04/19/2017

Dem Jon Ossoff Fails To Avert Runoff In Georgia Special Election

Lisa Hagen and Ben Kamisar, The Hill

Democrat Jon Ossoff is projected to advance to a runoff in Georgia's special election after failing to clinch a majority of the vote on Tuesday in order to avoid another election in late June. 

Ossoff led the crowded 18-candidate field in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. But since he didn’t clear the 50 percent threshold, he will now compete in a runoff with the second-place finisher, Republican Karen Handel, on June 20.

Democratic hopes that Ossoff could win outright were buoyed early Tuesday evening by promising early vote returns, but Ossoff’s vote share continued to drop as more precincts reported their votes. Reports of technical glitches stemming from Fulton County delayed the results for hours as Ossoff hovered right at that 50 percent threshold. 

With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Ossoff had 48.1 percent and Handel had 19.8 percent. 

While Ossoff ran far better than any other Democrat had in this district before, narrowly missing the runoff will be a disappointment for the party because it allows Republicans to reload and unite behind one candidate. But Democrats are still heartened by the gains they've made in the red district. 

Democrats rallied behind Ossoff, a 30-year-old investigative filmmaker, in the hopes that he could clear the field in one night and deliver a major upset in a district President Trump narrowly won a few months ago. The hope—to make the special election a referendum on Trump  and serve as an early indicator ahead of the 2018 midterm elections when Democrats need to flip at least two dozen seats to take back the House majority. 

Despite not clearing the field on Tuesday, Democrats harnessed their base's energy and made a race for a seat that has trended red for decades competitive. Ossoff received an abundance of national support, including paid staffers from the House Democrats’ campaign arm, and hauled in an unprecedented $8.3 million in three months.

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