Democrat leads in race for Georgia US House seat long held by Republicans

By REUTERS
April 19, 2017 08:17
1 minute read.
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DUNWOODY, Ga. - A novice Democratic candidate weathered attacks from President Donald Trump and finished well ahead of his Republican rivals in a much-watched Georgia congressional race on Tuesday, but appeared to fall short of the majority he needed to win outright.

Democrat Jon Ossoff ended up as the top vote getter in a crowded field of 18 candidates vying to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives. But with 185 of 210 precincts reporting, he held 48.3 percent of the vote - just shy of the 50 percent he needed to become the first Democrat to represent Atlanta's affluent northern suburbs since the 1970s.

That would tee up a June 20 runoff with Republican Karen Handel, who was headed to a second-place finish with 19.5 percent of the vote.

With few other events on the political calendar, the race was seen as a bellwether of the national mood during Trump's turbulent first few months in office. Republicans have controlled the seat for decades, but Trump only won it by 1 percentage point in last November's presidential election.

"This is already a victory for the ages. We have defied the odds, we have shattered expectations," Ossoff told a cheering crowd of supporters.

The winner replaces Republican Tom Price, who stepped down to serve as Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Democrats, searching for answers at a time when they are shut out of power in Washington, found a unifying figure in Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker who campaigned on a promise to "Make Trump Furious." He raised more than $8 million in the first three months of the year, much of it from out of state, and drew volunteers from across the country.

Ossoff benefited from a fractured Republican field of 11 candidates, some of whom emphasized their loyalty to Trump while others kept their distance. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, did not mention Trump during a 10-minute speech on Tuesday night, according to local media.

National Republican groups spent millions of dollars painting Ossoff as a neophyte who does not live in the area he aims to represent. Trump himself targeted Ossoff with robocalls and a barrage of Twitter messages.

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