Democrats hoping to wrest Georgia’s 8th from Republican control can be credited with high hopes, but unrealistic aspirations. Prior to the 2010 Census, the 8th had a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+10, a difficult handicap for any Democrat to overcome, but after 2011 redistricting, the 8th shifted to a CPVI of R+15, making it all but unattainable for the Democratic Party. In the 2016 election, incumbent Austin Smith thrashed James Harris, his Democratic opponent, with 67.6% of the vote, carrying every county in the district. The only chance to unseat Rep. Austin Scott won’t come from outside the Republican Party but from within. Danny Ellyson, who calls himself an “Independent Republican,” is running as a primary challenger to Rep. Scott.
Mr. Ellyson’s background has many of the typical bullet points you’d find in a Republican candidate; he is both an Army veteran and a small-business owner, but as a gay man married with children, he offers something radically different than the typical Republican candidate. Mr. Ellyson’s campaign is connected to Brand New Congress, a political action committee formed by a group of staffers and volunteers from the Bernie Sanders campaign, whose goal is to run grassroots candidates across the nation to cut through the partisan divide in Congress.
After the Army, Mr. Ellyson retired due to medical conditions and went into retail. He described his time working in retail as “exhausting, debilitating and demeaning work” that made him realize “what little regard there is for the American worker.” This language, often used by Progressives to describe the exploitation of service industry workers, coming from a Republican leads credence to the hope that with the right candidates, both parties can reach across the aisle and work together.
If Mr. Ellyson is to have a chance, he is going to need to raise a substantial war chest to counter Rep. Austin Scott, who “has more than $400,000 in the bank.” Though a steep mountain, defeating Rep. Scott would be an incredible victory for progressive politics. In his time in Congress, Rep. Scott has opposed same-gender marriage, supports an Amendment to prevent same-gender marriage, voted NO against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and signed the No Climate Tax Pledge. Far from being a check on the Executive Branch, Austin Scott has voted in line with President Trump an incredible 97.6% of the time.
Mr. Scott and Mr. Ellyson are both Republicans, but offer wildly different paths forward for the party of Lincoln. The former represents the path we are currently on – one that denies the science behind global warming, opposes the rights of the LGBTQ community, and has contributed to a rigidity to compromise that has ossified Congress. The latter path, the one offered by candidates like Danny Ellyson, brings hope of a less partisan, more cooperative Congress not beholden to special interest groups, but to the people that elect them.