Ossoff is running in Georgia

First up, some Georgia Senate news. We have a new candidate with the potential to bring in a ton of money and endorsements. Jon Ossoff announced this morning that he is running in the Democratic primary, hoping to take on Republican Senator David Perdue in 2020.

If the name Ossoff sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering him from 2017, when he ran in a special election for a vacant House seat in Georgia. Long story short, Representative Tom Price was appointed to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, which left his House seat for Georgia’s 6th district open. That seat was seen as safely Republican, but Democrats like Ossoff figured they’d give it a shot. There was a complex primary and general election process, a TON of money poured into that race, and it basically became an election about the previous election—in other words, did voters in Georgia want to send another Republican to the House within the Trump era, or switch to a Democrat? Well, Republican Karen Handel won, though Ossoff broke some fundraising records along the way to his loss. He raised approximately $30 million dollars in that race and secured major endorsements within Georgia.

So Ossoff is on the hunt again. He has to get through another Democratic primary to get to the general against Perdue, but he has some strong backing coming out of the gate. He already has the endorsement of Representative John Lewis, who also backed him for that Congressional race a few years back.

Ossoff is facing a field with three other Democrats, but he’s easily the best-known because of the national attention, and MONEY, that flowed into his previous campaign. He’s a lot like Beto O’Rourke in that regard—he didn’t actually win the election he is best known for. Reading here from an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Greg Bluestein:

“In an interview at his Grant Park home, Ossoff said his first act in the Senate would be to co-sponsor legislation that seeks to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizen[s] United decision and allow new restrictions on corporate political donations.
He said he chose to run against Perdue rather than compete for the soon-to-be-vacated seat held by [Senator] Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at year’s end for health reasons, because Perdue “is one of the least effective and most out-of-touch members of the U.S. Senate.”
“We’re in a state where one in three rural children live in poverty, where we have the worst maternal mortality in the entire country, and in a half a decade, this guy hasn’t come down from his private island to do a single town hall meeting,” Ossoff said. “He hands out favors to his donors. He runs errands for the president.””

Now, remember how Ossoff lost that House race to Handel? Well, that picture changed in 2018 with the blue wave. Reading once more from the Journal-Constitution:

“In the interview, Ossoff said he would use his 2017 campaign as a blueprint for his Senate bid, pointing to the more than 13,000 volunteers and nearly 500,000 donors who gave average contributions of $21 [dollars]. His defeat helped pave the way for Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate who upset Handel last year.
“My candidacy was such a threat that Republicans at the highest level made my destruction their highest priority,” Ossoff said. “And I narrowly lost that race, but we built something special and enduring. And I’m still standing and ready to fight.”
His remarks, laced with criticism of Republicans, offered a preview of a campaign that would not hesitate to clash with Perdue or Trump.
“I learned never to be intimidated from telling my own story and touting my own accomplishments by the inevitable partisan smears that will come from super PACs in Washington,” said Ossoff. “I’ve been through the fire. I no longer care what they say about me.””

Well, that sounds like the definition of “fired up” to me.

Now let’s listen to his campaign launch video. For some context, this starts with scenes of election night in 2016, and a variety of voters watching TV late at night and getting the news that Trump had won. It moves on from there as those same voters, who are real people, go on to get engaged in politics as a result. And by the way, Ossoff is a documentary filmmaker so this is essentially a micro-documentary about himself and partisan politics—with a healthy dose of advertising and self-promotion thrown in. Listen in:


Check the links in the show notes for more on this candidate. Ossoff does not have a winning record to run on, but it seems his argument here is that despite the loss, he has powerful backing—I mean, John Lewis and probably Stacey Abrams—and strong Democratic ideas. Plus, the ability to draw many hundreds of thousands of donors might be a wakeup call to presidential candidates who struggle to reach 130,000.

It’s special election day in North Carolina

Here’s a quick item.

TODAY there is a special election for the House seat in North Carolina’s 9th district. Democrat Dan McCready is taking on Republican Dan Bishop in the contest of “which Dan is better for North Carolina.” Yes, I am probably the hundredth dumb political commentator to make that joke.

As a brief remainder, Bishop is a sponsor of House Bill 2, which is that infamous bathroom bill that denied transgender people the ability to use the bathroom conforming to their gender within the state of North Carolina, which cost the state some business.

Meanwhile, McCready is a US Marine Corps veteran and is, shall we say, considerably more progressive on a variety of issues, though he also promises bipartisanship and suggests that his military service has trained him to get along with others.

The reason there’s a special election today is that there were allegations of absentee voter fraud in the 2018 election for this seat, in which a different Republican candidate, Mark Harris, was leading McCready in the polls by just 905 votes.

This special election has gotten national attention, with Trump holding rallies in the area and tweeting today in support of the Republican candidate.

Hurricane Dorian has also affected the election, with both candidates calling for extensions to early voting. If you want some more history on that race, Ballotpedia has a nice roundup—link in the show notes—and this is a race to watch happening right now. If you’re on Twitter, just check the hashtag NC-Zero-9 for updates.

