To the surprise of many political forecasters, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in the Jan. 5 runoff in Georgia to become the youngest senator, at age 33, in the United States Senate in 40 years. Ossoff is also the first Jewish Senator to represent the state of Georgia. Ossoff defeated Perdue by roughly 55,000 votes, and along with newly elected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, is responsible for tipping the balance of power in the Senate. With the runoff election victories, Democrats and Republicans each have 50 members in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as tie-breaker on votes as needed.
Growing up in Atlanta, Ossoff attended the Paideia School from seventh to 12th grade. He then attended Georgetown University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Foreign Service. While in high school, Ossoff read the memoir of civil rights icon John Lewis. He proceeded to write the Atlanta congressman for a job and was brought in for an internship that would steer him to greater opportunities. Ossoff found great inspiration in Lewis, according to an interview with The New York Times: “John Lewis was 23, 24 years old when he was leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,” said Ossoff. “I was so inspired by the fact that young people in that movement has made a difference.”
While Ossoff was studying at Georgetown, U.S. Representative Hank Johnson offered Ossoff a position as a legislative assistant, where he served from 2007-2012. Ossoff described his six-year experience on Capitol Hill as gratifying, yet disillusioning, in the sense that he was not in agreement with the amount of sway or power each leader had, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Following his work with Rep. Johnson, Ossoff earned a Master of Science degree in international political economy from the London School of Economics.
Using an inheritance from his grandfather, Ossoff bought an ownership stake in a London-based investigative film company he had interned for in the past. He later named it Insight: The World Investigates (TWI) and was made chief executive at age 26. TWI exposed sexual slavery of women by ISIS, crooked judges, foreign officials that steal U.S funded food and medical aid, human traffickers, war crimes and bribery, according to Ossoff’s campaign website. His new expertise in investigative journalism set him apart and provided him with insight on other issues worldwide.
According to The New York Times, Ossoff’s political career began in 2017 with his bid for a U.S. House seat in a special election that gave Democrats the first opportunity to express resistance to President Donald Trump. Congressmen Hank Johnson and John Lewis endorsed him, along with state Democratic House Leader Stacey Abrams. Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel in the June runoff, 51.78% to 48.22%. Despite his loss, the energy generated by his candidacy shattered fundraising records and allowed him to continue to build a strong network that served him well in the bid for U.S. Senate three years later.
Economically, Ossoff hopes to support struggling families, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out the revenue for small businesses, through fast and generous direct emergency relief during economic crises, lowering taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans, debt-free public college, free vocational training and health care guaranteed at an affordable price, according to Ossoff’s campaign website.
Ossoff also believes that the link between health and wealth should be broken, supporting Medicaid and yearning to deliver federal funds to build health clinics across the rural and underserved communities of Georgia. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ossoff strives to lead Congress and the Biden administration to focus on boosting the health response and speeding up containment and adaptation, his primary goal being American safety and the ability to work and live normally again. Along with these, Ossoff also supports a need for clean energy and infrastructure, the privacy of women’s healthcare, enacting major criminal justice reform and LGBTQ+ equality.