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Politics

Will Latinos help this young Georgia politician send a message to Trump?

Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to urge votes against Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in a Georgia special election. His victory would be an unprecedented defeat in a conservative district.
18 Abr 2017 – 5:23 PM EDT

From bilingual volunteers to Spanish-language radio and television ads, Democrat Jon Ossoff has spent weeks seeking to win the support of Latino voters in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which is holding a special election Tuesday.

Though representing just 4.3 percent of eligible voters in the district, organizers say there’s been unprecedented enthusiasm among Latinos, who see the election as a referendum on President Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant policies. The district has historically been Republican-leaning.

“The Latino community here has woken up,” says Diana Bonete, who leads Latino outreach for Ossoff’s campaign. “We’re seeing a lot of first-time Latino volunteers who have never had an interest in being involved. A lot of people want to be mobilized. A lot of Latino millennials.”

Among Georgia’s 14 representatives in Congress, nine are Republicans. The 6th District has been a Republican stronghold since 1979, when it was taken from Democrats by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Since 2005, Tom Price held the seat.

But when Price became Trump's Health and Human Services secretary in February, Democrats saw the possibility of gaining a seat in the House of Representatives -- a prospect that would have been impossible just months ago.

The idea of the district flipping is so frightening for Republicans that even President Trump came out Tuesday against Ossoff, the 30-year-old Democrat who is far and away the favorite among Democrats. A documentary filmmaker and former Capitol Hill aide, who grew up in the 6th district, Ossoff has raised huge amounts of money from across the country.


Although the Hispanic electorate is a minority in the district, with just 20,000 of 470,000 eligible voters, organizations such as Latino Victory Fund have thrown resources into promoting the Hispanic Democratic vote there. That could be crucial, as polls predict a tight race. The overall Latino population in the district is 91,000, more than 13 percent of residents.

Ossoff needs more than 50 percent of votes in the primary (18 candidates are competing). If he gets less than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a June runoff.

Last week, Latino Victory launched statewide operations in Georgia, to support the state’s growing Latino population.

“Latinos are a small but growing demographic and anything can happen,” says Jess Torres, the Communications Director of the Latino Victory Fund. “There is a lot of enthusiasm. We want to ride this grassroots momentum.”


Over the weekend, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro was in the district to canvas. Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego has also called Spanish language radio outlets to get-out-the-vote for Ossoff.

“We’ve been able to tap into the anger and fear among Latinos and turn it into something positive,” says Bonete. “Latinos have an opportunity to play a huge role in this.”

The district has historically been Republican-leaning, although much less so in the 2016 election.

Trump narrowly beat Clinton, with 48 to 47 percent of the vote, when in previous years Republican candidates had won comfortably in excess of 60 percent.

Price's last re-election was the smallest margin of difference against his opponent, which some attribute to Trump's unpopularity in the area.

Carlos Chirinos contributed to this article.

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