MARIETTA, Georgia — Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) stood in front of 50 Jon Ossoff volunteers at a campaign barbecue on Saturday and gave them a direct call to action.
"The vote is precious and sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have,” he said. "There are some in this country who still seek to deny some of us our right to vote. We can fight back by exercising that right."
Lewis’s somberness cut through the festive atmosphere at Ossoff’s get-out-the-vote rally, which featured pickup football, pulled-pork sandwiches, and a woman dancing in an inflatable dinosaur costume.
If Ossoff wins the DCCC should have to invest in giant dancing inflatable dinosaurs for every district in the country pic.twitter.com/lJUbYCf4I9— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) June 17, 2017
But Lewis is right that both sides are going to need every vote. On Tuesday, voters across Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will choose between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, in the most expensive House race in history and the most highly anticipated special election of the year.
Polling over the past three weeks suggests Ossoff has a narrow but potentially shrinking lead over Handel, whose big campaign event Sunday featured Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who held the Georgia Sixth seat before he was appointed to run HHS by Trump.
Five polls have been released in June, and four show Ossoff with a lead that’s somewhere between 7 points and 1 point, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. However, one of those polls showed the race in a dead heat, and a poll at the beginning of May showed Handel leading by 2 points.
Moreover, Ossoff’s lead appears to have diminished slightly. Though a poll released June 8 had Ossoff up by 7 points, the most recent one we have — from Fox 5 Atlanta — shows the Democrat’s lead being cut to a single point.
Ossoff came in first in the first round of voting this April in Georgia’s unusual “jungle primary” system, which featured more than a dozen other candidates. But he didn’t clear 50 percent of the vote in that race, setting up Tuesday’s runoff election, in which Republicans will have consolidated behind Handel.
Signs points to massive turnout in the race. More than half of the district’s voters have been contacted in person by Ossoff’s campaign, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The New York Times’s Nate Cohn says that 40,000 people who didn’t vote in the runoff this March have already cast a ballot this time around.
“It will all come down to turnout,” Ossoff told his supporters at his rally. “Let’s make sure we get out there and vote.”