Could the second time be the charm for Michael Owens, former Cobb Democratic Party chairman? Evidently he thinks so. Owens is challenging longtime 13th District Congressman David Scott in next year’s primary despite losing badly in 2014 — getting only 18 percent of the vote.
Scott, 73, has held the congressional seat since 2003 and has never faced a tough re-election challenge. Philosophically, he is far from Owens and the Democrat leftists, holding membership in the Blue Dog Coalition created in 1995 “to represent the commonsense, moderate voice of the Democratic Party, appealing to mainstream American values,” according to the coalition PAC’s website. Blue Dogs “are committed to pursuing fiscally responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense and transcending party lines to do what’s best for the American people.” Scott is one of 27 Blue Dogs in Congress.
The coalition was a matter of self-defense politically, formed by Southern Democrats in conservative-leaning districts after Republicans swept the 1994 congressional elections, riding on the conservative Contract with America, brainchild of Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House. The term Blue Dog Democrat contrasts the old label of Yellow Dog Democrat meaning one who would “sooner vote for a yellow dog than a Republican.” The Blue Dog founders also said they felt “choked blue” by the extremes of both political parties.
Contrasting Scott’s Blue Dog credentials, the 39-year-old Owens, a Marine Corps veteran who works in cybersecurity, describes his political views as “liberal” on his Facebook which includes a photo of him with Stacey Abrams, sure to resonate with voters who gave her majorities in the metro counties in her bid to become the first black woman governor in the country last year. But Owens will get no help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. To the contrary, the DCCC’s policy now bars national consultants from working for the primary challenger of an incumbent.
“This decision by the DCCC will not deter me,” Owens said in a Facebook post. “It will not stop me from traveling to every corner of this district and it will not stop me from championing the progressive Democratic values that the people in my district and this state want and deserve!” In announcing his candidacy, he pledged to deal with issues of voting rights, cybersecurity and the racial and gender wage gap.
Owens aims to cash in his political capital from serving as Cobb Democratic chairman for two-plus years before stepping down in March. He points to his party’s contesting every partisan race in the county last year except for one commission seat and the solicitor’s office, and he takes credit for helping Stacey Abrams and other statewide Democratic candidates carry Cobb in 2018.
“We took on this effort of creating community engagement meetings and going all around the county, introducing people to the Cobb County Democratic Party where they actually live, in their neighborhoods, in their part of the county,” he told the MDJ’s Ricky Leroux in an interview. Another part of the outreach was to learn what voters needed from the party “as an organization and how we could help them in their own communities.” Owens said recruiting candidates was a “vital part” of the Democrats’ success.
Grassroots organizing can go a long way in building support for a candidate and getting out the vote. Owens is counting on that plus the leftward swing of the Democratic Party and a high turnout in next year’s presidential election. All that appears to favor Owens, but Scott has built strong ties to constituents with his job fairs over many years plus he had almost $400,000 in campaign funds as of April. All of which does not bode well for Owens in his attempt to pull off an upset the second time around.