Republican Karen Handel Beats Democrat Ossoff in High-stakes Georgia Race

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Democrat Jon Ossoff addresses his supporters after his defeat in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017.
Democrat Jon Ossoff addresses his supporters after his defeat in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017. Credit: Christopher Aluka Berry/REUTER
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

The special congressional election in the sixth district in Georgia, the most expensive in the history of U.S. politics and the leading political news story of the last days, ended early Wednesday morning in a victory for Karen Handel, the Republican nominee, who managed to defeat her Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff. With almost 90 percent of the vote counted, Handel held a five-point lead with 52 percent of the vote.

Handel's victory was welcomed by the Republican Party and U.S. President Donald Trump, after Democrats hoped to win this traditionally Republican district, which held a special election after its previous Congressman, Republican Tom Price, was chosen by Trump to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price won the 2016 election in this district by 23 percent, a much larger margin that Handel's win on Tuesday night, something which could give some hope to the Democrats as they prepare for the 2018 mid-term elections.

Matthew Levy and Sheila Levy are overcome with emotion after Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff delivers a concession speech on June 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.Credit: JOE RAEDLE/AFP

>> Jon Ossoff vs. Donald Trump: Why the Georgia special election results matter <<

Ossoff, who is Jewish, was one of the youngest candidates to run for a congressional seat in recent years (he was born in 1987.) Before announcing his run, he was a congressional aide and a documentary filmmaker. Handel is a former Secretary of State for the state of Georgia. During the campaign, she criticized Ossoff for residing just outside of the district's boundaries, a charge to which Ossoff replied by saying that he grew up in the district, and moved nearby in order to live with his fiancée who is attending medical school. 

Karen Handel thanks her supporters after the first returns came in during her election night party in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20, 2017.Credit: Curtis Compton/AP

In another special election that took place on Tuesday night in the 5th district of South Carolina, Republican candidate Ralph Norman beat his Democratic opponent Archie Parnell, 52 percent to 48 percent. This special election, which received much less national media attention than the Georgia one, ended up being much closer than initially expected.

It was called after the district's previous member of Congress, Mick Mulvaney, was appointed by Trump as his Director of the Office of Managment and Budget. Muvlvaney carried the district in the 2016 election by a margin of more than 20 percent, yet on Tuesday, the Republican held on to it with a much smaller victory.

In the aftermath of the two elections, both political parties will now try to spin the results to promote their agendas. Republican politicians and strategists stated on Tuesday night that "a win is a win," no matter the margin, and that despite Trump's low approval ratings in recent polls, Republican voters in contested districts still support the president, even if by a smaller margin. Democrats will claim that the close results in both races show that the 2018 election will allow them to "expand the map" into districts that have been considered reliably Republican for many years. 

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