- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2017

ROSWELL, Ga. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not on the ballot in the runoff race Tuesday for Georgia’s open congressional seat, but Republicans are pushing to make sure the California Democrat is on voters’ minds when they go to the polls.

On the stump, in flyers and in a barrage of radio and television ads, GOP candidate Karen Handel and her allies have hammered home the message that Democrat Jon Ossoff will carry Mrs. Pelosi’s water in Congress, as they look to excite their party’s base and raise doubts about Mr. Ossoff’s pledge to be an independent voice.

Mrs. Handel says her supporters will have the chance Tuesday “to rock Nancy Pelosi’s world.”

“This strategy for this campaign has always been about who is the best right fit for the people of this district and the people of this district are not from a views and values standpoint aligned with Nancy Pelosi,” Mrs. Handel told reporters Monday during a campaign swing through a down-home diner in suburban Atlanta.

Mr. Ossoff countered that her strategy is part of the “tired” partisan playbook voters are sick of.

“Voters here are focused on what a candidate offers to do to improve their quality of life, and they want some fresh leadership,” he said. “They want results rather than more partisan politics.”

Mr. Ossoff has cast himself as a centrist in the race and is trying to trying to flip control of a seat that Republicans have held since Newt Gingrich took hold of it in 1979. The seat opened up after Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Mr. Trump’s health secretary.

Mrs. Pelosi is no stranger to being the focus of congressional races after 15 years leading House Democrats. She stamped out a brief rebellion earlier this year to win re-election to her leader’s post.

She remains one of the nation’s most recognizable and polarizing political figures — an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released in February showed she is the least popular politician in the United States — and in particular in GOP-leaning districts like Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll released in June showed that close to six in 10 voters held a negative view of her in the district.

Mrs. Pelosi has helped raise money for Mr. Ossoff’s bid, but has not campaigned with the 30-year-old former congressional aid.

Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has invested millions into radio and television ads in Georgia casting Mr. Ossoff as a tool for Mrs. Pelosi, called her “the gift that keeps giving.”

“Every morning I wake up and I take a moment to be thankful that the Republican Party still has Nancy Pelosi because Nancy Pelosi is absolutely toxic,” Mr. Bliss told the Times, whose super PAC has invested $7 million in the race and was a major player in helping Republican defend an at-large seat in Montana last month. “This race is a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and her liberal policy agenda, which is just fundamentally out of touch with a vast majority of Americans, as we saw that in Montana.”

Republicans’ attack is boosted by Mr. Ossoff’s situation. He doesn’t live in the district, and his chief government experience was as a staffer on Capitol Hill.

The Principled Leadership Project PAC, a North Carolina-based group, ratcheted up the Pelosi line of attack on Monday when it ran a television ad connecting the politics of Mr. Ossoff and Mrs. Pelosi to the attack on Republican congressmen practicing baseball last week.

“The same unhinged leftists cheering last week’s shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff,” the narrator says. “Stop Jon Ossoff. Stop Nancy Pelosi. Vote Karen Handel for Congress.”

Mrs. Handel came out against the ad, saying using the shooting for political gain is “disgusting” and calling for it to be pulled off the airwaves.

Some voters said Mr. Ossoff has been hurt by the Pelosi attacks.

“I think it has been effective,” said Karen Tausche. “He has been calling himself an independent, but he is not an independent, he is backed by the Democrats and I think that is how he is going to vote.”

But Bryan Stokes, a Democratic voter in the district who turned out for a recent Ossoff rally, said he thinks that voters “that would be scared away by the Pelosi message wouldn’t necessarily vote for Jon anyway.”

“Trying to fuse Nancy Pelosi to Jon will ultimately fail because they are totally different people,” Mr. Stokes said. “Jon hasn’t held political office yet, he is not coming from a background where has been in Washington for years. So I think the two of them kind of differ in that respect and, ultimately, I think it will fail.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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