Despite a frenzy of national attention and millions of dollars, Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to win the votes needed to seize a Georgia congressional seat in a special election Tuesday night. The seat, located in Georgia’s 6th district in the suburbs of Atlanta, has been held by Republicans for almost 40 years.
The election was an open primary, with 18 Republican and Democratic candidates running against one another. To win the seat outright, Ossoff — a 30-year-old filmmaker who grew up in the 6th district but does not currently live in it — had to win 50 percent of the vote.
He came close, capturing around 48 percent of the vote, though the final tally was still not in when the results were projected early Wednesday morning. There will now be a runoff between Ossoff and the likely second-place finisher, Republican Karen Handel, in June.
The election had been billed as one of the first tests of both the Trump era and the Democrats’ strategy for 2018. Georgia’s 6th district is filled with suburban, affluent, well-educated voters who have historically voted Republican, though President Donald Trump won the district by just 2 percentage points in 2016. His low approval rating, Democrats hoped, could help turn the district blue.
That, and boatloads of cash.
Unlike James Thompson — the Democrat who came within single-digit points of winning a deep-red Kansas district last week — Ossoff enjoyed extraordinarily deep campaign coffers. In the first quarter of 2017, Democrats raised more than $8 million for him.
But even if Ossoff had won outright, the sheer amount of money poured into his race could still have ultimately undermined the idea that Trump’s sagging approval ratings will negatively affect down-ticket Republicans. Not only did no other candidate in the Georgia race have nearly as much money, replicating Ossoff’s strategy would be practically impossible in 2018, because Democrats would likely be unable to raise comparable coffers for all the other Democratic candidates running in red districts.
Still, national Republicans came out in full force to bring Ossoff down. Trump personally recorded robo-calls and tweeted seven times about the Georgia race in the days leading up to the election, urging Republicans to “get out and vote!”
He also celebrated the runoff early Wednesday morning.
The 6th district seat had been previously held by Tom Price, who now heads the Health and Human Services Department. He won the seat by about 62 percent in 2016.