Harris releases a comprehensive criminal justice reform plan

On Monday, Senator Kamala Harris released a major policy. Titled “Kamala’s Plan to Transform the Criminal Justice System and Re-Envision Public Safety in America,” the plan was posted to Medium, AND a lengthy PDF version was also published. Reading from the introduction to her plan here:

“Reforming our criminal justice system is as complex and pressing an endeavor as any other in our lifetime. It is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is perhaps no one more uniquely suited to taking on this issue than Kamala Harris.
From the civil rights protests she attended as a child, to her time working inside the system as a prosecutor, Kamala has seen firsthand the fundamental flaws of the system. And because of her experiences, she has the insight and the fight to fundamentally transform the system for the better.
At its best, the system serves to hold serious wrongdoers accountable and achieve justice for crime survivors, while helping to build safer and healthier communities. At its worst, decades of failed policies have created an unjust, unequal, and vastly expansive system that disproportionately harms communities of color and criminalizes individuals just because they are poor. It is long past time to re-envision public safety by strengthening and supporting our communities and drastically limiting the number of people we expose to our criminal justice system. As president, Kamala will fundamentally transform how we approach public safety.”

And then, Harris lays out four guiding principles that essentially summarize the plan. So let me read those as well:

“(1) End Mass Incarceration and Invest Resources into Evidence and Community-Based Programs that Reduce Crime and Help Build Safe and Healthy Communities
(2) Law Enforcement’s Primary Mission is to Serve and Protect Communities. It Should Instill Trust and Be Accountable to the Communities It Serves
(3) The System Must Treat Individuals Equitably and Humanely
(4) The System Must Protect Vulnerable People.”

From there, the plan dives right into the specifics. End the War on Drugs. End mass incarceration. Legalize marijuana. Reform sentencing guidelines. Increase clemency, with a focus on people serving long sentences. Focus on children and schools. Actually invest in people leaving prison so they can reintegrate successfully into society. And that’s just some highlights from the first section.

Here’s a clip Harris posted to Twitter, in which she’s speaking with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who actually does not speak in this clip. But this is a pretty solid summary of what’s in the plan, in Harris’s own words. Listen in:


From a political standpoint, this plan looks like a response to criticism of her record as a prosecutor and Attorney General in California. Reading from a Politico analysis by Christopher Cadelago:

“While campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris took heat from civil rights activists and African American leaders for refusing to support state legislation requiring the attorney general’s office to independently investigate fatal police shootings. Harris reversed her stance earlier this year, saying she now believes the best approach to handling allegations of brutality by law enforcement officials is through independent probes.
In her 14-page plan, Harris goes further: She says she would push to send more money to the U.S. Department of Justice to incentivize state agencies to conduct independent investigations of officer-involved shootings, and would support a national standard establishing that officers use deadly force only when “necessary” and when they see no reasonable alternatives.”

Now, as with all policy, I ask how much will this cost and how does the candidate intend to pay it? Well, a few cost figures are listed, but they are not tallied in the documents I’ve seen, and I did not any overall mention of cost as a thing.

Nor is there a clear funding mechanism, though Harris does close out the document listing several very notable financial settlements she secured from both banks and for-profit colleges, to the tune of more than $20 billion dollars overall. Given the lack of concrete costs, it’s unclear whether that would have anything to do with funding the proposals, but, to be fair to Harris, some of what she suggests is procedural and therefore wouldn’t have a direct cost—or at least, not one that’s easily measurable.

Debate Bingo is here

Last up today, the next round of Debate Bingo is here. You can download the cards—this time it’s a single pack of one dozen bingo cards—at the TOP LINK in the show notes, right below the sponsors.

So, for our many new listeners since the last time we did this, let me explain. When debates roll around, I make these free bingo cards which include a lineup of all the candidates, including little pictures and their names, to help you keep track of who’s who.

And on the bingo card you’ve got two things that each candidate might say, plus two items the moderators might say, plus two more things ANYBODY might say, plus, of course, the Freedom Square in the middle. You get that one automatically. This keeps you listening to candidates for potential themes as they dive into policy.

The point of Debate Bingo is not to turn the election into a game per se. You do not win anything if you make a bingo, or at least if you do, I’m not giving it to you. But this is a super-handy tool if you’ve got folks who might be a LITTLE interested in the debate, but could use an extra activity. I’ve seen a lot of families using this as a way to keep the kids engaged—it gives them something to watch for.

I’ve seen folks using just the top part of the card—the lineup of candidates—to help keep track of who’s who, and that’s great, because they don’t have their names printed on their podiums. This is useful for everybody, especially if you’re just beginning to tune into the election and haven’t memorized everything yet.

Anyway, the point of Debate Bingo for many people is just that it’s fun. It’s a thing to do. And if you’re into Twitter, use the hashtag #ERHbingo, that’s Election Ride Home Bingo, to tweet about the game.

As we go along, I’ll be posting official call-outs when squares are filled in. Those will come from the account @ElectionRideHome, which is our official podcast account. You can also follow the occasional commentary from me @ChrisHiggins if you like, and in ALL cases, anything bingo-related will have that hashtag, #ERHbingo, so you might just look for that tag in the search, and you’ll see other people playing.

It can be pretty fun, because, let me tell you right now, y’all have some pets. You’re gonna see some dogs playing bingo. They might not be the most SKILLED players, but their stamina is impressive. Often asleep within the first ten minutes.

So, get your bingo cards. They’re free, they’re fun, and they’re mildly educational.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. All right, it’s raining in Portland, I’ve got a cat who needs feeding, and some garden boxes that need repair before they disintegrate entirely. I’m gonna start my master plan on some of those issues right now. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.