UPDATE: Georgia Dem still clinging to slight lead, but results delayed by technical probelsms
DUNWOODY, Ga. (AP)
An upstart Democrat leads a special election in a conservative Georgia congressional district, but returns late Tuesday suggest he may still need a runoff to pull a major upset for the longtime Republican-held seat.
And because of technical difficulties in the elections office of Georgia’s most populous county, it was not clear when final results would be available, leaving political observers across the country in an uncertain cliffhanger as they looked to Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer, sought to parlay opposition to President Donald Trump into a victory that would rebuke the White House and embolden Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Feeding on opposition to Trump, Ossoff raised more than $8.3 million from all over the country as he tries to flip a seat that has been held by a Republican since 1979. Leaders of both parties agree the race serves as an early electoral barometer for Trump’s effect on other contests.
With all of the votes counted in Cobb and DeKalb counties and partial returns from Fulton County, Ossoff hovered right at the majority threshold required to win an 18-candidate primary outright. Republican Karen Handel was in a distant second, but comfortably ahead of her Republican competitors.
A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp confirmed that Fulton officials were having difficulty reading memory cards from voting machines. That left uncounted tens of thousands of votes that were likely to push Ossoff below 50 percent.
Ossoff addressed his supporters a few minutes before midnight, hinting at the likelihood of a runoff, though he did not mention his likely opponent.
“No matter what the outcome is tonight, whether we take it all or whether we fight on, we have defied the odds ... shattered expectations,” he said, a nod to his campaign that blossomed as a nexus of the Trump opposition movement.
Trump himself declared victory, dismissing any possibility that he’s been a drag for his party.
On Twitter, where he’s attacked Ossoff over the last two days, the president wrote, “Despite outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, Big ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!”
Republicans nationally and in Georgia acknowledged before polls opened that Ossoff would top the slate of Republicans, Democrats and independents who appeared together on one primary ballot. The question was whether Ossoff could win outright to succeed Tom Price, who resigned to become Trump’s health secretary.
Trump did not perform as well as other Republicans last November in the Georgia district, an affluent, well-educated swath filled with the kind of voters Democrats need if they hope to reclaim a House majority next year.
Republicans currently hold a 238-193 advantage in the chamber.