Usually Republican Georgia district faces runoff for seat in U.S. House of Representatives after Democrat nearly wins outright

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, with slightly over 48% of the vote, Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly missed the simple majority that would have awarded him the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia's usually Republican sixth congressional district. Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are now to participate in a runoff election, vote to be held June 20.

The district, a suburb of Atlanta, was represented by then-Congressman Tom Price who left when President Donald Trump offered him the position of secretary of health. The election drew an unusual amount of media attention, some of it over Ossoff's fundraising in which he garnered over US$8 million for his efforts, campaigning opposite TV ads and other efforts from the several Republican candidates.

The election drew several Tweets from President Trump, including one expressing confidence that Ossoff will lose: "Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG 'R' win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!"

Ossoff himself was more positive: "We may not know the outcome for sometime but let me tell you this, there is no doubt that this is already a victory for the ages[...] That no matter what the outcome is tonight — whether we take it all or whether we fight on — we have survived the odds. We have shattered expectations."

Much of the media has treated intra-term elections like these as a referendum on Trump's presidency. Last week a similarly conservative district in Kansas went to a Republican but by a far narrower margin than had been expected. Many Ossoff supporters cited the new president's actions and policies among their reasons for supporting a candidate from the opposite party. Those who supported a Republican candidate tended to cite local issues when interviewed.

"[G]etting the 24 seats we need to take back the House is suddenly a real possibility, GOP [Republican] gerrymander or not," commented Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. "It also potentially puts the Senate in play, while certainly protecting our endangered red-state incumbents. All of this, and we're still in Trump's supposed 'honeymoon' period."

Handel, one of several Republican choices offered to voters on Tuesday, has served as Georgia's secretary of state and once sought the Republican nomination for senator. She received 19.8% of the vote. Ossoff is a former congressional staffer but a first-time candidate.