Civil rights icon campaigns for Ossoff at Juneteenth Celebration

Civil rights icon campaigns for Ossoff at Juneteenth Celebration
© Moriah Ratner

MARIETTA, GA. — Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) returned to the campaign trail on Saturday to stump with Democrat Jon Ossoff in the final stretch of the high stakes Georgia special election.

Ossoff and Lewis made an appearance at the NAACP's Juneteenth Celebration, meeting with eager supporters on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon. Both Georgia Democrats got a warm reception from attendees who repeatedly asked for pictures and selfies as they walked through the annual festival.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and marks the day slaves in Texas were told about the Emancipation Proclamation. Festival goers said this year's event had more political booths than usual, with stands for both Ossoff and his GOP opponent, Karen Handel's campaigns.

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“I'm here in support of Jon Ossoff,” Lewis said to big applause. Supporters crowded in front as the Georgia congressman took the stage and delivered brief remarks.

"[Voting] is the most powerful, nonviolent instrument or tool that we have and we must use it. So all of us, let's get out and vote on Tuesday like we've never voted before."

Lewis, a key civil rights leader in the 1960s, stumped with Ossoff earlier this month. Ossoff previously interned for Lewis in his Washington office and has also worked for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

Ossoff faces Handel in Tuesday's hotly contested race to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Handel was joined on the campaign trail on Saturday morning by Price as well as Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue.

Ossoff, alongside his fiancé Alicia, also addressed the crowd, urging people to embrace their right to vote and fight back against voter suppression.

"Juneteenth is a celebration of emancipation, it's a celebration of freedom," Ossoff told the crowd. "And one of those freedoms is your right to vote."

"And there are some in this country who still seek to deny some of us our right to vote. And we can fight back by exercising that right."

He also noted the magnitude of the race that has drawn outsized national attention. It's the most expensive House race in U.S. history and multiple reports say more than 140,000 people participated in early voting, which ended Friday.

That's more than twice the early vote total from the April 18 primary and nearly three-quarters of the total number of people who voted in that primary.

The event with Lewis comes ahead of a get-out-the-vote BBQ and a canvass launch at Ossoff’s Sandy Springs field office to encourage black voters to head to the polls. Democratic strategists in the state say he'll need to turn out that voter bloc in order to be successful on Tuesday.