- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2017

TUCKER, Ga. | The price tag of the Georgia special congressional election has climbed north of $50 million, making it the most expensive House race ever.

The candidates, the national party committees and outside interest groups have all poured money into the race, leaving even one of the pros involved in the effort stunned.

“We can’t spend that sum of money on every race and we won’t spend that sum of money on every race,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers said on MSNBC. “But this race has taken on sort of an outsized impact because it is the only race that the Democrats seem to be focusing on.”

Campaign finance filings show that as of May 31, Democrat Jon Ossoff had raised more than $23 million since entering the race to replace Rep. Tom Price, who vacated the seat to become secretary of Health and Human Services. Republican Karen Handel had pulled in over $4.5 million.

Combined with outside efforts, though, the price tag is much higher.

“The race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is the most expensive congressional race in history, easily overtaking Florida 18’s 2012 election, which cost $29.5 million,” Sara Swann, of the Center for Responsive Politics, said in an analysis of the race released Monday.

Democrats say the race is a referendum on President Trump. The GOP says it’s a chance for voters to express displeasure with Democrats’ obstruction.

Mrs. Handel suggested Monday that the race would not as close as it is if it were not for Mr. Ossoff’s fundraising edge.

“The Democrats put a lot of money into this,” she told reporters Monday. “I mean not for nothing. A squirrel is going to get a pretty decent percentage of the vote if he has $30 million behind him.”

Mr. Ossoff, meanwhile, downplayed his fundraising advantage, and played up the fact that his campaign has 12,000 volunteers, saying working with that sort of grass-roots energy has been “uplifting and exciting.”

“When you have tens of millions of dollars of attack ads pouring in here from my unaccountable Washington super PACs it is necessary to raise the resources to fight back, and I am proud of the fact that the campaign has done it through small dollar grass-roots fundraising with an average contribution of $50,” he said.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leaders, has put $7 million into the race and the NRCC has invested $6.7 million.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has funnelled more than $6 million into the race and the Planned Parenthood Action fund has spent over $800,000.

The television and radio airwaves here have been blanketed with campaign ads, and voters have been inundated with phone calls, mailers and canvassers who have been showing up on their doorsteps urging them to vote.

The Ossoff campaign ran ads Monday in which he vowed to prioritize high-tech and biotech research to create more high-paying jobs and to make sure “our military and intelligence community have every tool they need to fight terrorism.” Another ad highlighted Mrs. Handel’s opposition to funding Planned Parenthood.

The Handel campaign ran ads pushing back against the idea that she is anti-woman, and contrasting her record against that of Mr. Ossoff and highlighting the fact that he lives just outside the congressional district.

“I have a proven record in the private sector and in public service — experience want to put to work for you,” Mrs. Handel says in a commercial. “My opponent doesn’t live here, doesn’t share our values. He has raised millions outside of Georgia from Nancy Pelosi and outsiders that just don’t share our priorities.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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