Georgia election result: Karen Handel sees off Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff, allowing Trump to breathe easy for now

Ms Handel had stressed local issues throughout the campaign: AP
Ms Handel had stressed local issues throughout the campaign: AP

Jon Ossoff’s longshot dream of flipping an historically Republican congressional district has ended in failure - despite a massive effort by Democrats to send a humiliating message to Donald Trump.

For many voters and supporters of Mr Ossoff, the contest for the Georgia 6th congressional district turned into a referendum on the presidency of Mr Trump, and both sides spent a total of around $56m, making it the costliest race of its kind in US history.

But for all Mr Ossoff’s fresh-faced enthusiasm and talk of change, it was Republican Karen Handel who has apparently emerged victorious. By 10pm local time, CNN, NBC, the Associated Press and others were among those who had called the race the 55-year social conservative.

Soon afterwards, Mr Ossoff appeared to speak to his supporters in the ballroom of the Westin Perimeter Hotel in Atlanta. He thanked them for their hard work and endeavour.

"This small community in Georgia has become the epicenter of politics for months now, and it has nothing to do with me - it's about you," he said, to cheers.

"The fight goes on. The fight is still alive."

The mood was considerably more upbeat a few miles away at Ms Handel's victory party. Indeed, by the time all the votes had been counted, Ms Handel won 51.9 per cent, compared to 48.1 per cent for her opponent.

Mr Ossoff was joined by his finance, Alisha Kramer (Reuters)
Mr Ossoff was joined by his finance, Alisha Kramer (Reuters)

“A special thanks to the president of the United States of America,” she said, as her supporters chanted Donald Trump’s name. “It’s that fighting spirit, that perseverance and tenacity that I will take to Washington.”

Throughout the campaign Ms Handel he had stressed her local roots, and mocked the fact that Mr Ossoff, who grew up in the district, no longer lived there and was therefore not even able to vote for himself. She also pointed to the millions of dollars that had poured into Mr Ossoff’s campaign from outside of the state, something that could also have been said of her operation.

Voters said they had been attracted by her proven experience and her ability to get the job done.

"She has the credentials, a proven record," said Marilyn Watts, a real estate agent, who attended the Handel campaign rally.

Mr Trump was among the first to send his best wishes to a candidate he had campaigned with and whom had saved him from receiving the bloody nose that Democrats had hoped to land.

“Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you,” he said.

It was indeed a good day for Mr Trump and the Republicans. In addition to bagging the battle for the Georgia 6th, the party also won a special election in South Carolina for a seat made vacant by Mick Mulvaney, who joined the cabinet to become Mr Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget

On the eve of election day, a final poll suggested the race between Mr Ossoff and Ms Handel was too close to call.

The seat had been held by Republicans since 1979 and for many years was the district of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It became vacant after Republican incumbent Tom Price was asked to join Mr Trump’s cabinet.