Putting Jon Ossoff’s record fundraising haul into perspective

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Democrat Jon Ossoff arrives before a debate with Republican Karen Handel ahead the June 20 runoff for the 6th Congressional District seat, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

It’s hard to overstate just how massive Democrat Jon Ossoff’s $23 million fundraising haul is in Georgia’s 6th District special election.

A little context can help.

For starters, Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are running to be 1/435th (of the House) of one-half (of Congress) of one-third of the federal government (the legislative branch). Realistically speaking, whoever is elected on June 20 will be a back-bencher as a freshman member of the House. (Albeit a very famous back-bencher.)

Obviously the national importance of this race far outweighs the actual power the winner will obtain. For the outside groups and out-of-state donors that have poured money into the contest, it’s about sending a message ahead of the 2018 midterms: that Donald Trump’s presidency is strong/weak and that Democrats are still in the wilderness/resurging.

The potency of those competing messages helps explain why this race has become the most expensive in the history of the U.S. House.

We still haven’t seen Republican Karen Handel’s campaign fundraising totals since the runoff began on April 19. We do know that she raised roughly $500,000 ahead of the first vote, as well as an additional $1 million in the first week of the runoff. That would be nothing to scoff at in virtually any other congressional race, but it pales in comparison to her competitor.

We also know that in roughly five months, Ossoff’s campaign committee has raised more than that of Republican presidential candidate John Kasich in the 2016 cycle. Ditto for Republicans Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Ossoff has raised more than House speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner did during the last three election cycles. (Boehner had previously held the House record of $21.9 million, set in 2012, according to the money-in-politics site Open Secrets.)

Ossoff’s campaign committee fundraising is approaching that of fellow Democrat Russ Feingold, whose losing campaign for Senate set the 2016 fundraising record of $24.5 million. But Ossoff is nowhere close to hitting the upper chamber’s record of $49.9 million, which was set by self-funder Linda McMahon in Connecticut back in 2012.

The fundraising numbers put up by Ossoff’s campaign easily shatter those reported in Georgia’s recent U.S. Senate races. Relatively speaking, Republican Johnny Isakson raised a paltry $11 million in 2016. And the $16 million and $13.8 million that Michelle Nunn and David Perdue respectively raised in 2014 are trumped by the 30-year-old former congressional staffer’s haul.

The fact that we’re even comparing a lone House race to the numbers reported by senior House leaders, presidential contenders with national reachand hyper-competitive statewide battles shows just how high-profile this 6th District race has become. And we’re not even talking about the millions that outside groups have spent on the contest so far — some of which has helped Handel even the score.

With 12 days left in this 6th District race, more money is likely on the way.

For more on the Sixth District race, go to myAJC.com/politics — your most complete and credible source for news and views about what is really going on in Georgia politics.

Read more coverage of the 6th District race: 

Pence to stump for Handel, meet service members in Marietta

Ossoff raises another $15M in Georgia 6th, setting new fundraising record

Georgia 6th: Ossoff, Handel clash on Comey ahead of hearings

Handel weighs in on ‘livable wage’ moment

In a Sixth District debate, Donald Trump becomes the invisible man


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