Jon Ossoff fought hard for his senate seat. In 2017, he ran in one of the most expensive races in history, only to lose by a slim margin to Karen Handel. In 2020, things changed for him. He ran a successful campaign against incumbent David Perdue by calling Perdue out on his questionable stock trades and lack of accountability. In fact, he beat Perdue so badly in their initial debate that Perdue refused to debate him again. Now that he has arrived, what does Ossoff bring to the senate?
One immediately apparent trait is Ossoff’s dedication to diversity. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported on the makeup of Ossoff’s senate office. His legislative director is Donni Turner, and the AJC reported that she is one of only five Blacks to hold that position among 100 senators. Prior to joining Ossoff’s team, Turner worked in several roles for Bernie Sanders according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (the “Center”). She also served as senior staff counsel for Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), legislative director for Congressman David Scott (D-GA), and legislative assistant to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). In other words, Turner is no “token” or “lightweight;” she has over 20 years of Congressional and public policy experience. Ossoff took his time looking for the right people to fill his office, and he wanted to make sure that — like President Biden — his staff reflected the makeup of America.
The AJC reported that in the search to choose his staff, Ossoff purposely slowed down his process, and he even took out “help wanted” ads. He also hired Reynaldo Benitez as chief of staff, bringing the total number of people of color hired by newly elected senators to 36.7%, with 10% being Black. Benitez is former chief of staff for Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and served as senior advisor to Harry Reid. The remainder of Ossoff’s staff includes state director Chandra Harris and deputy state director Steven Parker, both of whom are Black. Prior to winning his seat, Ossoff also sought diversity in his campaign by hiring nine LGBTQ staffers, according to Project Q of Atlanta, people whom he vowed to support if elected. As a result, Ossoff was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign. Ossoff brought people to politics that we do not normally get to see, not for show but because he is another rarity in politics — a genuine person who wants to see equality for everyone. He was joined in that goal by the other senator from Georgia, Raphael Warnock, who also staffed his campaign with diversity and is doing the same in his senate office.
According to the Center, 54% of Ossoff’s voters were Black, and Ossoff is paying it forward in the best possible way. A strong sense of pride exists in Georgia regarding both senators sent to Washington in 2020. Ossoff has an extremely bright future in politics and six years to hone his skills. Raphael Warnock filled a vacancy and must run again in 2022, and we must help him keep his seat.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years