Handel started the night out with a strong performance in Fulton County and never looked back, winning by over 5 percentage points in the race to replace former Rep. Tom Price in the United States House of Representatives.
In what proved to be the most expensive congressional election in U.S. history, Handel outperformed predictions in many of the most Democratic-leaning precincts to defeat Ossoff, a first-time politician. She also became the first woman to represent the district in Congress in history, and spoke about how having the support of President Donald Trump and Rep. Steve Scalise, who was shot on a baseball diamond last week in Alexandria, Virginia, powered her through to the win during her victory speech.
Trump sent a congratulatory message to Handel via Twitter after her victory was official.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did the same by issuing a statement wishing her congratulations for winning.
Heading into Election Day, polling indicated that the race would be extremely tight, and many predicted it would be a tossup. While it did prove to be a closer margin than first imagined six months ago, Handel’s victory was outside the polling error.
Voters in the district were expected to turn out to polling places in record numbers, and it lived up to expectations with over 254,000 ballots being cast. That’s the most-ever votes cast for a special House election.
Check below for final results of the House race:
Final Results & Updates
Note: The results table below is powered by the Decision Desk HQ. Our running updates from election night are also below.
UPDATE, 10:03 p.m. EDT: Handel is the projected winner of the runoff election against Ossoff. Decision Desk HQ called the race for her at 9:57 p.m. EDT.
UPDATE, 10:02 p.m. EDT: Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight and The Cook Political Report just called the race for Handel.
UPDATE, 9:55 p.m. EDT: As Handel continues to build her lead, many are pointing to mailed-in early ballots to be the deciding factor.
Over 27,000 of those mailed-in ballots have been accepted, which means Ossoff would need to outperform Handel 2-to-1 in order to prevail.
That seems unlikely after DeKalb County reported its absentee-by-mail data, which shows Ossoff taking 73 percent of the 7,448 ballots.
But, as Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight and The Cook Political Report tweeted, it seems too big of a hole for Ossoff to climb out of.
UPDATE, 9:26 p.m. EDT: With 56 percent of precincts reporting, Handel has opened up lead of over 12,000 votes (6.4 percentage points) on Ossoff.
Dave Wasserman, the editor of The Cook Political Report and writer for FiveThirtyEight, said the lead “could be too big” for Ossoff to overcome, and he will need to outperform the website’s projections on mailed-in ballots in order to do so.
UPDATE, 9:14 p.m. EDT: Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said that he feels Handel is in a much better spot than Ossoff at this point in the evening.
I agree that she’s in the better position, but that seems like an overconfident forecast given the data we have so far. The New York Times’s forecasting meter/model suggests that Handel is only a slight favorite, while Politico now has Ossoff running a little ahead of where he’d need to be in fully reported precincts (although there are very few precincts fully in). Again, I’d rather be Handel, but it’s very early.
Prediction markets agree with Silver, listing Handel as a 94 percent favorite.
UPDATE, 9:06 p.m. EDT: Turnout is expected to break the all-time record for a special House election, Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report tweeted.
UPDATE, 8:48 p.m. EDT: With 19 percent of precincts reporting, Handel has jumped out to a a 1.6 percent lead, FiveThirty Eight reported.
There’s still a long way to go in the race, but it seems that as expected, the race will come down to the wire.
Michael McDonald of U.S. Elections Project predicted the outcome coming down to early votes that were mailed in.
UPDATE, 8:11 p.m. EDT: Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight reported that the in-person early vote has been tallied in all counties in the district, and Ossoff holds a 1.4 point lead.
That’s not good news for the Ossoff campaign moving forward, Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report tweeted.
UPDATE, 8:05 p.m. EDT: As FiveThirtyEight writes, there are three groups of voters to keep an eye on in the race. There’s those that voted in-person on Election Day, those who cast early in-person votes, and also those who submitted their ballots through the mail.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said that it’s expected Handel will have her best showing with Election Day voters, while early mail bodes well for the Ossoff campaign. Early mail vote is a mix between the two. He added that so far, the results shown are Fulton County’s early in-person vote.
UPDATE, 7:41 p.m. EDT: Another batch of votes has been tallied, and it shows Handel leading Ossoff by just over 2,000 votes (51-48 percent).
Those votes come from a portion of the over 140,000 early votes that were cast in the district, specifically in Fulton County.
The data provided by the Secretary of State shows that Handel won the in-person early vote in Fulton County, which New York Times political analyst Nate Cohn said is promising moving forward into the evening.
UPDATE, 7:36 p.m. EDT: The first results are in for the race. But it’s an extremely very small amount of votes, as Handel has surged out to a whopping 9-7 vote lead on Ossoff.
Needless to say, there’s still a long way to go in the race.
UPDATE, 7 p.m. EDT: Polls in the district are now officially closed. Those who were still in line at polling places are still able to vote, however.
The latest indications by analysts call for a very close finish, with the New York Times predicting a straight-up tie.
