interested in solutions.”

It’s Exhibit A of the tightrope act that Ossoff is trying to navigate over Trump as he tries to energize left-leaning voters infuriated by the president without turning off the moderates and independents he’s trying to woo to flip the Republican-leaning territory.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked what a Handel victory would mean for Trump. “I know that folks in the 6th District are interested in effective, open-minded, independent representation that will put the needs of this community above the partisan circus in Washington.”

Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, has left little doubt about her ties to Trump. After months of an arm’s length approach, she wholeheartedly embraced him after landing a spot in the runoff. And she’s taken up his defense after last week’s turmoil, casting a skeptical note about damaging media reports about the president’s missteps.

There soon could be another headline-grabbing reminder of Handel’s links to Trump. Her campaign plans to bring in Vice President Mike Pence for a June 9 visit days before the vote.

A head-turning poll

Both strategies hold risks in a once-reliably Republican seat upended by Trump’s election.

The turf spanning from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County has long been a GOP stronghold, and Tom Price carried it in a string of landslide victories. But Trump struggled mightily in the district, eking out a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in November’s vote.

Some Republicans worry Trump is taking a toll on Handel’s campaign, particularly after last week’s damaging revelations about the ouster of FBI Director Jim Comey. The Justice Department has now launched an independent inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in last year’s vote.

A SurveyUSA poll released this week plays into their fears. It shows Ossoff leading Handel 51 percent to 44 percent — his widest advantage yet — and that a slim majority of voters in the district give Trump an unfavorable rating.

But Ossoff’s reluctance to pounce on Trump’s missteps could also alienate Democrats who clamor for red-meat attacks against the president. Nita Carson, a retired professor worried over the president’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, was drawn to Ossoff because of his stand against the Republican.

“This vote will send a message to Trump,” Carson said. “We need a young, energetic progressive in there, and this sends a message to Trump and (U.S. House Speaker) Paul Ryan that things can change fast in Washington.”

‘A gross assumption’

More recently, Ossoff has largely left it to Democratic groups to plaster Trump’s name on flyers targeting left-leaning voters as he tries to maintain an above-the-fray appeal.

His latest TV advertisement, for one, asserts that “both parties in Washington waste too much of your money” — and doesn’t mention that he’s a Democrat.

And while Democrats in solidly blue territory seize on the Comey fallout — Ossoff’s mentor, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, said Comey’s firing reeks of an attempted “cover-up” — the candidate has shied away from such bombast, including calls by some to impeach the president.

“I don’t think we have the information yet to draw that conclusion,” Ossoff said of the impeachment talk. “But we have very good reason for there to be a serious, independent, transparent investigation and for Congress to do its due diligence on a bipartisan basis putting partisan politics aside to get to the truth.”

Handel, too, has applauded the decision to tap former FBI chief Robert Mueller to oversee the probe into Trump’s ties with Russia. And she has echoed Republicans in Congress who have defended the president.

The media reports that Trump shared classified information with Russian officials, she said, are “potentially a gross assumption” by the media. And she pleaded for patience as investigators probe reports that the president pushed Comey to end an investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser.

“I would suggest that all of us would let the process play out and let the facts take us where the facts take us,” she said, adding: “We weren’t in the briefings, and I’m not going to have a rush to judgment until there are facts on the table.”

That message could energize some Trump supporters in the district who didn’t back her in the first round of votes. One of them is Ellen Diehl, a health insurance broker from Chamblee who supported one of Handel’s pro-Trump rivals.

“The 6th District is going to be an example of how the Republican Party should behave across the country,” Diehl said. “We support the Republican candidate, and we shouldn’t have sour grapes. We’ve learned and grown from that.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

First American title pawn pays $225K for alleged violations against Georgia customers
First American title pawn pays $225K for alleged violations against Georgia customers

A Georgia title pawn company is paying about $225,000 to settle allegations that it sued customers who defaulted on loans, threatened customers with arrest warrants and misrepresented itself in advertisements. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced last week that First American Title Lending of Georgia will make the payment in response...
The Left warns that GOP tax reform will help no one but the rich
The Left warns that GOP tax reform will help no one but the rich

Tax reform bills offer a break, the left says, but they are a break for businesses, not families. A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue.Opinions from the Left:1. For tax reform worthy of the name, make it pro-employmentFrom The Hill: Now, just how is this plan going to help American workers? 2. Tax-Cut Bill to Make Scrooge...
The Right looks forward to the relief promised by tax reform
The Right looks forward to the relief promised by tax reform

Will tax reform bills in Congress offer Americans families a break? A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue. From The Oregonian: Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley warns that the tax reform bill isn’t what you may think it is. From The Democrat-Gazette: Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert says the tax reform plan is the best shot for reinvestment...
Some ACA premiums fall while others spike; enrollment keeps surging
Some ACA premiums fall while others spike; enrollment keeps surging

Tyrone Jenkins sat in his insurance agent’s office on Friday, relieved about his health insurance. After all the upheaveal and news over skyrocketing Obamacare premiums, Jenkins will actually see his coverage costs plummet next year. He’ll pay less than half in 2018 what he did in 2017 for similar coverage. How can this be? Jenkins doesn&rsquo...
Democrats aim for suburbs in Alabama ahead of Deep South votes
Democrats aim for suburbs in Alabama ahead of Deep South votes

Amanda Wilson has watched with a mix of glee and uncertainty as the imposing homes along this wealthy suburban town’s zigzagging streets has suddenly sprouted Democratic signs. “I’m a blue dot in a big red state,” said Wilson, a 64-year-old retiree. “But I don’t feel as lonely anymore.” Republican U.S. Senate...
More Stories