In November 2016, Tom Price, my congressman, was nominated to be Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Trump administration. I was still working hard in my natural gas vehicle conversion business, but I felt that an opportunity to have my voice heard was something I just couldn’t pass up.
So I worked feverishly to shut down my business and invest my hard-earned money into a congressional run. I was just a 33-year-old kid from Alabama with no name ID, no financial backers, and no political experience. But I have a keen interest in politics and after years of watching our broken political system from the outside, I concluded that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer. So I entered the special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
During the race I saw how broken our system was and it was even worse than I feared. I and 17 other candidates were all trying to woo voters into choosing us to represent them in Congress. Most of us were trying to make the case that our ideas were right for people of the North Atlanta suburbs. To my unfortunate dismay, this election was not about me, or the 17 other candidates running, or the constitutional responsibility of Congress, or a single one of the 700,000 people living in GA-6. This election was about one thing: the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide, had consolidated support from the Democratic Party behind him to try to win the seat so that Democrats could send a message that Donald Trump sucks. On March 29, about 20 days before the primary, FEC filings were released and Ossoff had raised $8.3 million, 95% of which was from outside the state of Georgia. His slogan was as silly as it was disturbing: Make Trump Furious. Then the Republicans in Washington, desperate to put their power before the interest of this southern suburban district, poured millions of dollars in negative ads with the silly implication that Ossoff was “A Mouthpiece for Terrorism.” Give me a break.
Eighteen candidates tried to make a case that they would be the best one to represent the people of the Sixth District, but those messages could not possibly get through. It was all about Trump.
For everyone that is upset with the president – and for the record I did not support either major party candidate – this was the way to show their frustration, with no care for what was best for GA-6 or Congress’ authority under the Constitution. Those of you from outside Georgia that donated $8.3 million and drove from all over the country to meddle in our elections, YOU made Trump more powerful. You turned this election into a referendum on Trump, not us.
Every article, every discussion, every pundit’s commentary, focused only on what a victory for Ossoff would mean for the president. I never knew Rachel Maddow cared so deeply for the people of Sandy Springs, or Dunwoody, or Johns Creek. What were Ossoff’s positions? What were the other Republicans’ positions? Does anyone care?
Karen Handel, from the very beginning, was most likely going to be the next representative for GA-6 and its 700,000 citizens, but she was barely mentioned. Apparently the world of politics does not exist outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is NOT a well-functioning system. We need a new constitutional awakening in this country. The special election of GA-6 was for the people to choose their representatives, not to try to gain power in Washington, and not to “Make Trump Furious.”
Then after the primary the spin started. The Democrats touted their 48% vote for Ossoff as a big victory, although missing the 50% threshold meant that a runoff was required. And then Trump declared victory for forcing a runoff in which Handel will most likely win. Both sides are wrong.
Yes, the Democrats performed well, but they had a boat load of money and a national platform supporting them due to frustration with Trump. As for Trump, the Trump loyalist candidates (including his National Diversity Coalition chairman who met with the president days before the election, and the founder of his Super PAC) both finished with 0% when rounding to the nearest percent. This was not a victory for the Democrats, with all their money, media, and passion, and this was not a victory for Trump, with his candidates performing abysmally.
This was also not a victory for our constitutional democracy either. We need our institutions, including Congress, strong and trusted by the American people. But as long as ANY political discussion starts and ends with the celebrity of the presidency, we will not have a functioning government.
Trump represents just one branch of government, powers outlined by Article II of the Constitution, AFTER the powers of Article I are given to the Congress, the body of government closest to the people. Until we break this cycle of making everything about the presidency, our politics will suffer, our people will suffer, and this great American experiment will continue to erode.
Yes, our system is broken. The solution lies in reasserting the constitutional roles of the three branches of government. There are 700,000 people in the 6th District of Georgia that did not get a fair shake, and it is an abomination. From inside the GA-6 special election, I am more concerned than ever that we have a broken system.