Votes will now be tallied by workers, with the over 140,000 ballots cast early being the first to be counted. First results are expected to trickle in at about 7:25 p.m. EDT.
UPDATE, 5:20 p.m. EDT: Polls will close in less than two hours, and political analysts have been chiming in on some of the most important precincts in the district.
The Cook Political Report‘s Dave Wasserman said that in order for Ossoff to stand a chance, it’s imperative that he has a strong showing in DeKalb County. In the first round of voting April 18, the county voted 60 percent for Democratic candidates and 40 percent for Republicans.
As of 3 p.m. EDT, the county cast nearly 14,000 ballots, which is already more than it did during the first round of voting. That indicates a very strong turnout and could bode well for Ossoff.
For a full overview and spreadsheet showing precincts in the district and which way voters went during the April 18 election, click here.
The special election is being held to fill the vacancy left by longtime Rep. Tom Price when he was selected by Trump to serve as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ossoff is a first-time politician and serves as the CEO and managing director of an investigative filmmaking company (Insight TWI: The World Investigates). While he doesn’t boast any time serving within the government, he previously worked for Rep. John Lewis‘ office and also on Capitol Hill where he focused on national security issues. His performance in the first round of voting took many by surprise and helped Democrats see an opportunity to flip the district’s House seat.
Handel previously served as Georgia’s Secretary of State (2007-2010) and has a background in business. She served as the senior vice president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but left the organization in 2012. She had a failed Senate run in 2014, but received the most votes out of 11 Republicans on April 18 to move on to the runoff.
Polling Averages Show a Virtual Tie
It was Ossoff who got out to a hot start once it was determined there would be a runoff. He led by 2 percentage points (50-48) in the first poll that was released ahead of the runoff, and only one of the polls that followed showed him behind Handel in the race.
Of those polls, the largest Ossoff lead shown was 7 percentage points in one released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But polling has certainly tightened since then. The final poll of the race, released June 19, showed Ossoff and Handel separated by just 0.1 percentage points.
That poll moved Daily Kos‘ polling averages for the race to exactly 42.8 percent apiece (with 3.6 percent being undecided), meaning there is a flat tie, according to averages.
That’s quite the change from what was first predicted in the congressional race. A Democrat hasn’t represented the district since 1979. Therefore, the thought that Ossoff had a realistic chance at winning seemed far-fetched.
But the results of the 2016 presidential election in the district indicated there was a real chance for Democrats to flip the seat in the notoriously-red district. While Mitt Romney carried Georgia 6 by 23 percentage points in 2012, Trump prevailed by just 1.5 percent.
For more information on the polling throughout the race, click below.
What’s at Stake
As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wrote, “a loss for Handel would probably be interpreted by the GOP as a sign that the status quo wasn’t working.” The GOP is looking for a “signal of any kind” so that the party can coordinate its strategy moving forward, Silver added. A win for Ossoff would give Democrats a gigantic victory after previous efforts have failed and put them on the right track ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
A Handel victory, on the other hand, would be a huge momentum boost for Trump and the GOP, and another tough loss for Democrats.
With so much at stake in the congressional race, money flooded in from both sides. It’s the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history with total ad spending surpassing $50 million just days before the campaigning came to a close.
Early Voting Indicates Big Turnout
More people voted early in the runoff election than the amount that did for the 2014 general election.
The unprecedented figures were tallied by Georgia’s Secretary of State, and they showed that over 140,000 voters either submitted a ballot in-person or via mail prior to the June 16 deadline.
The data found that a majority of the 140,309 submitted ballots came from those 50-years and older, and most of the accepted ballots were submitted by voters who didn’t identify with a political party in the last primary they voted in.
Those are massive numbers for a special congressional election, and that made high voter turnout on Election Day a good possibility.
Michael McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project and is an associate professor at the University of Florida, charted the data in the district every day since early voting started May 30. McDonald’s graphs showed that early voters got out to a hot start, but slowly tapered off as the weeks continued. Initially, the district was on pace to outnumber those that voted early in the 2016 general election. But, as expected, it slowed down a bit.
In comparison, there were just 56,459 early voters for the first round of voting April 18. Those are big numbers in the district, and McDonald predicted that when tallied, early vote returns will be “less pro-Ossoff” than the first round of voting.
For a complete overview the early voting data, click below.
National figures have come out in full force to lend their support to both candidates.
With just hours to go until polling places opened and sensing the importance of the House race, Trump urged voters to put a checkmark next to Handel’s name on their ballots instead of Ossoff. He alluded to the fact that Ossoff lives just outside of the 6th district by saying he’s not able to vote for himself.
Ossoff lives with his girlfriend Alicia nearby Emory University in Atlanta. If he were to win the race, he told CNN that he would moved back to the district where he grew up after she finishes medical school.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has publicly come out and supported Ossoff, albeit after a dustup, as well as Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis. Ossoff also garnered the support of actors Samuel L. Jackson and George Takei, too.
But now, all the campaigning is done and it’s time to see if it paid off.