- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Democrat Jon Ossoff took first place in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, but he appeared to fall short of winning a majority of the vote and securing the empty seat.

Mr. Ossoff, who ran on the slogan “Make Trump Furious,” needed more than half the votes to steer clear of a runoff, and he hung close to that mark for several hours after polls closed at 7 p.m.

But his vote share dipped below 50 percent before midnight and CNN declared early Wednesday that the race was indeed headed into a runoff between Mr. Ossoff and the second-place finisher, Republican Karen Handel.

That result was widely viewed as good news for Republicans, who will have a second chance to unite against Mr. Ossoff following a campaign fraught with intrapary warfare, including a series of GOP attacks against Mrs. Handel, a former secretary of state.

With 84 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, Mr. Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, had won 48.6 percent of the vote, putting him well out in front of his closest challengers in the 18-candidate race, who all happened to be Republicans.

Mrs. Handel collected 19.5 percent of the vote, followed by former Johns Creek city council member Bob Gray with 10.4 percent, former state Sen. Judson Hill at 9 percent, and former state Sen. Dan Moody with 8.7 percent.

Mr. Ossoff struck an optimistic note at his election night party.

“We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary, and there is no amount of dark money, super PAC negative advertising that could overcome real grassroots energy like this,” Mr. Ossoff said to cheers. “So bring it on because we are courageous, we are humble, we know how to fight.”

Bragging rights were on the line for Democrats and Republicans in the race for the seat in the wealthy Atlanta suburbs. Since 1979, the GOP has held the seat, which Tom Price vacated to become secretary of Health and Human Services.

Both sides spun the outcome in their favor, including President Trump, who urged Republicans to realize they wcan defend the seat once the race became a two-person contest.

“Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, which invested in the race, said Democrats had “failed their first real test of the 2018 cycle.”

“Tonight showed Democrats aren’t ready for prime-time and running the same liberal, out-of-touch candidates that simply appeal to the rabid base won’t cut it,” Mr. Hunt said.

Progressive groups, meanwhile, said Mr. Ossoff’s performance underscored the strength of the “resistance” against President Trump.

“The mere fact that we’re even talking about a competitive race in a congressional district Democrats haven’t held in over 40 years, let alone Jon Ossoff’s sound victory tonight, is a testament to the growing strength of a nationwide, grassroots movement that’s looking for leaders ready to stand up to the Republicans empowering Donald Trump’s hate-fueled agenda,” said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America, which endorsed Mr. Ossoff early last month.

Mr. Trump called for Republican voters to force a runoff race earlier in the day, urging Republicans to get out to the polls to ensure that the GOP gets another chance this summer to pick a successor to Mr. Price, who had won 60 percent of the vote in his last three re-election races.

“Force runoff and easy win! Dem Ossoff will raise your taxes-very bad on crime & 2nd A,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Democrats had hoped to build off the stronger than expected showing last week in the deep red 4th Congressional District in Kansas, where James Thompson came within 7 percentage points of defeating Republican Ron Estes.

Five months earlier, Mr. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in that same congressional district by 27 percentage points.

After being criticized for not investing more in Kansas, national Democrats on Tuesday highlighted their involvement in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which Mr. Trump won by less than 2 percentage points in the November election.

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, cut robocalls over the final 48 hours of the campaign urging voters to head to the polls to “elect a representative to Congress who will stop Donald Trump and the GOP Congress and who will actually care about people.”

The DNC also targeted voters through a 5-figure digital ad buy and the Association of State Democratic Chairs spearheaded a phone banking effort with state parties around the country.

The national attention helped Mr. Ossoff raise more than $8.3 million for his bid.

Democrats and liberal groups have been dreaming about landing an electoral blow against Mr. Trump, who has struggled to deliver on his vows to repeal and replace Obamacare and overhaul the federal tax code, and also backed away from the hard-line he promised to take against China during the election.

“Tonight once again proves that momentum is clearly on the side of the Resistance and that Donald Trump has no mandate for his dangerous, reckless, and hateful policies,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org.

The NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is dedicated to protecting the House GOP majority, also put their imprint on the race, investing in ground troops and anti-Ossoff television ads.

The GOP criticized Mr. Ossoff for not living in the congressional district, accused him of puffing up his resume, and questioned whether he can be trusted in a television ad that featured an image of Osama bin Laden and highlighted how Mr. Ossoff produced films for Al Jazeera.

Before the results started trickling in, some Republican suggested a poor showing for their candidates could serve as a good wake-up call for the party ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections, where Democrats will be angling to capture control of the House and Senate - putting them in a stronger position to block the Trump agenda.

The crowded GOP field in the Georgia race splintered Republicans.

Sen. David Perdue backed Mr. Moody, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida endorsed Mr. Hill. Bruce Levell, who spearheaded minority outreach for the Trump campaign, campaigned with ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mrs. Handel, meanwhile, was endorsed by former Sen. Saxby Chambliss but was attacked by the conservative Club for Growth, which endorsed Mr. Gray.

Mrs. Handel has received support from the Ending Spending anti-spending advocacy group funded by the Ricketts’ family.

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