Tom Price has resigned from President Trump’s Cabinet amid scandal less than eight months after his confirmation triggered a historic race here for his former 6th Congressional District.
Price was essentially forced out amid controversy over his use of taxpayer-funded charter and military flights rather than commercial airlines. Karen Handel, the Republican who won the seat in June in an epic battle with Democrat Jon Ossoff, now faces a 2018 re-election campaign that will follow her Republican predecessor’s brief and abruptly terminated White House career.
Price had represented the 6th District – which includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs – for 12 years and became known as a critic of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Trump made Price his secretary of health and human services with a mission of leading a Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
But the healthcare reform efforts from Trump and Congress’s Republican majority repeatedly failed. Meanwhile, Price flew into trouble when media reports revealed he had spent at least $52,000, and possibly more than $1 million, on private and military plane travel during his short stint in office. According to Politico, on some international flights, he was joined by his wife, state Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), a familiar face at events in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and whose District 48 abuts the latter city.
A Sept. 29 statement posted on the White House website said Price had offered his resignation that day, and that Trump had accepted.
Price’s confirmation to Trump’s Cabinet triggered an April special election for the 6th District seat became the most expensive Congressional race in history and drew a national spotlight, while local voters were bombarded with negative ads. The national Democratic Party attempted to turn the race into a referendum on Trump and a chance to “Flip the 6th” to Democratic control for the first time in decades.
The race winnowed down to a June 20 runoff between Handel, a well-known local Republican, and Ossoff, an unknown Democratic filmmaker who did not even live in the district, an unusual situation permitted under the U.S. Constitution. Ossoff, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, had never run for office before, but gave Handel a close challenge.
While Handel won, her recent fundraising emails show that her campaign remains nervous about Ossoff, or at least wants local Republicans to feel that way. One recent email claimed that Ossoff is politically “lurking,” while another – issued hours before Price’s resignation – said, “Every single Democrat in the country – and the liberal media — is hoping Jon Ossoff stages a comeback against Karen Handel.”
Ossoff declined to comment on whether he is considering a challenge to Handel or whether he has moved to a residence inside the 6th District, as he discussed plans to do during the campaign.
Ossoff did offer an update on his work as CEO and managing director at Insight TWI: The World Investigates, a documentary filmmaking company specializing in investigative journalism about corruption and organized crime.
“I’ve been back to work fully re-engaged in my business,” Ossoff said.
He said Insight TWI has “five or six productions in the works over the next six months” for such outlets as the BBC. Among the topics are “corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “security reporting in the Middle East,” he said.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, a Republican, was among the first local officials to react to Price’s resignation. In a statement issued through a city spokesperson, Paul called Price’s resignation a “tragedy.”
“My heartfelt sympathies go out to Secretary Price and his family,” Paul said in the written statement. “What has occurred is a tragedy you never want to see happen to one of your friends, and Tom is a friend.”
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Jon Ossoff.