Jon Ossoff, the Democrat and former documentary filmmaker who came close to flipping a conservative House district in Georgia in 2017, will challenge Senator David Perdue next year.
Mr. Ossoff made the announcement Monday evening, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he would “mount a ruthless assault on corruption in our political system.” He will formally announce his campaign on Tuesday.
Mr. Ossoff started his campaign with an endorsement from Representative John Lewis Monday night. “Like the many thousands Jon has already organized and inspired, I am ready to work tirelessly to elect him,” Mr. Lewis, the Georgia Democrat, said. “Georgia and America need Jon.”
With Mr. Perdue up for re-election and Senator Johnny Isakson resigning, Georgia will be home to two of the most closely watched Senate races in the country in 2020, and Democrats are determined not to squander the opportunity. They now need two candidates strong enough to compete in a red state, and Georgia’s biggest Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, has already declined to run and intends to focus her efforts on fighting voter suppression.
Mr. Ossoff, then, is a big get: Beyond Ms. Abrams, there are few Democrats in Georgia with as much name recognition and proven fund-raising power. He raised more than $23 million for his 2017 special election campaign — at the time, the most expensive House race in history — and drew national attention for being competitive in a district, Georgia’s Sixth, that had not elected a Democrat since 1976.
He came close to winning outright in the first round of voting, but lost a runoff to a Republican, Karen Handel, by about four percentage points. (Ms. Handel lost re-election to another Democrat, Lucy McBath, in 2018.) It was a devastating loss for Democrats, but also a remarkable achievement in the Sixth District, which the former House speaker Newt Gingrich held for 20 years and Republicans normally won by double digits.
Before taking charge of a documentary film company, Mr. Ossoff, 32 — if he won, he would be the youngest sitting member of the Senate by a large margin, behind 39-year-old Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri — spent five years working for Representative Hank Johnson, an Atlanta Democrat.
Three other Democrats are already running for Mr. Perdue’s seat: Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston; former Mayor Teresa Tomlinson of Columbus; and Sarah Riggs Amico, who ran for lieutenant governor last year on Ms. Abrams’s ticket.
Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator in almost 20 years, but Democrats have believed for some time that the state is trending in their direction because of its changing demographics. The numbers bear that out: In 2016, President Trump’s margins of victory in Iowa and Ohio, both swing states, exceeded his margin of victory in Georgia.
Democrats were also encouraged by the midterm elections, in which Ms. McBath unseated Ms. Handel in the Sixth District; another Democrat, Carolyn Bourdeaux, came within two-tenths of a percentage point of unseating Representative Rob Woodall in the neighboring Seventh District; and Ms. Abrams came within 1.5 percentage points of winning the governorship.
Democrats need to gain three seats to control the Senate if they win the White House in 2020, or four seats if Mr. Trump wins re-election, and they don’t have a lot of opportunities to do so.
Only three Republican-held seats — in Arizona, Colorado and Maine — are rated as tossups by the Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional elections. To have any buffer at all, Democrats need to move more races to that column. And of all the other states with Republican-held Senate seats up for election, only North Carolina was closer in the presidential race than Georgia.
More on Georgia Politics
Doug Collins, Defending Trump in Impeachment Inquiry, Seeks Georgia Senate Seat
Isakson to Resign From Senate, Citing Health Reasons
Stacey Abrams Will Not Run for President in 2020, Focusing Instead on Fighting Voter Suppression
‘Democrat. Fighter. Mother.’ Lucy McBath Is Redefining Social Justice in Politics.
Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, Narrowly Misses Outright Win in Georgia House Race