Trump shadows over Georgia's 6th district run-off

Faith Castro
June 20, 2017

A spate of retirements from nervous incumbents who lack the stomach for a bitter re-election battle could be avoidable: A Handel victory could show anxious party members - particularly those in suburban districts that Democrats are targeting - that they can still rely on a strategy of turning out their base in Republican-leaning districts, even if Trump is unpopular there. It has been held by Republicans, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, since 1979.

The Democrats are looking to capitalise on the president's low personal approval ratings to win Georgia's sixth district seat.

But with Democrats falling short in those races, and the Republican expected to win in SC, all eyes have turned to Georgia.

In a nod to the closeness of the race, Handel and Ossoff got some last-minute help Monday from other politicians. It's a historically Republican seat that Donald Trump barely won last November, full of the educated suburban voters who populate key swing districts in Florida, California and across the South.

Should Democrats fail to convert at least one of the special election seats, it could be a demoralizing blow for administration opponents who have seen these races as early tests of the national strength of an anti-Trump movement. Making his first bid for office, he's become a symbol of the Trump opposition movement.

Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker, is seeking support from moderate voters with ads focused on the economy and national spending, while Handel, 55, is focusing on her experience as Georgia secretary of state and the leader of the state's largest county commission.

That all means there are many more people who typically vote Republican in the district than Democrats.

Handel has handled Trump gingerly.

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An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll released in June showed that close to six in 10 voters held a negative view of her in the district.

The president said: "KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS".

But that hasn't stopped from Trump from weighing in on the race.

The president took to Twitter early Tuesday to slam Ossoff, saying the democrat "wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security". Ossoff has said the address is close to Emory University, where his fiance attends medical school. She didn't mention him once at any of her events or rallies in the final days of the race, and notably neglected to bring him up while campaigning with Price and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor.

But as an increasingly well-educated, diverse suburban district it is exactly the kind of territory which Democrats need to flip if they want to gain the 24 seats necessary to reclaim the House of Representatives in 2018.

Democrats have plenty of energy nationally, but it hasn't translated to the electoral scoreboard. Republicans are favored to hold a fourth seat up Tuesday in SC, while Democrats already held their lone open seat in a California special election. In special congressional elections in Kansas and Montana they've strained to see green shoots.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was hit and seriously injured during shooting.

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