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Jon Ossoff wins Georgia Senate primary; will face Perdue

ATLANTA (AP) — Jon Ossoff, a young Georgia media executive known for breaking fundraising records during a 2017 special election loss for a U.S. House seat, beat back a field of Democratic primary opponents to win a spot taking on Republican Sen. David Perdue in November. Ossoff received about 50.7% of the votes, according to…

Jon Ossoff wins Georgia Senate primary; will face Perdue

ATLANTA (AP) — Jon Ossoff, a young Georgia media executive known for breaking fundraising records during a 2017 special election loss for a U.S. House seat, beat back a field of Democratic primary opponents to win a spot taking on Republican Sen. David Perdue in November.

Ossoff received about 50.7% of the votes, according to votes tallied as of Wednesday night. He had maintained a steady lead in public polling and fundraising despite some significant competition from former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor Sarah Riggs Amico.

Ossoff’s victory allows him to avoid a potentially bruising primary runoff that had been seen as likely and sets up a showdown with Perdue, 70, as Republicans look to hold the White House and Senate majority.

In his livestreamed victory speech Wednesday night, Ossoff took immediate aim at his opponent’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying Perdue was “too busy adjusting his stock portfolio to warn us of the gravest public health emergency in a century.” A Perdue spokeswoman has previously said the senator “goes above and beyond to fully comply with the law.”

“This is not a moment to let up — this is a moment to double down,” Ossoff said. “The president of the United States and his allies in Congress are leading this country down a dark path and we can go down this path no longer. We can no longer go down a path of authoritarianism, of racism, of corruption. We are better than this and Georgia is better than this.”

The election on Tuesday was plagued by problems that, combined with a massive influx of mail-in paper ballots because of the coronavirus, delayed final results.

A lack of poll workers, trouble with new voting equipment, coronavirus restrictions and high turnout contributed to long lines, with 20 of Georgia’s 159 counties having to extend voting hours for at least one precinct.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot applications to 6.9 million active registered voters in Georgia, and more than 1 million ballots had been received as of Monday, Raffensperger spokesman Walter Jones said Wednesday. That’s a huge increase in the number of paper ballots that counties have traditionally had to process in past elections.

Ossoff, 33, entered the race in September with the endorsement of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, as well as some built-in name recognition from his highly publicized special election loss to Republican Karen Handel for an Atlanta-area U.S. House seat in 2017.

The CEO of a company that produces investigative reports on crime and corruption for news organizations, Ossoff has made fighting inequality and corruption a core part of his message.

Ossoff’s opponents often took aim at his lack of experience in elected office, with Tomlinson proclaiming that she was “the only one in this race who has ever won an election and governed.” But those attacks seemed to have little effect.

“Jon Ossoff is a fighter against Washington corruption and a champion for hardworking Georgia families, and is going to be an excellent U.S. Senator,” Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams said in a statement Wednesday night. “His work uncovering corruption and investigating war crimes demonstrates his commitment to fighting for justice, and his grassroots support across the state shows that he is ready to win this November.”

Meanwhile, changes to campaigning necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, including a move away from in-person events in favor of online engagement, seemed to play toward the strengths of Ossoff’s media-savvy campaign.

Tomlinson congratulated Ossoff in a statement Wednesday night and called for her supporters to unite behind him.

The election had been previously postponed and campaigns forced online because of the coronavirus. The final days of the race also saw widespread protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Criticism of President Donald Trump’s response on both fronts has added fuel to Democrats’ ambitions of winning in Georgia, where the party is increasingly making gains even though Republicans still dominate in statewide elections.

Perdue, a close Trump ally seeking a second term in November, drew no GOP primary opposition. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia is also defending the seat she was recently appointed to in a separate race that won’t be filtered by primaries.

Ossoff’s campaign often looked past his primary opponents in favor of going directly after Perdue, who he has bashed as one of Trump’s “most loyal servants in the Senate.” In a preview of the race to come, Perdue campaign manager Ben Fry took aim at Ossoff in a statement Wednesday night, saying his “only notable achievement is spending millions of dollars on his failed Congressional bid.”

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Georgia

Georgia Senate race becomes cash contest pitting Wall Street vs. Silicon Valley

A battle between Wall Street and Silicon Valley is being waged in a U.S. Senate race in Georgia. As Republican Sen. David Perdue tries to fend off a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff, the great engines of wealth on the coasts are pouring cash into the contest, campaign finance records show. Already, the campaigns have…

Georgia Senate race becomes cash contest pitting Wall Street vs. Silicon Valley

A battle between Wall Street and Silicon Valley is being waged in a U.S. Senate race in Georgia.

