A special election in Georgia's sixth congressional district to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price saw Republican Republican Karen Handel fend off a spirited challenge by Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday night. The highly scrutinized race saw national attention focus on the northern suburbs of Atlanta, and was viewed by many as a bellwether for the Trump presidency.
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Ossoff and Handel emerged from a crowded field of 18 primary candidates in April, after Ossoff fell just shy of the 50 percent of the vote needed to capture the vacant seat. Handel garnered over 19 percent of the vote, beating out 10 other Republican candidates.
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. The traditionally red suburban Atlanta district just barely tipped for Trump in November and Democrats are seeking to capitalize on backlash against the president.
Ossoff, 30, was a first-time office seeker who was raised in the district just north of Georgia's largest city, but faced criticism for currently living outside the area he hoped to represent -- a situation he claimed was temporary. He holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and a master's from the London School of Economics.
For five years, Ossoff worked as a staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who represents the state's fourth congressional district. It was in this position that the Democrat says he "held a top-secret security clearance while working with [the] military and intelligence community on counterterrorism, naval, air, and cybersecurity programs," according to his campaign website. Johnson and fellow Atlanta-area Congressman John Lewis, whom Ossoff interned for, have been vocal supporters.
But Republicans attacked the Democrat for his inexperience and youth. In one advertisement, produced by the conservative super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund, Ossoff's national security bona fides are called inconsequential -- some of his work experience took place when he was still an undergraduate at Georgetown -- and he is shown singing with his college a capella group and dressed as "Star Wars" character Han Solo while discussing beer kegs.
Prior to his run for Congress, Ossoff owned a small business that produced investigative documentaries. His campaign website touts that the company's work "has taken down human traffickers, exposed dozens of corrupt officials around the world and uncovered atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq."
Trump, who didn't endorse a particular Republican candidate during the primary, tweeted in April, "Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job Karen Handel! It is now Hollywood vs. Georgia on June 20th."
Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job Karen Handel! It is now Hollywood vs. Georgia on June 20th.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
The president took specific aim at Ossoff earlier in the year, writing that he would be "VERY weak on crime and illegal immigration," "bad for jobs" and "will raise your taxes."
Democrat Jon Ossoff would be a disaster in Congress. VERY weak on crime and illegal immigration, bad for jobs and wants higher taxes. Say NO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2017
Republicans must get out today and VOTE in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win! Dem Ossoff will raise your taxes-very bad on crime & 2nd A.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2017