Karen Handel wins runoff for seat in United States House of Representatives

Friday, June 23, 2017

On Tuesday, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff election for Georgia's sixth congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives by about 13,000 votes, roughly 53% to 47%. The two candidates together had spent more money on this campaign than on any other House contest in U.S. history, over US$50 million.

The congressional seat was left vacant when its previous congressman, Tom Price, accepted an offer to serve in President Donald Trump's cabinet. The sixth district is considered heavily Republican and has not been held by a Democrat since the 1970s. Despite this, 30-year-old Ossoff nearly won the initial election in April, with 48.1% of the vote. At that time, among several Republican candidates, Handel came away with 19.8% of the vote.

Some, including Ossoff himself, characterized this election a chance for voters to indicate whether they truly approve or disapprove of the Trump presidency, saying that the election could "send a message that will be heard across the country and around the world." After the election, he conceded, saying, "As darkness has crept across this planet, [Ossoff supporters] have provided a beacon of hope for people here in Georgia and people around the world[.] We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight."

Both candidates received death threats during the campaign and spoke with the press about violence in U.S. politics. In remarks to The Guardian, Handel said, "The lack of civility in society as a whole, some of it, I believe, is very much fueled by social media and frankly, it's fueled by the fact that journalism is not journalism any more. It's tabloid. [...] The anger has been from the left with groups of trackers showing up and literally adopting a gang-like posture and virtually stalking individuals."

Ossoff commented as well: "This is a deep-rooted problem in American politics right now which is going to take work and bipartisan commitment to try to heal wounds and focus on substance instead of fear-mongering and slander." He specifically objected to an ad that he said politicized the recent shooting of Republican Representative Stephen Scalise by saying that violent leftists were voting for Ossoff.

Over 140,000 people, an extraordinarily high number for a special election in the area, voted early.