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Trump congratulates Handel on Twitter

21 June 2017

While the White House had played down the national importance of the Georgia race, Trump had gone all in on Handel, and the Republican Party no doubt sees the victory as a shot in the arm as it prepares to fight to preserve its control of Congress in next year's mid-term elections.

Republican Karen Handel won a high-stakes, closely-watched special congressional election Tuesday, salvaging a seat in traditional conservative Georgia where Democrats had hoped to strike a blow against Donald Trump's presidency.

The commander-in-chief then posted a third tweet, writing "Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th".

It was Handel's most explicit praise of a president whose tenuous standing put this previously safe Republican district in peril in the first place. These are red districts where Trump picked cabinet members because he knew the GOP would likely win the contests for the seats they vacated.

"I don't think that very many Republicans will take much comfort on the health care issue even if Handel does win", said veteran Democratic pollster Geoff Garin in advance of Tuesday's result.

Separately, Republicans held on to another seat Tuesday in SC, where Ralph Norman won a special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who resigned to become the White House budget director.

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Acknowledging the historic moment while giving her victory speech in Georgia on Tuesday, she said: "Tonight reminds me, anything is possible".

Democratic candidates also lost earlier races in Republican-held districts in Kansas and Montana. "Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated", House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Democrats need to gain 24 seats next year for a majority.

The two campaigns and outside groups supporting and opposing the candidates shelled out at least $36 million as of May 31, including more than $22 million from Ossoff's campaign.

The last woman elected to the Senate or House of Representatives from Georgia was Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who served from 2005-2007.

Handel, her own campaign flooded with outside donations, has kept the race tight, emphasizing her area roots.

She also noted throughout the campaign that she's lived in the district for 25 years, unlike Ossoff, who grew up in the district but lives in Atlanta, a few miles south of the 6th District's southern border.

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Thirteen minutes later, he followed up with a tweet supporting Handel.

"My pledge is to be part of the solution, to focus on governing", she said. She barely mentioned him ahead of finishing second to Ossoff in an April primary but welcomed him for a private fundraiser later that month.

Protestations aside, Handel often embraced the national tenor of the race, joining a GOP chorus that lambasted Ossoff as a "dangerous liberal" who was "hand-picked" by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Handel raised more than $5 million, not a paltry sum in a congressional race, but barely a fifth of Ossoff's fundraising haul.

"Defeating Republicans in districts that they have traditionally held requires doing something drastically different than establishment Democrats have done before - specifically, running on a bold progressive vision and investing heavily in direct voter contact", said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America.

Tuesday night's outcome in a Georgia special House race was a triumph for the GOP, and the most recent, and devastating, illustration of the Democrats' problems, from a weak bench and recruiting problems to divisions about what the party stands for.

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Since House Republicans narrowly passed a bill to repeal Obamacare in May, Ossoff was increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the legislation.