Han­del win deals fi­nal elec­tion blow to Democrats

Trump-tied Repub­li­can de­feats Os­soff in runoff

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

ROSWELL, GA. | The high hopes Democrats had of strik­ing a po­lit­i­cal blow to Pres­i­dent Trump in the bat­tle for Ge­or­gia’s open con­gres­sional seat were shat­tered Tues­day.

Repub­li­can Karen Han­del emerged vic­to­ri­ous in the runoff race for the U.S. House seat in Ge­or­gia’s 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict — beat­ing back the “Re­sis­tance” move­ment and de­fend­ing a seat in the wealthy At­lanta sub­urbs that Repub­li­cans have held for nearly 40 years.

Mrs. Han­del, a for­mer secretary of state, was de­clared the win­ner more than three hours af­ter the polls closed at 7 p.m., over­com­ing a well-fi­nanced chal­lenge from Demo­crat Jon Os­soff in the most ex­pen­sive U.S. House race in his­tory.

With 168 of the 208 precincts counted, the net­works and The As­so­ci­ated Press called the race for Mrs. Han­del, who led Mr. Os­soff, a for­mer con­gres­sional aide and doc­u­men­tary film­maker, by a 52.5 per­cent to 47.5 per­cent mar­gin.

Billed as a ref­er­en­dum on the open­ing months of the Trump pres­i­dency, more than 220,000 peo­ple had voted with 20 per­cent yet to be tal­lied, sig­nal­ing that Democrats and Repub­li­cans re­main highly en­gaged in pol­i­tics af­ter the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial

elec­tion and that the built-in ad­van­tages in this dis­trict were too much for the Os­soff camp to over­come.

In her vic­tory speech, Mrs. Han­del of­fered “spe­cial thanks to the pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica,” prompt­ing the crowd at her At­lanta head­quar­ters to cheer and break into chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

It marked the fourth time that Democrats have been able to claim only a moral vic­tory in a spe­cial elec­tion to fill a House seat va­cated by Trump Cab­i­net ap­pointees.

“Nancy Pelosi threw the kitchen sink at her, yet Karen still came out on top and ready to fight for Ge­or­gia in Congress,” said Steve Stivers, chair­man of the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee.

“For all the Democrats’ blus­ter and de­spite pour­ing over $30 mil­lion into this race, I couldn’t be more proud to help keep this seat in Repub­li­can hands,” he said.

Demo­cratic vot­ers in this Repub­li­can­lean­ing area, though, said the loss would not change that Mr. Trump has helped them come out of the po­lit­i­cal closet, free­ing them to de­clare their al­le­giances with­out fear in this and fu­ture elec­tions.

Af­ter years of feel­ing like out­casts in the ruby-red 6th Dis­trict, steer­ing clear of po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions for fear of blow­back for their lib­eral stances.

It’s all a part of the Trump ef­fect on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and the “Re­sis­tance” he has spawned.

“I have been like a closet Demo­crat for the 15 years that I have lived here, and I didn’t think there was any­body else. I thought I was of a small pop­u­la­tion,” said Jen­nifer Keeney, a 40-year-old mother of three girls who waved signs out­side a polling place Tues­day. “Af­ter the Nov. 8 elec­tion, my friend in­vited me to be part of a lib­eral women’s group, and I was like, ‘Wait, there’s that?’”

Ms. Keeney said she used to get heck­led “all the time” for hav­ing an Obama sticker on her mini­van. Now, how­ever, she sees Democrats gain­ing a foothold, with Mr. Os­soff in a tight race with Mrs. Han­del.

“Now that we have a sense of com­mu­nity, it is like this big grass-roots move­ment here, and ev­ery­one is al­ready talk­ing about what we are go­ing to do next,” she said.

Marla Cure­ton, 47, said she has been wait­ing to see this sort of ac­tivism, which she said amounted to “a win re­gard­less of the out­come of the elec­tion.”

“Par­tic­u­larly white res­i­dents of this area that have held Demo­cratic, lib­eral ideals have been silent, and this has given them a voice and com­fort level to speak out,” said Ms. Cure­ton, who is black. “There was al­most al­ways an as­sump­tion that peo­ple were con­ser­va­tive in cer­tain cir­cles.”

De­spite Mr. Trump’s vic­tory in Novem­ber, Democrats have long thought Ge­or­gia is poised to trend in their di­rec­tion thanks to chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics — in­clud­ing in this dis­trict, which Mr. Trump car­ried by less than 2 per­cent­age points.

For Eric El­mas­sian, a Repub­li­can voter here, that was wor­ri­some. He said he lived first in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and then Den­ver, but fled in part be­cause of the wave of lib­er­al­ism that swept both re­gions. He moved to Ge­or­gia to “get away from all that crap that was go­ing on there, po­lit­i­cally wise.

“Now I am over here, where it is nice and red, how I like it. But now we are get­ting in­flu­ences from out of state so they can play the stupid game of pok­ing at Trump or just mak­ing sure they can get the seat,” the 51-year-old said, di­rect­ing his ire at na­tional Demo­cratic and al­lied groups that in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars on be­half of Mr. Os­soff. “You guys screwed up Cal­i­for­nia; you screwed up Den­ver.”

The elec­tion Tues­day was Democrats’ last chance to strike an elec­toral blow against the Repub­li­can Party. Democrats failed in spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tions in Kansas and Mon­tana, and lost another race Tues­day in South Carolina, where Repub­li­can Ralph Nor­man beat Demo­crat Archie Par­nell.

That left the Ge­or­gia seat, va­cated by for­mer Rep. Thomas Price to be­come health and hu­man ser­vices secretary in the Trump Cab­i­net.

The can­di­dates and their al­lies have spent more than $50 mil­lion on the Ge­or­gia race, mak­ing it the most ex­pen­sive House con­test in his­tory.

Mr. Os­soff fell just shy of 50 per­cent in the April “jun­gle pri­mary,” forc­ing a runoff with Mrs. Han­del, who came in sec­ond in a race with just one ma­jor Demo­crat but nu­mer­ous high-pro­file Repub­li­cans.

Allen Lundy took so­lace in the out­come, say­ing the fact that Democrats col­lected roughly half of the pri­mary vote showed the dis­trict should no longer be la­beled by the me­dia as “con­ser­va­tive.”

“Jon won 47-plus per­cent of the pri­mary vote in April — that’s a tossup dis­trict,” said Mr. Lundy, 66. “Yes, it has been con­ser­va­tive for 30 years, but the shift in de­mo­graph­ics is in­ex­orable. That is chang­ing things all over the coun­try, and par­tic­u­larly here.”

The po­lit­i­cal im­pact, though, has been hard to de­ci­pher be­cause the last com­pet­i­tive con­gres­sional race here was the 2004 Repub­li­can pri­mary, in which Mr. Price de­feated state Sen. Robert La­mutt by 8 per­cent­age points.

Mr. Prince won his sixth term in Novem­ber by 23 per­cent­age points, and even that was by far his clos­est gen­eral elec­tion re­sult; twice the Democrats didn’t even put up a nom­i­nee.

“If you have an in­cum­bent that wins a dis­trict by 20 points, it may not only be be­cause he is a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can, it is also be­cause he is an in­cum­bent,” said Jay Wil­liams, a Repub­li­can Party strate­gist, ad­ding that the race could pro­vide a clear pic­ture. “My guess is the dis­trict has not been trend­ing up Repub­li­can or con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

VIC­TORY: Karen Han­del, a Repub­li­can, won Ge­or­gia’s 6th Dis­trict House seat on Tues­day.

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