Trump urges voters to back Republican in Tuesday's special elections

Frederick Owens
June 21, 2017

In Georgia, the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel has made it the most expensive in the history of races for the US House of Representatives. "On Tuesday, #VoteKarenHandel", said the president on Twitter.

Following Price, Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary and a former Georgia governor, was even more direct.

As voters headed to the polls in Georgia's hotly contested 6th District race on Tuesday, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff insisted that it does not matter to voters that he does not live inside the district he hopes to win.

The battle for the 6th district seat once held by ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has consumed both parties in recent weeks, becoming the most expensive House race in USA history.

Seats like this in metro Atlanta that have formed the backbone of GOP power for decades but where Trump is only marginally popular and struggled against Democrat Hillary Clinton past year, will determine the fate of the House majority in 2018.

An outright win in Georgia would serve as validation of the party's overall strategy.

So far, GOP candidates have prevailed in special elections to fill House seats previously held by Republicans Trump appointed to government posts.

"It's a race that we have to win", said state Sen. After all, 71 incumbent Republicans sit in districts that are - per the Cook Political Report's partisan voter index - less GOP-leaning than Georgia's 6th District.

Before the primary, President Donald Trump singled out Ossoff, a former film producer and ex-congressional aide who gained traction in the crowded field thanks to support from prominent legislators and a strong fundraising effort.

Once the votes are counted, one party will proclaim that its victory is a harbinger of sweeping success to come, and the other will say it means nothing. It would also give progressives who pumped $23 million into Ossoff's campaign something to celebrate.

Republican Party leaders thought having total control of Washington would end the gridlock of the Obama years.

Ms Handel came a distant second to Mr Ossoff in the April election, but the Republican vote had been split among 11 candidates. As Politico reported, more than 140,000 ballots were cast as of early voting deadline on Friday.

Ossoff has raised nearly $24 million, five times as much as Handel, but GOP outside groups have spent heavily to keep her in the race.

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"We actually have to have victories", Rooney said. It's led to attacks from Republicans who accused Ossoff of inflating his resume.

President Trump won the 2016 election because he was able to win a sizable share of voters who didn't like him.

Howard Franklin, founder of political consultancy Ohio River South in Atlanta, views the high-stakes race as a test for the new administration. "He said, 'It's going to be a late night, '" Cole recalled.

Party insiders say Georgia is not a must-win given the GOP advantages here, but winning in a district like this could put them on their way to a successful 2018, and it would embolden donors and volunteers nationally - and potentially boost candidate recruiting in friendlier districts.

The House seat was left open by Trump's appointment of former congressman Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.

"We want that same energy", Kim said. "That's why we're so focused on getting out the vote".

Between the Ossoff and Handel campaigns and outside groups, at least $40 million has been spent so far on this race. Elissa Slotkin, a former Defense Department official, is moving toward a campaign against Rep. Mike Bishop of MI.

Still, all four of those seats are traditionally Republican.

And in California, Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran who won $266 million in the lottery, has been meeting with strategists about a challenge to Rep. Ed Royce, according to Democrats familiar with his preparations.

To win, Ossoff will need something approaching presidential-level turnout from Democratic base voters - and African-Americans are a crucial component of that base.

Republicans won House special election victories this year in GOP-held districts in Kansas and Montana and hope to add Georgia to that string.

Both parties have poured money into the race.

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