The resistance movement is about to get its first big electoral test.
ROSWELL, Georgia — On a sunny Sunday in mid-February, Karley Barber, 54, spends her morning and afternoon going door to door for Jon Ossoff, the leading Democrat running for the Georgia House seat vacated by former Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump’s health and human services secretary.
Clipboard in hand, she laughs nervously as she marches up the steep gravel path to the first house on her list. She raps twice on the wood door frame, and shivers with a nervous jitter as someone inside approaches.
“I’ve never done this! What if they slam the door in my face?” says Barber, a government contractor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 7,000 people have already volunteered for Ossoff’s campaign, and he has raised more than $3 million — unprecedented numbers for the congressional district.
The April 18 special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District is Democrats’ first chance to eat into Republicans’ House majority — and potentially preview the 2018 midterm elections. “Normally, a Democrat running for Price’s seat would be lucky to raise $10,000 to $20,000,” says Phil Lunney, legislative liaison for the Fulton County Democrats. “There’s been nothing like it here, at least in the 21st century.”
But the race, held in a deeply conservative district long dominated by Republicans, will also be a test of something equally vital: whether the grassroots anti-Trump activism can be translated into electoral success. Ossoff’s race is offering a test run for whether the outpouring of energy in the streets can be harnessed by the Democratic Party, or if it will prove beyond the grasp of its politicians.
Barber’s very presence gives Democrats reason for optimism. This isn’t just her first time going canvassing for a candidate: She’s never even voted in a midterm election before. Her husband is a fervent Donald Trump supporter. Most of her friends in suburban Atlanta’s East Cobb neighborhood are Republicans. “I’d hang out with other women, and most of the time I’d keep my mouth shut because they’d just go on and on and on about how much they hate Clinton and Obama,” Barber said.