Democrat Jon Ossoff said Friday he won’t make another bid for Georgia’s 6th District this year, leaving it up to lesser-known contenders to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel in the north Atlanta district.
“I’m grateful beyond words for the support and hard work of the thousands of Georgians who volunteered with my campaign last year,” he told the AJC, “and I’ll be actively supporting Democratic candidates and staying engaged on key issues while I continue my work in investigative journalism.”
Ossoff shattered records by raising nearly $30 million for the special election last year, ultimately losing to Handel by about 4 percentage points in a race that was viewed nationally as an early barometer for Democratic success in conservative-leaning districts.
The former congressional aide had hinted for months he was eyeing another bid for the seat, telling groups of Democratic donors he’s “not done fighting.” But with qualifying set to start in less than two weeks, and two challengers already in the race, there seemed little chance of him jumping in.
Handel, the winner of the most expensive House race in history, has projected an air of confidence since taking office and has not attracted a Republican challenger. Her campaign raised roughly $261,000 in the latest fundraising period and she had nearly $600,000 in cash on hand.
In a statement, Handel said she was grateful to represent the district and that she looks forward to the November vote.
Two Democratic newcomers entered the race last year, when Ossoff’s decision was still uncertain. Former newscaster Bobby Kaple raised and loaned himself roughly $250,000 and businessman Kevin Abel reported collecting more than $200,000 from loans and donors.
"Last year, Jon Ossoff stepped up and ran a campaign that proved a Democrat can be competitive in the 6th District," said Abel. "I'm confident that after 25 years of raising my family and creating jobs right here in the 6th, I can finish what Jon started and defeat Karen Handel in November."
Though both Abel and Kaple were relieved by the decision, there’s a chance that Ossoff’s move could lead another high-profile Democrat to enter the contest.
The special election last year to succeed U.S. Tom Price, who was briefly Donald Trump’s health secretary, attracted 18 candidates and more than $60 million in spending. The contest set one spending record after another as it became a nationally-watched proxy fight over Donald Trump, the healthcare overhaul and the battle for suburbia.
Ossoff, 31, has stayed involved in Georgia politics since his defeat. He’s endorsed candidates in competitive legislative races and some party leaders have tried to recruit him to run for lieutenant governor and other leadership posts.
In a series of tweets posted Friday, Ossoff said that while “this is not the moment” for another run, he’s not ruling out a future bid for public office.
“I’m in this with all of you for the long haul,” he wrote.