Democrat Jon Ossoff fell just short of the 50 percent mark in Tuesday's special election for a House seat in Georgia's 6th congressional district, an affluent and reliably conservative area in Atlanta's northern suburbs that has sent Republicans to Congress since electing Newt Gingrich in 1978. With 88 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Ossoff had 48.3 percent of the vote in an 18-candidate field. He will face Republican Karen Handel in a June 20 runoff election. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, was running a distant second place with 19.7 percent of the vote.
Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer, told supporters Tuesday night that even if he has to face Handel in a runoff, "there is no doubt that this is already a victory for the ages." His campaign has "defied the odds," he said. "We have shattered expectations," and "we will be ready to fight on and win in June if it's necessary." Handel, 55, dismissed Ossoff as a "young man" beholden to liberal Democrats and said she would "kick a little Ossoff" in June. She did not mention President Trump, who had been urging voters to defeat Ossoff on Twitter and in robocalls.
Ossoff had trounced Handel and all other candidates in fundraising, raising $8.3 million while Handel's benefitted from $1.3 million from the national conservative group Ending Spending. Republican groups had also poured $5 million into defeating Ossoff. Georgia's 6th district is the most highly educated GOP-controlled district in America, and Trump only narrowly won it in 2016, even as Tom Price, the incumbent who is now health and human services secretary, crushed his Democratic challenger with 62 percent of the vote.