Republicans in Georgia and beyond are breathing a sigh of relief this morning after the results of the Sixth Congressional District’s special election. Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff will head to a run off against Republican challenger Karen Handel after he barely fell short of reaching the 50 percent total that would have won him the seat straight away.
Out of a crowded field that included twelve GOP candidates, Ossoff emerged in first place with 49 percent of the vote, followed by Handel – the former Georgia Secretary of State – who obtained 19 percent. Republican Bob Gray came in third place with 10 percent and will not participate in the runoff election.
The result comes after Republicans criticized Democrats for soliciting millions of dollars in donations from liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, and Hollywood in order to deploy a hefty ad campaign in Ossoff’s favor.
“Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, Big ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” President Donald Trump tweeted just after midnight, pointing to his get-out-the-vote efforts that saw him blast Ossoff on both social media and robocalls.
Democrats painted the election as a referendum of the Trump administration’s policies, hoping that Trump’s narrow margin of just one percent over rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 would translate into a strong left-leaning voting bloc. They also coalesced around Ossoff and not four other Democrats, forcing the GOP to adopt a different strategy.
Unable to compete with Ossoff’s ground game and caught off guard by his establishment backing, the Republicans dumped millions of dollars into ramping up voter turnout and countering Ossoff’s appeal to moderates.
Heading into the June runoff, the Republican party does not plan to make the same mistakes again.
“Karen Handel will be an effective representative for Georgia’s 6th Congressional district,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement, “and I’m looking forward to helping her win this election on June 20th.”