Ossoff will now face an uphill climb in runoff against Republican Karen Handel
By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Jon Ossoff’s insurgent campaign to flip Georgia’s 6th District U.S. House seat in Atlanta’s northern suburbs fell short of securing a majority in an April 18 special election, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republican Karen Handel in a June 20 runoff.
With all of the precincts in the district reporting, Ossoff had 48.1 percent of the vote, followed by Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, at 19.8 percent. Bob Gray, a technology executive who touted his work for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, came in third with 10.8 percent.
Ossoff’s result was a surprisingly strong showing by a Democrat in what had been seen as a safe Republican seat. But his failure to clear an outright majority means he will now have to beat Handel in a head-to-head race.
Despite not clearing that hurdle, Ossoff told his supporters that the result was “a victory for the ages” and vowed to continue the fight.
“We have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations. We are changing the world, and your voices are going to ring out across this state and across this country,” said Ossoff, a 30-year-old filmmaker and former congressional aide with no previous political experience.
“There is no amount of dark money, Super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this. So bring it on.”
Handel, who managed to fight off attacks from her fellow Republicans to come in second, told her supporters that “nine weeks from today, we have an opportunity and a real responsibility to elect a member of Congress who shares our values.”
Telegraphing how her campaign will frame the campaign ahead, Handel called herself “a proven, independent and conservative leader who has delivered for the people of this district.”
For Handel, 55, the second-place finish was a welcome political comeback after back-to-back losses to Governor Nathan Deal in a GOP runoff in 2010 and a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2014. She served as secretary of state from 2007 to 2011 and as chair of the Fulton County Commission from 2003 to 2006.
Trump was an overarching presence in the 6th District race. Ossoff used anti-Trump sentiment to whip up Democratic enthusiasm and raise a staggering $8.3 million, using the slogan “Make Trump Furious.”
That prompted the president to make a robocall to voters in the district, saying “Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants.” However, Trump did not endorse anyone, and the four unabashedly pro-Trump candidates in the race fared poorly, taking only about 20 percent of the vote.
The June 20 runoff is likely to be a bruising affair with national implications, as Republicans try to hold on to what had been seen as a safe seat and Democrats try to embarrass Trump by snatching it away.
The first round results show the uphill climb Ossoff faces: Together, 11 Republican candidates captured 98,000 votes, besting the 93,900 votes captured by Ossoff and four other Democrats. And while Ossoff carried a majority in the part of the district that lies in DeKalb County, he failed to clear a majority in the larger slices in Cobb and Fulton counties.
The 6th District seat became vacant in February, when Tom Price left to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump cabinet. The all-party special election drew a crowded field of 18 candidates.
Price had won the district by 76,000 votes in November, but Democrats smelled blood after Trump only managed to carry it by a scant 1.5 percent. Trump also lost the March 2016 Republican primary in the district to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
The 6th District has been previously represented by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. It had been considered so unassailable that in 2016, the Democratic nomination for the seat went to a man who didn’t even bother to campaign.
Despite public insistence by Republican leaders that an Ossoff victory was nothing more than a liberal fantasy, the National Republican Congressional Committee ran ads into the district, telling voters that Nancy Pelosi and her fellow liberals are are trying to use this race to stop the Republican agenda. The Republican National Committee has also moved resources into the district in anticipation of the runoff.