As Republican Sen. David Perdue tries to fend off a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff, the great engines of wealth on the coasts are pouring cash into the contest, campaign finance records show.

Already, the campaigns have churned through more than $97 million in advertising with much of it financed from the coasts.

An analysis of federal campaign finance reports by the Center for Responsive Politics found that the largesse of New York tycoons benefit Mr. Perdue in the race while California tech wizards are writing checks for Mr. Ossoff, an investigative documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer.

Firms such as Goldman Sachs, takeover titans KKR Inc., and Apollo Management Group are among Mr. Perdue’s top donors. Employees from those companies have contributed at least $136,250; Goldman Sachs investment bankers comprise the 5th biggest source of contributions to his campaign, records show.

By contrast, Mr. Ossoff has raked in money from the University of California, Google’s parent Alphabet and Facebook. Employees at those locations have given nearly $82,000 to his campaign. Faculty and administrators in the far-flung University of California system comprise the 2nd biggest source of contributions to his campaign.

Thus far, the fact so much money has come from people far removed from Georgia has not become an issue in the campaigns, and overall the fundraising reflects what is increasingly being seen nationwide, several experts said.

Georgians are shrugging off the intrusion of coastal elites.

“The out-of-state money hasn’t come up. Maybe each candidate knows he’s as vulnerable on the issue as the other,” said Georgia State University political science professor Jeffrey Lazarus. “For better or for worse, campaign fundraising is national these days. And that’s true for virtually all competitive races at all levels.”

Georgia’s elections could prove among the most consequential in 2020. That is because both of the state’s Senate seats are up for grabs and both races are close.

The other Senate race is a special election to finish the term of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired last January for health reasons. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, appointed Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to the seat, although President Trump favored Republican Rep. Doug Collins for the job.

Now, Mr. Collins is challenging Ms. Loeffler for the seat, a situation that could split the conservative vote and prevent either of them from topping the 50% threshold to avoid a December runoff vote that could include one of the Democratic candidates, such as the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The out-of-state money in the Perdue-Ossoff race has not kept Georgia businesses on the sidelines.

Workers from Delta Airlines, which is headquartered in Atlanta, are a top source of money for both campaigns, contributing $73,433 to Mr. Perdue and $12,099 to Mr. Ossoff, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Perdue’s top source of campaign money has been employees of Home Depot and other Peach State-based corporations such as Cox Communications, Aflac and gas and electric utility Southern Company.

In Mr. Ossoff’s campaign, faculty and administrators from Atlanta’s Emory University have been the No. 1 source of contributions, while employees at Georgia State University have also been among his top 20 contributors, records show.

Federal employees aren’t sitting out the race either: those at the Department of Health and Human Services have given Mr. Ossoff more than $17,000, records show.

Republicans have sought to paint Mr. Ossoff, 33, as the child of rich liberal patrons.

Indeed, the Ossoff campaign resembles that of Beto O’Rourke’s when Mr. O’Rourke marshaled a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful 2018 bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. Both Mr. Ossoff and Mr. O’Rourke are young, photogenic Democrats who garner glowing press reviews.

The Perdue campaign stressed that they running on massive grassroots effort,

“That’s a stark contrast to Jon Ossoff, whose radical, socialist campaign is bankrolled by wealthy liberals in California and New York,” said campaign spokeswoman Casey Black.

Ms. Black’s take echoes the one used against Mr. Ossoff in his unsuccessful 2017 House bid, when the GOP linked him with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie.

“They would use pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, hippies, and put a depiction in voters’ minds of a guy who was rich and out-of-touch,” she said.

The notion a candidate’s wealth leaves him unconnected to most voters has also been a Democratic tactic used against Mr. Perdue, whose personal fortune comes from his days as a chief executive of multiple companies, Ms. Gillespie said.

“Money has been an issue, generally speaking, in the campaign because of how much is being spent,” she said.

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Georgia DA who charged officers faces tough primary runoff

ATLANTA (AP) — Against the backdrop of protests over racial injustice and police brutality and with allegations of misconduct emboldening challengers, the top prosecutor in Georgia’s most populous country is fighting to keep his job. After two decades of running unopposed, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard placed second in the June Democratic primary and…

Georgia DA who charged officers faces tough primary runoff

ATLANTA (AP) — Against the backdrop of protests over racial injustice and police brutality and with allegations of misconduct emboldening challengers, the top prosecutor in Georgia’s most populous country is fighting to keep his job.

