This wasn’t Jon Ossoff’s first race.
If his name sounded familiar last year, when he challenged Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue before heading into Nov. 5’s closely watched Georgia runoff, there’s a reason.
In 2017, Ossoff ran to represent Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. He then achieved the curious distinction of being one of the first candidates to have college YouTube footage used against him in a campaign ad (he was caught playing Han Solo in a “Star Wars” parody with his Georgetown a capella group).
After placing first in the special election, but missing an outright win, he headed to a runoff — and lost. History did not repeat itself this time around. He won.
What’s his background?
Ossoff’s policies are progressive and he prides himself on holding the powerful accountable with his company Insight TWI, a London-based investigative documentary producer.
While he’s never held public office, he was a high school intern for the late Rep. John Lewis and a staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson handling national security. He would later earn both men’s endorsements in 2017. In addition to his touted bona fides in national security, Ossoff holds an M.S. in economics from the London School of Economics.
The 33-year-old was born to a Jewish family in Atlanta, and was raised in Northlake, Georgia. He has said his Jewish background made him sensitive to the “persecuted and dispossessed.”
“I’m descended from Ashkenazi immigrants who fled pogroms in the early 20th century, and I grew up among relatives who were Holocaust survivors,” Ossoff told Haaretz in December. “So my Jewish upbringing instilled in me a conviction to fight for the marginalized and oppressed, and also to be vigilant where there’s the risk that authoritarianism may emerge.”
Prior to this interview, Ossoff hadn’t spoken much about his Jewish background with the exception of attack materials from his opponent widely viewed as antisemitic.
Where does he stand on Jewish issues?
He is a supporter of the liberal pro-Israel Jewish group J Street, and has spoken at their Atlanta chapter. He has family in Jerusalem and has stated his commitment to Israel’s security as a Jewish homeland and American diplomatic efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. He defended his fellow Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, when his opponent Kelly Loeffler attempted to paint the reverend as anti-Israel. As the runoff campaign picked up momentum, Ossoff slammed Loeffler and his opponent, David Perdue, accusing them of corruption and insider trading. Last week, Ossoff had a viral moment when he told Fox News that Loeffler was campaigning with members of the Ku Klux Klan. CNN’s Jake Tapper later questioned this claim, and Ossoff stood by it.
What is his plan for Georgia and the country?
In a letter to the Georgia Jewish community published Dec. 19, Ossoff stated he grew up among family members who survived the Shoah, and laid out what he was fighting for, including investment in clean energy, COVID relief and criminal justice reform.
“I will work to make health care affordable and accessible for all,” Ossoff wrote, “I will support a jobs program with historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy. I will champion a new Civil Rights Act to secure equal justice for all.”
Throughout the letter, he wrote that his proposals are not, as his opponent suggests, socialism but compassion, vision and values consistent with equal protection under the law.
He also launched another salvo at Perdue, calling him a “virulent and unrepentant anti-Semite” who lengthened his nose in an ad.
“A U.S. senator who uses ancient anti-Semitic imagery to inflame hatred against his Jewish opponent must be crushed by Jewish voters on Election Day,” Ossoff wrote.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.
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