With just two weeks remaining until Election Day in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, the two candidates will square off in their first — and likely only — televised debate.
Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will take to their respective podiums Tuesday to take part in a debate hosted by WSB-TV. It’s the first one since Ossoff and Handel emerged as the top-two candidates after the first round of voting April 18.
Ossoff has led in the polls ever since he got 48.1 percent of the vote April 18. Handel was second with 19.78 percent, but a candidate needed at least 50 percent support to win the seat outright, which none of the 18 did.
The special election is to fill the vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives left by Tom Price when he was confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The most recent poll, performed by Landmark Communications on behalf of WSB-TV, shows the two candidates in a virtual dead heat. Out of the 500 likely voters in the district, Ossoff got 49.1 percentage points to Handel’s 47.6 with a margin of error of 4.38 percent.
That means any debate or on-air time could be crucial in swaying those undecided voters in the race.
Tuesday’s inaugural debate starts at 8 p.m. and is expected to run until 9 p.m. It will be hosted by Channel 2 Action News anchor Justin Farmer, and it’s the only prime-time debate debate scheduled between the two.
The televised WSB-TV debate comes just one day after Ossoff, a first-time politician, declined to take part in a June 13 debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. It’s an event that CNN had offered to broadcast nationally.
“We’re committed to participating in debates moderated by members of the metro Atlanta press corps, so unfortunately Jon will not be attending the proposed debate on June 13th,” Atlanta Press Club President Lauri Strauss said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ossoff’s refusal to take part in the debate on the national stage means that Tuesday’s debate and another one Thursday on WABE Radio/PBA 30 will be the only televised ones. There’s also a possibility of a June 15 debate on WSB Radio.
Regardless, things continue to heat up between the two in the much-anticipated special election as June 20 draws near.