Democrat Jon Ossoff is projected to advance to a runoff in Georgia’s special election after failing to clinch a majority of the vote on Tuesday in order to avoid another election in late June.
Ossoff led the crowded 18-candidate field in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. But since he didn’t clear the 50 percent threshold, he will now compete in a runoff with the second-place finisher, Republican Karen Handel, on June 20.
From The Hill
Democratic hopes that Ossoff could win outright were buoyed early Tuesday evening by promising early vote returns, but Ossoff’s vote share continued to drop as more precincts reported their votes. Reports of technical glitches stemming from Fulton County delayed the results for hours as Ossoff hovered right at that 50 percent threshold.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Ossoff had 48.1 percent and Handel had 19.8 percent.
While Ossoff ran far better than any other Democrat had in this district before, narrowly missing the runoff will be a disappointment for the party because it allows Republicans to reload and unite behind one candidate. But Democrats are still heartened by the gains they’ve made in the red district.
Democrats rallied behind Ossoff, a 30-year-old investigative filmmaker, in the hopes that he could clear the field in one night and deliver a major upset in a district President Trump narrowly won a few months ago. The hope—to make the special election a referendum on Trump and serve as an early indicator ahead of the 2018 midterm elections when Democrats need to flip at least two dozen seats to take back the House majority.
Despite not clearing the field on Tuesday, Democrats harnessed their base’s energy and made a race for a seat that has trended red for decades competitive. Ossoff received an abundance of national support, including paid staffers from the House Democrats’ campaign arm, and hauled in an unprecedented $8.3 million in three months.
Ossoff called out to those successes as he addressed supporters just before midnight, with the results still in flux.
“No matter what the outcome is tonight, whether we take it all or we fight on, we have defied the odds, we have shattered expectations,” he said.
“We are changing the world and your voices are going to ring out across this state and across this country. We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary.”
New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shared a similar message in a statement as he lauded Ossoff’s lead.
“Ossoff has already defied the odds in this long-held Republican seat, and it’s clear that he has the enthusiasm and support he needs to be a very strong contender against Karen Handel in the runoff,” he said.
“Not only are these results an indication of Ossoff’s impressive grassroots campaign and powerful economic message, it’s clear that voters strongly oppose Republican-controlled Washington and its priorities, and are ready to send more independent voices to Congress.”
For decades, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District had been considered a safe Republican seat. But Democrats have been licking their chops at the prospect of flipping the suburban Atlanta district ever since Trump won the district by less than 2 percentage points in November.
As the race grew more heated and polls numbers showed Ossoff not far from 50 percent, Republicans grew increasingly nervous about their chances and started to pour millions of dollars into ad campaigns that attacked Ossoff as the “handpicked candidate” of House Democratic leadership in Washington and questioned his national security credentials. The pressure only increased after Democrats posted a strong showing last week in a special election in another House that had been seen as reliably red, Kansas’s 4th District.
Even Trump weighed in last-minute, recording a robocall to rebuke Ossoff and tweeting that the Georgia Democrat is a “super liberal” and claiming he supports illegal immigration and tax increases. Ossoff fired back in a statement that Trump was “misinformed.”
Soon after CNN called the race a runoff around midnight, Trump tweeted at Ossoff’s expense.
“Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” he said.
Looking ahead to the runoff, Ossoff’s chances of winning the reliably conservative seat grow steeper as the field of 18 candidates shrinks to two.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel previewed the party’s line of attack for the runoff in a statement that echoed Trump’s involvement in the race and chiding Democrats for “wasting millions of dollars.”
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