Photo Finish in Georgia Special Election: Democrat Falls Short, Runoff with GOP Candidate

Ossoff-Election Night- Getty

It was a photo finish in the “jungle primary” special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District on Tuesday to select a replacement for Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), punctuated by unusual technical reporting delays from Fulton County, the largest county in the district.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, thirty-year-old Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff fell just short of the 50-percent-plus-one vote total he needed to avoid a June runoff with the GOP’s Karen Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State who finished in a distant second.

CNN declared the race a runoff between Ossoff and Handel shortly after midnight.

At 12:09 a.m. President Trump tweeted, “Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, Big “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!”

With 177 of 210 precincts reporting as of 12:25 a.m. eastern on Wednesday morning, the Associated Press results had Ossoff in first place with 49 percent of the vote, followed by the GOP’s Karen Handel in second at 19 percent, and the GOP’s Bob Gray in third place and out of the runoff election with 10 percent.

Ossoff did very well in early voting, garnering 61 percent of those ballots from Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton County. Strong early voting results are usually an indication of organization and preparation on the part of the campaign.

However, as the evening wore on, Ossoff’s margin continued to diminish.

By 11:00 p.m. eastern, with 113 of 210 precincts reporting, Ossoff had 50.3 percent of the vote. Handel was in a distant second with 18 percent. All precincts in Cobb and DeKalb County had reported by then, but only 19 of the 116 precincts in Fulton County had reported.

The evening was set up for a dramatic finish, since only a few months earlier Hillary Clinton had won the precincts in Fulton County within the Sixth Congressional District with 48 percent of the vote.

At 11:05 p.m., Decision Desk HQ broke the news on Twitter that Fulton County was experiencing technical difficulties reporting the vote results.

Then at 11:35 p.m., Decision Desk HQ added this tweet:

Then at 11:40 p.m. came this tweet:

Finally, at 11:50 p.m. came this:

By 11:55 p.m. with 177 of 210 precincts reporting, Ossoff’s vote dipped below a majority to 49 percent, with the GOP’s Handel moving up slightly to a 19 percent second place position.

At 12:01 a.m., Decision Desk HQ called the election a runoff between Ossoff and Handel, a full 20 minutes before CNN made the call:

The progressive establishment around the country had hoped to secure an outright victory for Ossoff in this suburban Atlanta Congressional District that President Trump won by only one percent in November.

The hope among progressive activists and the liberal media was that an Ossoff victory in this district would be an early indicator of an impending anti-Trump wave that could turn the House of Representatives back to Democratic control in the 2018 midterm elections.

The far left political machine raised huge amounts of money from liberal strong points around the country — in New York, San Francisco, and Hollywood — to bankroll Ossoff’s campaign with more than $8.3 million raised in the first three months of his campaign.

Ossoff used these funds to flood the airwaves on television and radio with anti-Trump messages and raise an estimated army of 3,500 get-out-the-vote canvassers whom the campaign claimed knocked on over 100,000 doors.

Ossoff was aided by the fact that the Democratic establishment rallied around him and not the four other Democrats in the crowded field of 18 candidates.

Republican resources were split between eleven Republican contenders. The most prolific fundraising candidate among them raised less than $500,000, — not even ten percent of the amount Ossoff raised.

The Republican establishment, initially caught flat-footed, ended up spending over $5 million in advertising against Ossoff in the last weeks of the campaign, but it never caught up in the all-important ground game, which typically consists of a positive voter engagement on behalf of a single specific candidate rather than a negative attack on a single candidate.

In retrospect, Republicans failed to recognize the unique opportunity the “jungle primary” provided Democrats who focused all their support behind one candidate. Republican leadership could have made a similar choice from among their eleven candidates, but did not do so. They did, in the end, get some help from the Republican establishment in Washington.

“Republicans in Georgia sounded the alarm several weeks ago, prompting $2 million in spending from the NRCC to help boost Republican turnout and counter Democrats’ energy. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House leadership, also dumped in $3 million of its own money and dispatched on-the-ground staffers to the district,” Politico reported.

Speaker Ryan, however, who has the responsibility to support Republican candidates in the House, did not see the risk of a Democratic victory in Georgia until it was too late.

In fact, he was not even in the United States on Tuesday. Instead, he was in Europe, leading a bi-partisan Congressional delegation.

Shortly after midnight, Ryan’s office issued this statement:

Congratulations to Karen Handel for running a successful campaign and advancing to the run-off.

Karen Handel is a proven leader who is committed to solving our nation’s problems and meeting our biggest challenges head-on. Karen Handel will be an effective representative for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, like my good friends Tom Price and Newt Gingrich, and I’m looking forward to helping her win this election on June 20th.

In Karen Handel, Georgians will have a dedicated public servant representing them in Washington, D.C., and someone who understands how to get the job done. Her record of getting results for The Peach State is exactly why I’m proud to fully support Karen Handel’s candidacy for Congress.


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