Political Insider

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Jon Ossoff's mystery 6th District predecessor emerges

The phantom 6th District candidate has been found.

Rodney Stooksbury is the Democrat who captured about 38 percent of the vote in November in the race against Rep. Tom Price. He raised no money, had no social media or online presence and as far as we can tell, he never had any campaign events.

A Newsweek reporter wrote a novella about the search for Stooksbury, which included these paragraphs after tracking him down:

He conceded that he had no website, online photos or other internet presence, but he insisted that he campaigned. “What I did is worked on the ground, basically, talked to the people,” he said over the sound of his television. “I’ve lived down here for 30-plus years, and I would go to the small Democratic meetings in the various counties.”


Stooksbury agreed to walk me through his biographical details, though it was difficult to get more than a sentence or two out of him at a time. He said he’s from Tennessee and moved to Georgia in 1980. In January 2016 he retired from Lockheed Martin, where he had worked for 35 years in operations on airplane systems and parts, and also as a recruiter for human resources.


After retirement, he decided to run for Congress because he “needed to do something with myself. And like I said, I do enjoy politics.” He had never run for office, but his father had worked on local campaigns. “I had a strong economic message, and I think that’s something that’s missing from the Democratic Party right now,” he said.

After Democrat Jon Ossoff's defeat, some partisans took heart that he improved on Stooksbury's percentage by 10 points.

A more useful metric when analyzing the results of last week’s Karen Handel victory: Nonpartisan analysts suggest the Democratic baseline in Georgia’s 6th District is closer to the low 40s than high 30s.


President Donald Trump used a closed-door fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel last night to tear into Ossoff for his recent 6th District loss, according to Politico:

With Republican Party benefactors in attendance, the president highlighted the special election victories – especially last week’s for a Georgia congressional seat. The president poked fun at the unsuccessful Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff for not residing in the suburban Atlanta district he was running for. Ossoff, the president joked, raised over $20 million yet couldn’t get an apartment in Atlanta.


Then there was Pelosi, who Republicans aggressively tied to Ossoff – and whose future as Democratic leader has been questioned in the wake of the Georgia race. Republicans, Trump joked, needed Pelosi to stay atop her caucus.


U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson endorsed state Sen. Rick Jeffares' campaign for lieutenant governor on Thursday - and backed his support up with a $5,000 contribution.

The West Point Republican, whose district includes much of Jeffares state Senate territory, said he was drawn to Jeffares in part because he's "as frustrated with state government as I am with Washington and he has great ideas for making it better.”

“Rick is by far the best choice to be Georgia’s lieutenant governor,” Ferguson said. “He’s smart, works hard and has a vision for making government smaller and more relevant to our communities."

Jeffares joined a crowded field to replace Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in May that also includes state Senate Pro Tem David Shafer and state Rep. Geoff Duncan. State Sen. Steve Gooch is also exploring a run.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Ronnie Mabra and former state Sen. Doug Stoner are considering bids.


New U.S. Rep. Karen Handel is starting to piece together her staff.

One name we've heard mentioned several times as a potential top aide: Jen Talaber Ryan, a deputy to Gov. Nathan Deal.


One thing we know for sure about Handel's new life on Capitol Hill: she'll be spending a decent chunk of her time discussing criminal justice, border security, education and labor issues.

The Roswell resident's GOP colleagues have placed her on the Judiciary Committee and the Education and Workforce panel for the next 17 months, giving her a perch to dive into President Donald Trump's signature issue of immigration.

As we mentioned earlier this week, Handel didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter since she's coming in late.

We also have a few other signs that her office is coming together. This bare-bones official website has popped up online. There's also new signage up outside her office:


On Monday we wrote about how one Georgia Democrat hung back on the House floor as Handel was being sworn in on Monday, refraining from offering his congratulations as the state’s other congressmen stood ready at the front.

When we asked Hank Johnson about Monday, the Lithonia Democrat said he stood back because he had been hurt about the way Handel constantly mentioned him on the stump.

“Karen Handel talked about me a lot during her campaign,” he said Wednesday. “The way that she talked about me was demeaning and disrespectful.”

Jon Ossoff, Handel’s Democratic opponent, was a longtime staffer in Johnson’s office before running for Congress. When Handel and her supporters sought to play down Ossoff’s national security experience, they occasionally ripped Johnson’s own policy positions on the way. There were also jokes about Johnson’s infamous 2010 gaffe about Guam capsizing.

“I don’t play politics like that and I haven’t had politics played against me like that from people who ran against me,” Johnson said.

He said his wife and mother eventually convinced him to bury the hatchet, and he went up to Handel yesterday and welcomed her to Congress. "I’ve already put it aside," he said.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.