On the eve of the high-stakes congressional runoff election in Georgia, a PAC supporting Republican candidate Karen Handel is attempting to use last week’s shooting at a baseball practice to securing victory in the longtime GOP stronghold.
Over the weekend, Principled PAC — which touts itself as a group of “principled conservatives who have the backbone to stand up to the Washington elite” — released an ad linking Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff to the shooting, which left four wounded, including Majority Chief Whip Steve Scalise (who, as of Monday, was reportedly no longer in critical condition after undergoing several surgeries).
Both Handel and Ossoff have condemned the ad, which starts with the sounds of gunshots and graphic footage showing Scalise bloodied and being taken away on a stretcher. “The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans,” a text overlay says. “When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.”
The ad then shows an image of comedian Kathy Griffin holding a fake severed head resembling President Donald Trump (a gag that she was heavily criticized for), against a backdrop of incendiary comments made by presumed “leftists” on social media, such as “RESIST THE FASCIST TAKEOVER!!!!! STRING UP THE COLLABORATORS!”
“If he wins, they win,” a voiceover says. “Stop them now. Stop Jon Ossoff. Stop Nancy Pelosi. Vote Karen Handel for congress.”
Ossoff and Handel are vying for the seat in Georgia’s sixth congressional district that was left vacant by Tom Price, whom Trump picked to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ossoff, speaking to reporters after a campaign stop on Sunday, said the exploitation of the shooting was “disgraceful.” “The man is fighting for his life,” he said. “I think it’s disgraceful to politicize it, and I think Secretary Handel should call for it to come down.”
A spokesperson for Handel, who formerly served as Georgia’s secretary of state, joined Ossoff in his condemnation of the ad. “For any group to use the shootings this week for political or personal benefit is shameful,” said Kate Constantini, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but she stopped short of demanding its removal.
The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, volunteered for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and was an outspoken critic of Republican policy on social media (Sanders has strongly condemned the shooting). Principled PAC aren’t the only ones who see opportunity in the tragedy.
“I’ll tell you what: I think the shooting is going to win this election for us,” said Brad Carver, Republican party chairman of the neighboring 11th Congressional District in Georgia, according to the Washington Post. “Because moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism. I get that there’s extremists on both sides, but we are not seeing them. We’re seeing absolute resistance to everything this president does. Moderates and independents out there want to give him a chance. Democrats have never given this president a chance.”
“It’s not going to be a blowout. It’ll be close, but we’ll win it,” Carver added.” And I really do think the congressional baseball shooting is going to decide the election.”
The special election is on Tuesday. A WSB-Landmark Communications poll on Saturday indicated that the race is nearly deadlocked, with Handel leading 49.7 percent to 48 percent. The candidates have spent nearly $50 million apiece on their campaigns, making it the most expensive congressional House race in history.