Georgia special election candidates to debate for 1st time

PHOTO: Candidates for Georgias Sixth Congressional seat Karen Handel, left, and Jon Ossoff, right. PlayAP/Reuters
WATCH Georgia congressional race heads to runoff

In the most expensive, high-profile special election of 2017, Georgia candidates Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are slated to debate each other face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday night on ABC News affiliate WSB-TV.

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This election in northern Atlanta, just two weeks away, is largely seen as a gauge of anti-Trump motivation and a signal for a potential Democratic wave coming in 2018.

The debate, moderated by Channel 2 Action News Anchor Justin Farmer, marks the first time the two candidates will put their issue positions head to head on stage before voters go to the polls. The candidates are slated to debate again on Thursday and are negotiating potential additional debates.

Tonight's debate will also feature panelists WSB Radio’s Condace Pressley, Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Greg Bluestein and WSB-TV Political Reporter Richard Elliot. The debate will be streamed live at at 8 p.m.

Here's what to watch over the last two weeks of this election:

Looking back: What happened in April

Democrats were hoping for a surprise win in Georgia, but they came up just short in April's special election in a district held by Republicans for nearly four decades.

Ossoff led a splintered GOP field by a wide margin, but did not top the necessary 50-percent threshold in the race for Georgia's 6th congressional district, prompting a runoff election in June against Handel.

Both Democrats and Republicans will invest heavily in the seat; Ossoff has already raised more than $8 million over the last several months. Ultimately, roughly a dozen Republican candidates received a combined 51 percent of the vote, while Ossoff and four other Democratic candidates received 49 percent.

Still, the GOP side was divided between candidates with very different views of President Donald Trump. Motivating the same voters -- many of whom backed other Republicans in the primary -- to support Handel may prove problematic when there is so little room for error.

Meet the candidates

Ossoff is a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former House staffer. "We have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations," Ossoff told supporters April 18 before the race had been projected. "So bring it on." He has come under fire because he doesn't live in the district.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson recorded a radio ad for Ossoff, and other celebrities like Alyssa Milano have gotten involved in get-out-the-vote efforts.

Handel is the state's former secretary of state. She mounted unsuccessful runs for governor in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2012. She did not embrace Trump during the campaign, but took a congratulatory call from him and said she would accept a visit to the White House.

“He just called to say congratulations and encourage me and let me know that as we go into June 20, that it's all hands on deck for Republicans and we take it very seriously,” Handel said April 19.

What is Trump's next move?

President Trump has been very engaged in the race, recording a robocall to help get out the vote and tweeting multiple times during the primary.

"Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG 'R' win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!" Trump tweeted about the result.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump will campaign for Handel "if needed," saying Trump is prepared to do "everything he can to maintain majorities to further the party."