Record-breaking congressional election
headed for photo finish
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[June 20, 2017]
By Andy Sullivan
ROSWELL, Ga. (Reuters) - The costliest
congressional election in U.S. history was headed for a photo finish on
Tuesday as Democrats hoped dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump
would help them win a suburban Atlanta seat that has been held by
Republicans since the 1970s.
Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel have both focused on
local concerns, but national political groups have spent heavily in the
biggest proxy war between the two parties since Trump's upset victory in
the 2016 presidential election.
This time, Republicans are playing defense. Ossoff, a 30-year-old
political newcomer, aims to win a district that has launched the careers
of nationally known Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Tom Price, who
vacated the seat to serve as Trump's health secretary.
Recent polls show a tight race, with Ossoff maintaining a tight lead
over Handel, a former secretary of state who has cast Ossoff as a puppet
of liberal interests who doesn't even live in the district.
"This race is not about what's going on around the rest of the country -
it is about you," she told supporters on Monday night.
Total spending in the race has topped $56 million, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, nearly double the
The outcome will not alter the balance of power in Washington, where
Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
But an Ossoff victory would help Democrats raise money and recruit
candidates as they try to win back control of the House of
Representatives in 2018.
The party has fallen short this year in other elections in Kansas and
Montana, and it is expected to lose another race on Tuesday in South
[to top of second column]
Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff greets supporters while campaigning
for Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election in Tucker,
Georgia, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
But Democrats saw a chance for victory after Trump carried this
affluent, educated district by only 1 percentage point in last
year's presidential election.
"There are more of us than we thought," said Tricia Gephardt, an
Ossoff gained national prominence by vowing to "make Trump furious,"
but lately he has avoided mentioning the president, promising
instead to cut spending and "bring accountability to Washington," as
he said at a Monday campaign event.
Handel also avoids talk of Trump, whose turbulent presidency has led
to low approval ratings.
"Certainly the Republicans are split on (Trump), but at this point
the Republicans have mostly come together behind Karen," said Kay
Kirkpatrick, a Republican state senator who represents the area.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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