His remarks, laced with criticism of Republicans, offered a preview of a campaign that would not hesitate to clash with Perdue or Trump.
"I learned never to be intimidated from telling my own story and touting my own accomplishments by the inevitable partisan smears that will come from super PACs in Washington," said Ossoff. "I've been through the fire. I no longer care what they say about me."
Ossoff had prepared his campaign long before Isakson's surprise announcement two weeks ago that he would step down -- a move that cements Georgia as a battleground state by triggering a second Senate contest in 2020.
At town halls and political rallies, Ossoff has honed a populist message that echoes his party's liberal wing. He's pledged to legalize marijuana, guarantee health insurance for all Americans and expand tuition-free higher education programs.
He told the AJC that his decision to run was influenced by two more recent developments. The first is Republican support for new anti-abortion restrictions that infuriated him and his wife Alisha, an OB/GYN resident at Emory University. He said he sees Georgia as the "front line in defense of choice."
The second is his company's work producing global investigative documentaries that have exposed crooked judges, corrupt police officers and war criminals. It's also sparked deadly retribution, including the assassination of an undercover journalist in Ghana who worked with Ossoff and his firm.
"When the president of the United States is denouncing journalists as enemies of the people and targeting the press at political rallies, that sends a message all around the world to despots and governments that they can attack journalists with impunity," Ossoff said. "Where is America's moral leadership?"
With his entrance into a race that could attract even more scrutiny than the intense special election contest, Ossoff said he expects a reprisal of attacks that mock his age and role as an aide in Congress, where he was an intern to Lewis and later a national security staffer to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.
"I expect they'll bring all of that again because they recognize that I'm a threat," he said. "And I say bring it on."
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