Brookhaven, GA, June 20, 2017 – by Larry Felton Johnson for The Post, Trey Benton contributing – Republican Karen Handel won the runoff to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. CNN called the election for Handel at 10 p.m., when the results stood at 53-47 percent. Democrat Jon Ossoff conceded soon thereafter.
Handel established an early lead Tuesday, and except for one brief period early in the evening. By 12:17 AM, the gap narrowed to Handel at 51.87% to Ossoff’s 48.13%, where it appears the final count has rested.
Handel and her supporters gathered at Brookhaven’s Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina. Ossoff packed his election night party into the ballroom at the Westin Perimeter North hotel with volunteers and supporters.
After the night was called in her favor Handel said, “On April 18, I said to everyone it was going to be a very tight race and it was going to require all hands on deck, and that’s exactly what we had. There are literally scores of people to thank.” Handel included Dunwoody and Brookhaven Councilmembers, as well as Governor Nathan Deal and President Donald Trump in her thank you list.
Speaking to his supporters Ossoff said, “[There are] more than 12,000 of you who, as darkness has crept across this planet, have provided a beacon of hope here in Georgia. This small community in Georgia … has become the epicenter of politics. This isn’t about me. It’s about an extraordinary community and an extraordinary moment in history, the first opportunity in this country, to make a statement about values that can still unite people.”
After the race was effectively over, leaning Republican Steven Tanner from Roswell told The Post he supported Handel in her victory, but had some strong thoughts about where the Republican Party is headed. “It’s time Republicans get their act together as a party. Even though this win is significant, it really means nothing if we cannot get our heads out of our you know where and listen to the people,” said Tanner. “Everyone I talk to is hopeful Trump will lead but he has proven to be very inexperienced. Obviously. We need experience. I chose Handel because even though her experience may have some flaws, at least she has some.”
Many of the people in the Ossoff party crowd said they were motivated to campaign for Ossoff by opposition to Trump’s policies. Jill Vogin of Dunwoody said, when asked why she supported Ossoff, “Oh my gosh, so many reasons. First of all, obviously I am not crazy about Donald Trump. I think he represents the worst of everything in this country, and I think the Republicans have made it known they are looking to this election to see whether they can continue to support him. And I think that the hate you’re seeing, all over the place is because he was allowed to get away with that during the 2016 campaign.”
Renee Wilson of DeKalb County said Ossoff’s defeat made her sad and that she was hoping for a change. “There’s still an opportunity for change. I’m working really hard volunteering for the Stacey Abrams campaign,” she said. “So there are different levels of change we can make happen. And I’m looking forward to that.”
Erin Long came to the election party with her fellow East Cobb friends, Karen Schwartz and Amanda Suarez. Erin told The Post, “It’s disappointing, obviously. We were hoping for a win. We knew it was an uphill battle. It’s a red district, but we were hopeful. This is the first time that we (in East Cobb) have seen a real 50/50 split in the signs in the neighborhoods. So we were hoping, and we’ve all been campaigning since before the primary. We feel like the gerrymandering is not fair, the system is not representing the people. And we’re going to keep fighting …”
The district has been in Republican hands since Newt Gingrich won his first term as U.S. representative from the area in the 1978 election. Since then the representatives from the 6th District have been Johnny Isakson, now a U.S. Senator from Georgia, and Tom Price, who vacated the seat to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.
Both Democrats and Republicans considered the election critical to their parties’ future electoral prospects, and according to an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over $50 million has been spent on the race for the seat. Both sides see the race as an indicator of how the public’s opinion of the Trump administration will affect the 2018 midterm congressional elections.