MARIETTA — Despite polls and pundits dubbing it a tight race in the days prior, Republican Karen Handel did more than squeak out a win against Democrat Jon Ossoff in Tuesday’s runoff election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
Handel earned 128,093 votes or 52.7 percent to Ossoff’s 115,014 votes or 47.3 percent in the district that includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, according to unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
“Tonight reminds us — it reminds me — that anything is possible through hard work, determination, grit and people who believe in you. Thank you for believing in me,” Handel told supporters at her election night party.
Of the three counties in the district, Handel had the strongest showing in Cobb, taking 58.2 percent of ballots 45,625 votes to Ossoff’s 32,833 ballots, or 41.8 percent, according to unofficial results.
But Tuesday’s results are likely to be dwarfed by another set of numbers — the amount of dollars spent in the race. It’s been deemed the most expensive House race in U.S. history, with Issue One, a nonpartisan political reform and government ethics group, estimating the total amount spent on the race by candidates and outside groups at $59.6 million.
Handel’s victory keeps in GOP hands a seat that has been Republican for nearly four decades, starting with Newt Gingrich in 1979, followed by Johnny Isakson and Tom Price, the latter of whom resigned in February when he was confirmed as the new secretary of health and human services.
Tuesday’s election concludes the race that began this winter with a crowded field: in all, 11 Republicans, five Democrats and two independents ran in the first round of the special election in April. Tuesday’s runoff was scheduled after no candidate won the April contest outright.
Many pundits had considered the election a bellwether of President Donald Trump’s popularity after his first few months in office. Trump himself had also been personally involved in the race, visiting Atlanta in April after Handel advanced to the runoff, attending a private fundraiser for the candidate. His involvement also included messages from his personal Twitter account, with two tweets on Tuesday going out hours ahead of the polls’ 7 a.m. opening that endorsed Handel and slammed Ossoff.
Other high-profile Republicans who made appearances for Handel in recent weeks included as Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and two members of Trump’s cabinet with Georgia ties — Price and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
COBB VOTERS SPEAK OUT
Sharon Morelock, an accountant from Marietta, cast her vote for Handel, saying that while Ossoff’s commercials claimed that he would go to Washington and balance the budget, she doubted that someone new to politics would be able to have such an impact. While the race is Ossoff’s first foray into politics, Handel has served as Georgia’s secretary of state and the chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
“(Ossoff’s) commercials say ‘Do you want to vote for a career politician?’ To me, that equals someone who knows what they’re doing,” Morelock said.
But voters on both sides seemed to agree on at least one thing — that there had been too many advertisements in the two months since the April 18 special election.
“I think (the ads were) overkill,” said Romonica Long of east Cobb, a school nurse who cast her vote for Ossoff. “I think (he) did a great job with getting a lot of mailings out, so I think that put him in the forefront when it comes to making his platform visible to us.”
Shelby Ogletree, a legal secretary from Marietta, said she believes all the TV ads likely didn’t change anyone’s minds. The Republican-leaning voter supported Handel on Tuesday, as she had back in April.
“I think you’re either a Republican or a Democrat — no matter who it is on the ballot, you’re going to vote with what your political leaning regardless of who it is. And they’re back to back, so you get three of hers and three of his in one commercial break,” Ogletree said. “At this point, I just want to watch my ‘Wheel of Fortune.’”