After two decades of running unopposed, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard placed second in the June Democratic primary and faces a tough runoff election Tuesday.

The extended primary contest has unfolded as Atlanta rocked with protests sparked by the killing of an African American, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. In Georgia, Howard has been both praised and criticized for quickly bringing charges against officers accused of using excessive force against Black people.

Challenger Fani Willis, who worked in Howard’s office for 16 years until several years ago and has also been a defense attorney and a judge, has raised more money and snagged key endorsements. She won the primary but failed to get more than 50% of the vote, the necessary threshold to avoid a runoff in the three-way race.

With no Republican qualified for the general election, the race will be decided by the Democratic primary.

Howard was the first African American district attorney elected in Georgia when he took office in 1997. He touts a 70% drop in violent crime and a 50% reduction in the county jail population as his main accomplishments. He also said he’s proud that about 60% of his staff is Black and about 65% female, with women holding 84% of supervisory positions.

But he’s been dogged by allegations of misconduct. Three past or present female employees have filed lawsuits alleging harassment or discrimination. In addition, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the legality of a salary supplement he received from the city of Atlanta that was administered through one of two nonprofit organizations he controlled. He agreed to pay a state ethics fine Thursday for failing to note on financial disclosure forms that he headed the organizations. The GBI is also investigating whether he properly issued subpoenas in one of the high-profile cases against police officers.

Howard dismisses the harassment and discrimination allegations, saying they’re baseless and politically motivated. The salary supplement was fully approved by city leaders and handled transparently, and the subpoenas were properly issued, he said.

“What I’ve asked people to do is to look at the record,” he said. “Doesn’t it seem kind of suspicious that all of those issues arrive during this election season?”

No criminal charges have been filed, and Howard insists he will be fully exonerated.

But those allegations likely encouraged challengers who might not otherwise have taken on a sitting district attorney, particularly one who is so well established, Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie said.

Any time something surfaces “that might help voters question the ethics of a candidate or an incumbent, they shouldn’t be surprised if challengers sense vulnerability and choose to run campaigns against them,” she said.

That was the case for Willis, who said that out of respect for her former boss, she long ignored calls for her to challenge Howard. But the allegations of harassment and her belief that he mismanages his office pushed her over the edge, she said.

“He really let me down and disappointed me,” she said.

If elected, Willis said, she would put more resources into investigating cases prior to making charging decisions, implement pre-indictment diversion programs and increase transparency in police use-of-force cases.

In a nod to recent protests, Howard said police reform is a top priority.

“I’m asking people to please put me back in office so we can confront this problem dealing with brutality, institutional racism, so that we can make a change in our community and this country,” he said.

Atlanta police in mid-June responded to a report of a man sleeping in a car in a Wendy’s drive-thru. After about 40 minutes of calm conversation, Rayshard Brooks resisted when officers tried to arrest him. He struggled with officers and fired a Taser at one of them as he fled, and the officer fatally shot him. Five days later, Howard brought charges against the two officers, including a murder charge against the one who killed Brooks.

Two weeks earlier, Howard had announced charges against six officers after dramatic video showed police using Tasers on two college students and pulling them from their car as they were caught in traffic caused by protests.

Howard held news conferences in each of those cases, laying out the charges in detail and allowing the victims’ attorneys to speak.

The victims and their attorneys, as well as some activists, applauded Howard’s quick action. But others, including police officials, police unions and the officers’ attorneys, condemned him for failing to allow a full investigation before bringing charges and accused him of making inflammatory and false statements.

Willis and other critics argue Howard has a history of allowing officer use-of-force cases to languish for years without taking action and rushed charges in these two cases to bolster his bid for reelection. Howard said the availability of video evidence and witnesses made it possible to bring charges quickly, while other cases involving officers take longer because of a lack of evidence or cooperating witnesses.

Much of the criticism has been driven by the police union, Howard said. He noted the union’s endorsement of Willis and suggested she would refrain from prosecuting officers. Christian Wise Smith, who placed third in the primary, cited the union’s endorsement of Willis as one of the reasons he endorsed Howard in the runoff.

Willis countered that she enjoys a diverse base of support, and she scoffed at the idea that an endorsement or campaign contribution would keep her from prosecuting anyone.

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