Tuesday’s special election runoff between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will go down to the wire with a tight finish. Ossoff has a slight lead according to the polls—but that narrow lead for the Democratic candidate could shift.
An Ossoff win in the controversial election, would take a Republican district held by Republicans since the 1970s.
The stakes are high for both candidates hoping to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Jon Ossoff’s win would mean that Democrats opposing President Trump were energetic enough to run victory laps over the decades old Republican strong-hold within a conservative-leaning district.
Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff prepare for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election debate at WSB-TV studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 6, 2017
Newcomer Jon Ossoff labeled by both Republican and Democrats as the “Young Democrat” envisioned ways to heighten concerns and dissatisfaction for President Donald Trump. Trump won the very affluent, suburban district by only one percentage point in last year’s presidential election.
Ossoff’s approach to winning the election culminated into a strategy of shifting his focus toward Republican rival Karen Handel, a former secretary of state who asserted Trump’s presidency was not related to the local issue.
“This race is not about what’s going on around the rest of the country—it is about you,” she told supporters on Monday night.
The narrow race in a June 18 poll placed Ossoff just ahead of Handel, with 49.0 percent versus 48.9 percent. The WSB-Landmark Communications polled 500 likely voters, with a margin of error at 4.4 percent.
The outcome of the special election is not likely to disrupt the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Despite Republican control, an Ossoff victory may help Democrats to recruit viable candidates, and raise money with the hope of regaining control of the House of Representatives in 2018.
The Democratic Party fell short this year in the Montana and Kansas elections. They are also projected to lose South Carolina’s race.
Trump sent out a Tuesday morning tweet weighing in on the election.
“Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district.”
“KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS. She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY,” Trump wrote.
Georgia’s 6th Congressional District seat became vacant after Republican Tom Price was confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, putting him in charge of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Republican, Newt Gingrich, also began his political career in the same district.
The special election has generated robust fundraising campaigns, resulting in unprecedented sums of money pouring into the candidates’ campaigns. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, total spending in the race topped $56 million nearly doubles the previous record.
Ossoff gained national attention and prominence by vowing to “make Trump furious,” however, as the race tightened, Ossoff‘s rhetoric about Trump lessened. Rather than speak about President Trump’s presidency or policies, he focused on his campaign promise to cut spending and “bring accountability to Washington,” as he said at a Monday campaign event.
As a result—Ossoff’s campaign has attracted more supporters than expected.
“There are more of us than we thought,” said Tricia Gephardt, an Ossoff volunteer.
Republican state senator, Kay Kirkpatrick, also representing the district, was quick to point out that although some Republicans were divided on Trump, many were united in support of Handel.