Georgians who live in the sixth congressional district and care about animals should support Democrat Jon Ossoff in the June 20 special election for an open House seat. Neither he nor his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, seem to have addressed animal welfare in any meaningful way. If only because of the candidates’ political associations, progressives must vote for Ossoff. But that shouldn’t stop animal activists from recruiting more compassionate prospects to challenge the winner in 2018.
At the time of writing, Ossoff’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for the former documentarian’s positions on animal welfare, and his website made no mention of the issue. This doesn’t bode well. Since he’s a first-time candidate, Ossoff has no voting record we can look over to assess his views. What we do know, however, is that he’s a Democrat. While some Democrats are more committed to animal welfare than others, and some Republicans more committed than some Democrats, the average Democrat is much more committed than the average Republican. That’s why, absent any other information, animal activists should support Democrats.
Handel’s campaign website doesn’t discuss animal welfare either. While she has held elected office, I haven’t found much in her record or public statements which might indicate her perspective on nonhumans. She has, however, been endorsed by Donald Trump, whose presidency the Humane Society Legislative Fund called a “threat to animals everywhere.” Similarly, Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, endorsed Handel. Both have 0-percent ratings from HSLF. Animals can’t afford to have a similar representative in the House.
Hopefully, Ossoff wins on June 20. But, regardless, progressives should begin to look for a more pro-animal Democrat to contest the seat come 2018. Such a person could be a protest candidate — in that their entire purpose for being in the race is merely to inject animal-rights concerns into the political discussion through interviews and debates. But I’d argue a well-rounded prospect with a chance to win better serves animals’ interests. Even if one’s goal is just consciousness-raising, a plausible candidate functions as a superior vehicle for this, as they have more access to interviews and debates. More importantly, though, we need to win to effect change.
Organizations on the ground, such as Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, are in the best position to identify and recruit potential candidates. I hope they will do this. If a good prospect can’t be found amongst local, established politicians, I encourage animal activists to put themselves forward. Obviously, being a candidate isn’t for everybody. For instance, I’m terrified of public speaking and would hate the intense media focus. But if those are pressures which you think you could handle — and perhaps thrive in — consider running! There’s lots of behind-the-scenes work that people like me could do to support you.
We need to get political for animals. In Georgia, that starts with electing Jon Ossoff — a candidate who’s demonstrated no commitment to animal welfare, but is undoubtedly more compassionate than his opponent. However, it doesn’t end there. Activists should support a more pro-animal choice in the district’s 2018 Democratic primary, whether the seat is won by Ossoff or Handel.