Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Democrat leads early returns in Georgia,

- By Bill Barrow and Kathleen Foody

DUNWOODY, Ga. — An upstart Democrat leads a special election in a conservati­ve Georgia congressio­nal district, but incomplete returns show he’s barely clinging to the majority required to pull off a shocking upset in the Atlanta suburbs.

Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressio­nal staffer, sought to parlay opposition to President Donald Trump into a victory that would rebuke the White House and embolden Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

With early voting totals and about half of precincts counted, Mr. Ossoff hovered right at the majority threshold required to win an 18-candidate primary outright in Georgia’s 6th Congressio­nal District. But tens of thousands of votes remained uncounted, and Mr. Ossoff’s lead has been shrinking as more precincts roll in across a district that has been held by a Republican since Newt Gingrich was elected here in 1978.

The trends point increasing­ly toward a June 20 runoff that would pit Mr. Ossoff against the top Republican vote-getter. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel is a distant second behind Mr. Ossoff but has a comfortabl­e lead over other Republican candidates.

Republican­s nationally and in Georgia acknowledg­ed before polls opened that Mr. Ossoff would top the slate of Republican­s, Democrats and independen­ts who appeared together on one primary ballot. The question was whether Mr. Ossoff could win outright

The winner will succeed Tom Price, who resigned to become Mr. Trump’s health secretary.

The contest is testing both parties’ strategies for the upcoming national election cycle. National attention, already significan­t, intensifie­d after last week’s closer-than-expected GOP victory in a Kansas special House election.

Mr. Trump did not perform as well as other Republican­s last November in the Georgia district, an affluent, well-educated swath filled with the kind of voters Democrats need if they hope to reclaim a House majority next year.

Republican­s currently hold a 238-193 advantage in the chamber.

An investigat­ive filmmaker, Mr. Ossoff raised more than $8.3 million, mostly from donors far from the northern suburbs of Atlanta. That sum dwarfs what any Republican candidate has spent on the contest.

Mr. Ossoff has energized liberals and younger voters, while also aiming for disaffecte­d independen­ts and moderate Republican­s.

Mr. Ossoff has pledged to fight Mr. Trump when he “embarrasse­s” the country. But he’s also said he would “work with anybody in Washington who respects your tax dollars.”

That’s a nod to the Republican­s and independen­ts he’d need to win — whether Tuesday or in a runoff.

Among other top Republican­s in the race, technology executive Bob Gray and two former state senators, Dan Moody and Judson Hill, are battling Ms. Handel in a fight for the No. 2 spot.

Ms. Handel has maintained distance from Mr. Trump, rarely discussing him unless asked. Mr. Gray has called himself a “willing partner” for the president.

National Republican­s say any of the four competitiv­e GOP candidates could defeat Mr. Ossoff in a second round. They predict conservati­ve voters would be energized in a Republican vs. Democrat scenario.

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