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In Georgia, Republicans aim to hang onto congressional seat

21 Juin 2017

The most expensive House race in history ended in a win for Republicans as Karen Handel narrowly defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election for Georgia's traditionally red 6th district.

A special election run-off for a suburban Atlanta seat in Congress will be decided on Tuesday with polls showing a very narrow lead for the Democratic candidate in the race seen as a political test for President Donald Trump.

Republicans are claiming momentum ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections in November of next year.

If Ossoff wins, Democrats would have a clear victory that could help keep the party's hyper-engaged base and donor community energized but a loss would be a major disappointment. "Republicans are motivated. They do not want someone who lives outside of the district coming in and representing them, and they surely don't want [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi coming in to buy this seat".

Handel, 55, served as Georgia's secretary of state from 2007 to 2010. Hillary Clinton only lost the district by 1 percent in the 2016 presidential race, and when Trump tapped Representative Tom Price to be his Health and Human Services Secretary, Democrats hoped they could win this seat for the first time since the 1970s.

Despite Ossoff's fundraising advantage, Handel was boosted by $18.2 million in outside spending, including $6.5 million from the House leadership-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund super-PAC and $6.7 million from the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) congratulated Handel on "a hard-earned and well-deserved victory".

In Fulton County, officials became aware in the afternoon of one Sandy Springs voter who was mistakenly turned away in the morning by a poll worker. But the ashen, sour and dejected faces on CNN Tuesday night following Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff's defeat made the last 10 days of Republicans' worry and anxiety worthwhile. In all of these cases, Democrats tried to make the election a referendum about Trump. It targeted Republican voters, got out the vote and made clear that Republicans are just as strong today as when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in November previous year.

Besides allowing national Republicans to exhale, Handel ended a personal losing streak, including failed primary bids for governor in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2014. He said that "this is the beginning of something much bigger than us".

"There are more of us than we thought", said Tricia Gephardt, an Ossoff volunteer. Ossoff is running against Republican Karen Handel, who is trying to hang on to a district her party has controlled since 1979. National Republicans' House campaign arm added $4.5 million, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce chipped in another seven figures.

In her victory remarks, Handel acknowledged the shooting and paid homage to Scalise, whom she said would frequently text her encouraging messages before he was injured.

Democrats also lost a special election in neighbouring SC on Tuesday, where Republican Ralph Norman easily prevailed over Democrat Archie Parnell in a seat formerly held by Republican Mick Mulvaney, who is now serving as Trump's budget director.

In Georgia, Republicans aim to hang onto congressional seat