Jon Ossoff lost the first big race of the Trump era and won the last. There’s a lesson here

Daily Kos was an early backer of Ossoff’s 2017 run for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, raising $400,000 for his campaign in a week. “We didn’t know how our community and how progressives in general were feeling,” Daily Kos Political Director David Nir recently told The New York Times. “Did the grass roots want to get involved? The answer was there was so much pent-up energy ready to explode.”

A lot of that enthusiasm was channeled into Ossoff’s campaign. And there was a lot of disappointment when he lost—when Daily Kos Elections hosted a 2017 Netroots Nation panel on building power in the midterm elections that included Ossoff (along with Lauren Underwood, who would go on to be elected to Congress in 2018), moderator Arjun Jaikumar recalls that “a lot of people made fun of the panel for the idea that someone like Ossoff could know anything about winning.” (Check it out!)

Well. 

Ossoff’s win this time around—like those of President-elect Joe Biden and Warnock—obviously benefits enormously, hugely, massively from the work that organizers like Stacey Abrams, Nse Ufot, and LaTosha Brown have been doing in Georgia for years. But it also built on his own 2017 race—and other people have similarly built on that campaign. Ossoff didn’t immediately run again, and in 2018, Lucy McBath won the House seat he had tried for. McBath was a stellar candidate in her own right, and is a stellar member of the House, and she built on the volunteers Ossoff had energized and developed the previous year. She’s not the only one. In fact, some of Ossoff’s 2017 volunteers have gone on to run for office themselves, with one, Angelika Kausche, flipping a seat in the Georgia state House.

”I always tell Jon, it’s all his fault,” she told the Times. “Knocking doors for Jon felt like I was doing something to fight back, and in the process, people like me learned how to campaign.”

“We were able to build networks,” another former Ossoff volunteer who continues to be an organizer in the 6th District said. “It motivated a lot of people and mobilized us, but it also trained an entire army of grass-roots volunteers.” Still another volunteer went on to lose a state House race but become a vice chair of the Cobb County Democratic Party as Democrats in Cobb County flipped several key offices.

Losing sucks, but losing the right way—harnessing enthusiasm, training volunteers, building capacity for the future, working in coalition with existing efforts, and welcoming in new people—can yield results down the road. It’s an important factor to consider when you’re thinking about diving in, taking a risk on an unknown candidate. 

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