Inside Georgia's special election to fill Tom Price's House seat

Voters in Georgia's 6th congressional district head to the polls Tuesday

June 16, 2017, 11:13 AM

— -- On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls for the special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district. Early voting is already underway in what has become one of the most closely-watched races this year.

The 6th congressional district includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, north of Atlanta.

Why the seat is open

The seat was formerly held by Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services. Price was elected to a sixth term in the 2016 election. But President Donald Trump tapped Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 10, leaving a vacancy in the House.

Who are the candidates?

In April, a crowded field of 18 candidates was weaned down to the two remaining in the runoff to fill Price’s vacant seat.

Jon Ossoff, a documentary film producer and former congressional aide, emerged from the field of five Democratic candidates to finish first, with over 48 percent of the vote in the primary. Had Ossoff received over 50 percent in April, he would have won the seat outright and avoided the runoff.

Instead, he faces former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel who finished in a distant second place behind Ossoff, but ahead of 10 other Republicans with just under 20 percent of the primary vote.

Handel previously launched unsuccessful primary bids for Georgia governor and for the U.S. Senate.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a House Republican super PAC, made an attack ad against the 30-year-old Democratic candidate, using old college videos of Ossoff dressed up as Han Solo and singing parody songs, in an attempt to portray him as inexperienced.

Why the race has garnered attention

Trying to deliver a knockout punch in a red U.S. House seat, Democrats hope to prove that backlash to Trump's agenda across the country is already resulting in losses for the GOP. Many also view the race as a referendum on Trump's performance so far in office. Special elections in Kansas in April and Montana in May resulted in a close calls for the GOP, in what are typically solid Republican districts.

Ossoff has the backing of prominent Georgia House members, Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, as well as Democrats' congressional strong arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Donald Trump is putting everything at risk, that's why I'm supporting Jon Ossoff," Lewis says in a campaign ad. "I've known Jon Ossoff for many years. I know he will hold Donald Trump accountable."

The race has also attracted star power -- actor Samuel L Jackson has cut a radio ad for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and actress Alyssa Milano was offering free rides to the polls during early voting in March.

How Trump has gotten involved

Trump recorded a robocall going out to voters in the district: "If you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare, and flood our country with illegal immigrants,” the president said.

He's also tweeted multiple times, saying Ossoff is a "super liberal Democrat" who would be a "disaster for Congress." Trump tweeted that a runoff election would be an "easy win."

What to know about the district

Trump won Georgia's 6th district by a little less than two points back in November. Still, Price won the district by 23 percentage points.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich held the seat for two decades before ceding it to former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. A Democrat hasn't occupied the seat since 1979.

Other highlights from the race

Ossoff has come under fire because he doesn't live in the 6th Congressional district, which also means that he can't cast a ballot for himself. In an interview with CNN, he said he was temporarily living a mile and a half outside the district to help support his girlfriend attending medical school at nearby Emory University, but plans to move back.

This week, a suspicious package was reported in Handel's neighborhood, containing "threatening letters and a suspicious substance," according to a release from her campaign. ABC affiliate WSB-TV later reported that the substance turned out to be baking soda.

Ossoff's camp also reported that threats have been made against his campaign, saying that they have "intensified" in the lead-up to the election.

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