Down south in Georgia last night, a woman overcame the odds to win a seat in Congress and prove that money can’t always buy elections. Unfortunately for Democrats, that underdog named Karen Handel is a Republican.
Her election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District undercuts the narrative that sexism and money direct the electorate. Biology and a comparatively slim bank account couldn’t hold Handel back during the race.
Either Democrat Jon Ossoff wasn’t paying attention or he’s really bad at math though. Before the special election polls closed, the 30-year-old aspiring boy wonder to complain about money in politics.
“The role of money in politics is a major problem and particularly the role of unchecked anonymous money,” Ossoff said. “There have been super PACs in Washington who have been putting up tens of millions of dollars of attack ads in air for months now.”
And then with just a day to go and apparently un-ironically, Ossoff offered up the most unaware statement of the entire race: “We need campaign finance reform.”
Simple arithmetic shows the stupidity of that sentiment. According to campaign finance documents compiled by , Ossoff spent six times more money than Handel. His campaign raised more than $24 million to her $4.5 million.
At that point, Ossoff groupies will protest that Handel benefited from super PAC spending. After all, they argue, the Republican benefited from $18.2 million in outside spending compared to the Democrat’s $8 million from outside groups.
But while it’s true that dark money donors were with her, that cash only helped Handel narrow the gap. It didn’t make up the difference. If you take the sum of campaign and outside spending together, it’s clear that millions more flowed to Ossoff’s cause.
But it didn’t matter. Handel still won by more than 10,000 votes.
Don’t misunderstand. Money clearly matters. Powerful donors will always duel for political influence with checkbooks and pens in hand. But cash doesn’t automatically decide elections. After watching their Ossoff donations go down the drain, many Democrats probably wish they could’ve just stuffed those dollars directly into the ballot box.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.