ATLANTA – As a teenager, Jon Ossoff was inspired by the pivotal role John Lewis played in the fight for racial equality when the civil rights icon was in his early 20s.
He was in awe of Lewis' life, he told The Associated Press in December, particularly how someone “so young” had achieved such a prominent position as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
At 33, the millennial Democrat will assume his own leadership mantle after being one of two candidates to help the party sweep Georgia's crucial U.S. Senate runoff elections, a victory that sealed Democrats' control of the chamber. Ossoff defeated Republican David Perdue in the runoff that was held Tuesday after neither he nor Perdue received 50% of the vote in November.
This is Ossoff's first election to public office, and he will be the youngest member of the Senate. But he has never let youth and inexperience be barriers to his aspirations.
In 2017, at the age of 29, he ran for Congress in Georgia in a race closely watched as an early referendum on President Donald Trump.
Though he lost, he shattered fundraising records and made the contest in a once reliably Republican district competitive. For his Senate campaign, he took a sharper approach. His platform was unabashedly liberal, calling for a $15 minimum wage, a “public option” government health plan, and a new voting rights act to restore federal oversight of state election laws.
He also launched a fierce attack on Perdue while shrugging off his opponent's exaggerated claim that he was pursuing a “radical socialist agenda." At a debate in October, he called the 71-year-old former corporate executive “a crook” who used the COVID-19 pandemic to protect his stock portfolio while downplaying the seriousness of the virus. Perdue insisted the allegations were false.
Ossoff is smart, has a “good heart” and will work hard as a senator, said Sarah Riggs Amico, a fellow Democrat who ran for lieutenant governor in Georgia in 2018 and challenged Ossoff in the Senate primary.