Georgia 6th Congressional District Special Election: Jon Ossoff, Karen Handel Appear Headed Toward Runoff

Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are leading in the polls in Georgia’s 6th congressional district special election. (Ossoff for Congress/Handel for Congress)

Ever since Tom Price was tabbed as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in December, Democrats have had high hopes of re-claiming the 6th congressional district seat in Georgia for the first time since the 1960s.

And with just a few days left until voters in the district go to the polls to cast their votes, it appears the special election may be headed toward a runoff.

In order someone in the 18-candidate field to win the seat outright in Tuesday’s election, at least 50 percent of the voter support is needed.

Polling Continues to Show Ossoff, Handel Leading Field

A recent poll shows that Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff continues to have a stranglehold on the rest of the field, but with 45.3 percent of support, a runoff election seems like a great possibility. And political analysts agree that wouldn’t bode well for Ossoff in the Republican-heavy district.

The poll, released by WSB-Landmark Communications on April 14, surveyed 500 likely voters and had a 4.2 percent margin of error. It was conducted from April 12-13 and showed Republican candidate Karen Handel second with 17.4 percent support. Three other Republicans are bunched together after Handel — Bob Gray (8.6 percent), Dan Moody (8.4 percent) and Judson Hill (8 percent).

If no candidate gets the 50 percent, the top two — regardless of political party — will run against each other for the June 20 runoff.

Polls indicate that those two candidates will be Ossoff and Handel.

In January, the polling numbers may have been a bit of a surprise. But with campaign fundraising numbers released and Ossoff taking in about $8 million in donations, the numbers aren’t exactly where Democrats anticipated they should be, GOP strategist Brian Robinson told WSB-TV Atlanta.

“The bad news for him is that he had $8 million,” he said. “No one in this race has come anywhere near the resources that he has, and he only has 45 percent. That’s bad news for any Democrat going into a runoff in a Republican-friendly, long-term Republican-held district.”

On the contrary, a Democratic strategist told WSB-TV that with the number of undecided voters still out and the margin of error, anything is possible. Tharon Johnson indicated that Handel’s lead on the other Republicans in the field is slimming.

“Karen Handel’s got to figure out a way, because she’s one of the most seasoned politicians in the race,” he said to the news station. “She’s run statewide before, pretty well-known. But now’s the opportunity for one of those Republicans who are in third, fourth or fifth place to maybe make a run at the end to try and get into second place.”

Early Voting Closes, Data Shows Republicans Out-Voted Democrats

With so much at stake in the race, national Democrats have put their best foot forward in aiding Ossoff to the seat. A big part of that is getting high voter turnout, especially with early voting.

That type of voting closed Friday with 54,817 in-person and absentee ballots being cast.

When the early-voting period began, Democrats heavily outweighed the amount of Republicans voting. But that changed in the last few weeks, with Republicans out-voting Democrats by a 18,294 to 17,645 margin. But those who don’t identify with a political party led both of the parties.

One of the other keys for Ossoff to flip the congressional seat is getting young voters out in large numbers. Early voting data shows that the older demographic (ages 50-75) voted far more than members of the younger demographic in the period.

Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project has been tracking the race and the early voting statistics. He released the final numbers April 14.

In comparison with the November 2016 presidential election, 186,496 early ballots were submitted within the district.

According to Decision Desk’s Brandon Finnigan, Republicans have taken note of Ossoff’s chances to win the seat with a few weeks of early voting remaining and traveled to cast their early votes as an act of resistance against Democrats.

He predicted that if trends continue, Ossoff won’t reach the 50 percent needed, which could make it difficult to prevail in the runoff.

“If these voters stay engaged and do eventually show up, they’ll prevent Ossoff from clearing 50 percent Tuesday,” Finnigan wrote.

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