The Democrats have heavily invested in the race to replace Tom Price to represent Georgia’s 6th congressional district. This is their party’s last chance for a symbolic victory against President Donald Trump, and their candidate Jon Ossoff has tried to make the race a referendum on Trump’s presidency.
Here are five things to know about the runoff this Tuesday.
1. A red district and a special election.
The Georgia special election seems the best chance for Democrats to pick up a deep-red seat. While Trump won the district by only 1 percent in November, Georgia’s 6th congressional district usually favors Republicans.
Tom Price, who has become Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, won the district by 23 percent in 2016, and Mitt Romney won it by the same margin in 2012. Price has won with at least 60 percent of the vote in Georgia 6 since 2004. Republicans have held the seat since 1979, when Newt Gingrich first took the seat.
It was remarkable when Democrat Jon Ossoff won the special election on April 18, taking 48.1 percent of the vote. But since he failed to secure 50 percent plus one, the race went to a runoff.
Ossoff won because the Democratic Party was united behind him, while the Republican Party fractured. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel took second with 19.8 percent of the vote and advanced to the runoff. While the district usually votes Republican, she has a lot more ground to make up than Ossoff does.
2. The Steve Scalise shooter attacked Handel.
James Hodgkinson, the gunman who targeted a congressional baseball practice and put Congressman Steve Scalise in the hospital, penned a rant on Facebook attacking Handel as a “Republican S***” who “wants people to work for slave wages.”
In her statement last Wednesday, Handel declared, “My thoughts are with the victims of this morning’s despicable, unprovoked attack on the Republican congressional softball team. Representative Scalise is a friend, and my heart goes out to him and his family.” She also commended “the heroic actions of the Capitol Police officers who clearly prevented today’s attack from being a much bigger tragedy.”
“I am aware that the suspect recently made vile comments about me on social media,” Handel noted. “It also appears that the suspect targeted members of Congress specifically because he disagreed with their views.”
“We should not allow our political differences to escalate to violent attacks,” the Republican candidate concluded. “We must all refuse to allow the politics of our country to be defined in this way. Now more than ever, we must unite as one nation under God. It is incumbent upon all of us to work together in a civil and productive way, even when we disagree.”
For his part, Ossoff called the rant against Handel “sickening,” and held a moment of silence for volunteers and staff at his campaign headquarters Wednesday morning. “I condemn this appalling act of violence committed obviously by a disturbed individual, and our country is united in our prayers for those who are fighting for their lives,” the Democrat said.
On Thursday, Handel reported receiving “some suspicious packages” delivered to her house and her neighbors. The packages contained threatening letters and a suspicious substance, and the police investigated a potential attack.
Here’s one of the letters sent to Handel’s neighbor.
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) June 15, 2017
A television ad launched by Principled PAC attacked Jon Ossoff using the Scalise shooting. “Now the unhinged Left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans,” the ad’s narrator said, while images of Scalise on a stretcher, Kathy Griffin, and the infamous liberal screaming “no!” at Trump’s inauguration flash by. “When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.”
Ossoff called the ad “disgraceful,” and a spokeswoman for Handel called it “disturbing and disgusting.”
3. Ossoff lives outside the district.
On April 18 and June 20, there is one vote guaranteed to not go to Jon Ossoff, and that is Ossoff’s own vote! The Democratic candidate lives outside the district with his now-fiancee.
“I’ve been living with Alicia, my girlfriend of 12 years, down by Emory University where she’s a full-time medical student,” Ossoff told CNN “New Day” host Alisyn Camerota in April. “I want to support her in her career and do right by her.”
To this, the CNN anchor shot back, “So when are you going to marry her?” In deep-red Georgia, right in the center of the Bible Belt, Ossoff’s late proposal might hurt him. But after this awkward question, he did propose to his girlfriend.
He still lives outside the district, however. Ossoff campaign staff and volunteers acknowledge this, but have reportedly insisted that he only lives “three blocks” outside the district.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Brent Scher performed a fact-check. The distance from Ossoff’s neighborhood to Georgia 6 was about 3.2 miles. When he took an Uber back, it took 18 minutes and 45 seconds, and traversed 6.55 miles, well over three blocks.
Karen Handel lives in the district, and has been married many years.
4. Ossoff has 9 times more donations from Calif. than Ga.
Ossoff reported having nine times more donations from California than from Georgia in the last two months. Between March 29 and May 31, Ossoff reported 7,218 donations from California and only 808 donations from Georgia. He took 8.9 times as many gifts from the Golden State as from the Peach State, which would be great — if he were running in California’s 6th district.
In the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area alone, Ossoff reported receiving 3,063 donations in the same period, nearly four times his Georgia total. All this information is only from the report mandated by law, and does not include the gifts from people who contributed less than $200 overall.
In terms of dollar amounts, Ossoff took at least $456,296.03 from California donors, compared to $228,474.44 from supporters in Georgia. The Bay Area alone contributed $220.532.10, less than $8,000 shy of the Georgia total.
President Trump characterized the Georgia 6 race as “Hollywood vs. Georgia,” not without reason.
On the other hand, Handel has received more help from outside spending. While the Republican has only raised $4.5 million through May 31 (to Ossoff’s $24 million overall), she has received a great deal more from Republican PACs.
Outside groups have spent $18.2 million either supporting Handel or attacking Ossoff, while groups on the other side have spend just under $8 million backing Ossoff or opposing Handel, according to Open Secrets. Since the April 18 special election, groups have spent $12.2 million backing Handel, versus $7 million supporting Ossoff.
The biggest outside donors backing Handel were the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to House Republicans, which spent more than $6.5 million, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which spent about $6.7 million. The top supporters of Ossoff were the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($5 million) and Planned Parenthood Action Fund ($820,000).
Despite Handel’s “dark money” advantage, Ossoff still has received around $10 million more in support overall. This is the most expensive congressional election in history, because Democrats desperately want a political win in the Trump era and Republicans want to keep the seat.
5. Okay, okay. But who’s gonna win?
Handel’s poll numbers have been on the uptick since she lost by nearly 30 points on April 18, but that may not be enough. The district is red as they come, but Trump only won it by 1.5 points and his favorable rating in a SurveyUSA poll last week stood at only 34 percent, with 47 percent unfavorable. That poll found Ossoff and Handel neck-and-neck at 47 percent.
FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten suggested that Ossoff still has a lead going into Tuesday. According to Enten, the most reliable June polls gave Ossoff 51 percent of the vote, or 53 percent including undecided voters. The polls before the April 18 election gave him an average of 42 percent, or 46 percent with undecideds. The polls underestimated the Democrat. Are they underestimating him again?
Most of the other candidates in April were Republicans, and Handel is quite likely to consolidate their votes. Enten estimated that current polling has her taking between 80 and 85 percent of them, but she needs nearly 100 percent to win the runoff. After all, Handel lost two Senate primaries in 2010 and 2014.
In the last WSB-TV poll released on Monday evening, Ossoff and Handel were neck-and-neck, tied at 49 percent with a mere 2 percent of voters undecided. The poll included 500 likely voters, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that it is the first poll taken since the Scalise shooting last week, but most voters who had yet to cast their ballots said the recent shootings had no effect on their decision. About one-third of Election Day voters said the attack would make them “more likely” to vote, and most of them were Republicans.
The Georgia 6 runoff is a coin toss. Ossoff may be the slight favorite, but it is likely that whoever wins will only win by a tiny margin, and the results will not deliver the Republicans or the Democrats the kind of victory they would prefer.