ATLANTA — Republicans avoided an embarrassing defeat in a House race in Atlanta’s conservative suburbs by forcing a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff, who captured the most votes with a groundswell of grass-roots activism and millions in donations fueled largely by antipathy to President Trump.
Unofficial returns showed that Ossoff had earned less than 50 percent of the vote, the threshold needed to declare an outright victory. Instead, with 48.3 percent, Ossoff was headed to a runoff against Republican Karen Handel, the top GOP vote-getter in a special election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
In a statement early Wednesday, Ossoff acknowledged that he had fallen short.
“This is already a remarkable victory,” he said. “We defied the odds, shattered expectations, and now are ready to fight on and win in June.”
Ossoff could find it difficult to sustain the momentum he witnessed this past week in a traditionally Republican district that has been in GOP hands since 1979. Although Handel had earned 19.7 percent of the vote with 88 percent of precincts reporting, in a runoff she is widely expected to rally Republican voters who had divided their votes among 11 GOP candidates in Tuesday’s race.
Trump quickly took credit for the likely runoff, tweeting after midnight: “Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!”