AFP | Early results trickled in for Tuesday's closely-watched election in Georgia, the most expensive congressional race ever, with the Republican narrowly leading a contest that Democrats have painted as a referendum on Donald Trump's scandal-plagued presidency.
Handel's win, projected by the Associated Press, will bring fresh attention to a beleaguered Democratic Party that has suffered a string of defeats in special elections this year despite an angry and engaged base of voters who dislike Trump.
On April 18, Ossoff had almost topped the 50 percent threshold that would have given him an outright victory in an 18-candidate primary field.
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!"
Handel thanked Trump, who had tweeted his support for her campaign in recent days, by name - prompting the crowd to interrupt with cheers and chants of "Trump, Trump, Trump". Former Rep. Tom Price, whose departure to become Trump's health and human services secretary led to the special election, won each time he was on the ballot since 2004 with more than 60% of the vote. Ossoff appeared so close to victory that Democrats were allowing themselves to imagine a win that would spur a wave of Republican retirements, a recruitment bonanza, and a Democratic fund-raising windfall heading into the 2018 midterm elections. And in SC on Tuesday, also a race where the party poured few resources, the Democratic candidate came closer in defeat than Ossoff.
With 81 percent of precincts reporting, Handel was declared the victor with 52.5 percent of the vote, compared to Ossoff's 47.5 percent, according to the Associated Press. Pro-life Republican Ralph Norman, who was endorsed by National Right to Life, beat pro-abortion Democrat Archie Parnell.
The former Georgia secretary of state was quick to embrace her party's leader after mostly avoiding him - at least publicly - during a protracted campaign. "Ossoff's success so far has Republicans frightened, regardless of the outcome of the special election on Tuesday".
Handel and tens of millions of dollars in ads from GOP super PACs called Ossoff an inexperienced liberal who has more in common with California than Georgia.
Trump won the district by just 1 percentage point in last year's presidential election, giving Democrats a new sense of hope.
Earlier in the day, Handel appeared at her polling place to mock Ossoff for the fact that he doesn't even live in the district, and can not vote for himself.
The basic schism in the party-should it be more progressive-is even more apparent now that Democrats have failed to pick up one of the seats vacated when Trump selected four Republican members for his cabinet.
At Handel's campaign events, Trump's name went unmentioned by the candidate and introductory speakers. "We are encouraged that the voters rejected Ossoff's extreme pro-abortion agenda and are sending Karen Handel to Washington to stand up for women and children and get taxpayers out of the abortion business".
Special elections - given their usually odd timing - are nearly always a battle of base intensity between the two parties.
DeKalb County officials said the problem was resolved by 7:30 a.m. but they want voters to have a full 12 hours to cast ballots in the runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. While that tends to be a typical part of the GOP playbook, some of the advertisements from Handel-supporting SuperPACs were especially provocative, like one spot that tried to link Ossoff to Kathy Griffin shortly after she did a photo shoot in which she held up a bloody effigy of Trump's head.