Dem loss in Georgia special election underscores challenges
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 22, 2017,
Jun 22, 2017, 0:12
In her speech, Handel discussed what she felt she owed the voters, including "the obligation of being the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the great state of Georgia".
Georgia's outcome follows similar results in Montana, Kansas and SC, where Republicans won special House races by much narrower margins than they managed as recently as November.
The Democrat in the Georgia race, Jon Ossoff, was unsuccessful in flipping a traditionally Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs previously represented by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
"We have to remember that these elections are being held in districts hand-picked by Trump - districts where he created vacancies because he thought they were "can't lose" seats", said Ron Klain, a Democratic operative who was chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore.
The more than four-month-long battle smashed House race spending records after the candidates as well as GOP and Democratic outside groups poured in more than $50 million combined, used to slam the respective opponents on the airwaves. Both Newt Gingrich and the man who vacated the seat to become HHS Secretary, Tom Price, rose to national prominence from this 6th District seat, but the area has moved slowly leftward over the years.
Trump weighed in on Twitter late Monday and early Tuesday, attacking Ossoff for living just outside the district, claiming Ossoff will raise taxes and calling Handel a hard worker "who will never give up!" The polls indicated that Ossoff's support came from voters from 18 to 64, where he lead by 8 to 15 points; Handel led among voters over 65 by a margin of 62 to 36.
State Rep. Stacey Abrams, Georgia minority leader, talks with Rachel Maddow about the encouragement Democrats see in the outcome of the Georgia special election.
Long special elections: There were more than two months between the primary in April and the runoff on Tuesday, a period during which residents of the 6th District were inundated with ads and mailers and pretty clearly grew exhausted of the $50-plus million spent on their member of Congress.
Ossoff's campaign raised and spent $24 million, while Handel's campaign only raised and spent $4.5 million. The Republican Handel won by 5 percentage points. Or would the Republicans hold those seats, assuaging the concerns of a number of members of the party eyeing the 2018 midterms warily? "Logically, the difference of a few thousand votes in a single special election shouldn't have such an impact". But her frequent appearances on ballots in the Sixth District offered her an important name-identification advantage in the initial balloting in April.
That election filled the seat opened when Mick Mulvaney became the White House budget director.
Trump's party also claimed victory in another congressional race Tuesday, in neighbouring SC.
Another layer: The Handel-Ossoff race was supposed to be the barnburner on Tuesday. We could, for example, focus on the fact that Democrats went all out to win Georgia's special election, hoping to use it as a national referendum, and came up short. "But we do know that he lost doing the opposite".
As the Trump chants quieted, Handel took a minute to recognize U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise, who is recovering from a gunshot wound in last week's mass shooting during a GOP team baseball practice.
In spite of Ossoff's loss, Democrats say they have a better chance of winning dozens of Republican-held seats in next year's midterm election.
A Handel win will undoubtedly energize Republican lawmakers in Washington, emboldening them as they seek to push forward with their controversial Obamacare repeal and tax reform legislation.