Han­del looks to unite frag­mented GOP to beat Os­soff in June runoff

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Repub­li­cans nar­rowly man­aged to avoid an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat in Ge­or­gia’s spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion this week, but their chance of win­ning the runoff in June de­pends on forg­ing unity that’s been sorely lack­ing in the GOP since Pres­i­dent Trump took of­fice.

Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff came close to win­ning the race for Ge­or­gia’s empty House seat, with 48 per­cent of the vote — just shy of the 50 per­cent that would have given him an out­right vic­tory.

In­stead, the race heads to a June 20 runoff with GOP can­di­date Karen Han­del, the run­ner-up who emerged with 19.7 per­cent of the vote.

All told, the 11 Repub­li­cans in the race split 51 per­cent of the vote, while Democrats — Mr. Os­soff and four oth­ers — ac­counted for 49 per­cent of the vote.

Ms. Han­del said as long as the GOP can unify, she’ll win the runoff.

“We all have to rise above it,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” pro­gram. “So we are all, in­clud­ing the very good 10 other Repub­li­can can­di­dates, we are all go­ing to be united be­cause we know what our job is over the next 60 days.”

The seat, which was left va­cant when Rep. Tom Price re­signed to be­come Pres­i­dent Trump’s health sec­re­tary ear­lier this year, is con­sid­ered GOP ter­ri­tory — though Mr. Trump barely won it in last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Lib­eral groups have turned the race into a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on Mr. Trump’s early ten­ure, and vowed Wed­nes­day to keep the pressure up.

“Repub­li­cans are be­ing forced to sweat ruby-red dis­tricts, like this one, be­cause or­di­nary peo­ple in Ge­or­gia and com­mu­ni­ties across this coun­try fo­cused on re­sist­ing Don­ald Trump’s hate are mak­ing elec­tions like tonight’s nail biters,” said Jim Dean, chair­man of Democ­racy for Amer­ica.

The re­sult of the runoff will de­pend on how quickly Repub­li­cans can patch up rifts that de­vel­oped dur­ing the cam­paign, and that have also ap­peared in Wash­ing­ton, where spats over how to re­peal Oba­macare and how to over­haul the tax code have di­vided the GOP.

Still, Mrs. Han­del’s GOP ri­vals in Ge­or­gia sig­naled they’ll help her.

“I said, ‘Of course, Karen, you are the nom­i­nee,’ ” Bruce Lev­ell, who served as direc­tor of Don­ald Trump’s mi­nor­ity out­reach in 2016 and re­ceived less than one per­cent of the vote, said, re­call­ing a late-night phone call from Mrs. Han­del. “‘What would I look like with all the preach­ing I have done to turn around and say I am not go­ing to help you?’ ”

Bob Gray, an­other for­mer GOP op­po­nent who fin­ished third in the race, also said he’ll back Mrs. Han­del.

“We are go­ing to rally be­hind Karen Han­del,” Mr. Gray said on Twit­ter. “We wish her God­speed.”

Pro-life groups cel­e­brated the Han­del win, call­ing her a “fearless cham­pion of un­born chil­dren and their mothers” and the Tea Party Ex­press on Wed­nes­day en­dorsed Mrs. Han­del af­ter stay­ing out of the open­ing round.

“It is clear by Karen Han­del’s com­mand­ing vic­tory over her Repub­li­can op­po­nents that the pri­mary process worked and the strong­est can­di­date has emerged,” said Tay­lor Bu­dowich, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Tea Party Ex­press.

The Club for Growth, though, was less en­thused about Mrs. Han­del’s win. The group, which ran at­tack ads against her in the run-up to Tues­day’s con­test, said it would prob­a­bly not pour any more money into the race.

Mr. Trump, who urged Repub­li­cans to head to the polls Tues­day to push the con­test into over­time, called to con­grat­u­late Mrs. Han­del. And the White House chided Democrats for fail­ing to cross the 50 per­cent mark.

“I think this was a big loss for them,” said Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer. “The bot­tom line is they went all in on it; they said that their goal was to get over 50 per­cent. They came up short.”

Tom Perez, the chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, de­clared vic­tory and said his party will stay united be­hind Mr. Os­soff.

“I’d rather be Jon Os­soff than Karen Han­del right now,” Mr. Perez said on CNN. “We have a lot of wind at our back. The pro­gres­sive en­ergy out there is pal­pa­ble and the volunteers are out there and we’re go­ing to be knock­ing on doors and the DNC is all in and other part­ners are all in.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Repub­li­can can­di­date for Ge­or­gia’s Sixth Con­gres­sional seat Karen Han­del had 19.7 per­cent of the vote in the spe­cial elec­tion Tues­day. She will face off against Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff in a June 20 runoff.

Jon Os­soff, Demo­cratic can­di­date for Ge­or­gia’s Sixth Con­gres­sional seat, was 2 per­cent shy of an out­right vic­tory in the spe­cial elec­tion on Tues­day.

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