Documentary film producer Jon Ossoff won a crowded Democratic primary Tuesday to challenge GOP Sen. David Perdue, narrowly avoiding a runoff with former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson after hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots were counted Wednesday.
Ossoff lost a special House election in 2017 that drew national attention, and had put $450,000 of his own money into the campaign just days before Tuesday’s primary. One of seven Democratic candidates in the primary, he had 50.5 percent when The Associated Press called the race with 98 of precincts counted.
Tomlinson ran second with 15.2 percent, followed by Sarah Riggs Amico, the 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor, with 12.6 percent.
Georgia law requires primary candidates to get more than 50 percent of the vote to secure a nomination. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will face each other in an Aug. 11 runoff.
Perdue, who won his first term with 53 percent of the vote six years ago after a lucrative business career that included specializing in corporate turnarounds, was unopposed in the primary. He came under fire from Democrats for stock trades in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Trades by the state's other Republican senator, Kelly Loeffler, attracted national attention and investigations from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.
Perdue has raised $13.2 million since 2015 and had $9.4 million in his campaign account on May 20.
Ossoff led the Democratic field in fundraising, raising more than $4.1 million by May 20. His 2017 loss in a special House election to Republican Karen Handel was the most expensive House race ever, attracting millions in outside spending as both parties tried to show the political winds were blowing their way after President Donald Trump’s election. Handel went on to narrowly lose in 2018 to Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, and the two will face each other again in a rematch in November.
Ossoff has called for senators to put their assets into blind trusts, a proposal that dovetailed with his campaign pledge to root out corruption in Washington.
“We have squandered trillions on endless war. We have squandered trillions on bailouts for failed banks. We have squandered trillions on tax cuts for wealthy donors. Then we’re told there’s nothing left over for the people,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when he announced his campaign, adding: “The corruption must be rooted out. And Sen. David Perdue is a caricature of Washington corruption.”
Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat, will also be on the ballot in November. Ratings by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales say it is likely both seats remain in Republican hands, but Loeffler faces multiple challengers and is one of the most vulnerable senators.