Record-breaking congressional election headed for photo finish


By Andy SullivanROSWELL, Ga., June 20 (Reuters) - The costliest
congressional election in U.S. history was headed for a photo
finish on Tuesday as Democrats hoped dissatisfaction with
President Donald Trump would help them win a suburban Atlanta
seat that has been held by Republicans since the 1970s.
    Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel have both
focused on local concerns, but national political groups have
spent heavily in the biggest proxy war between the two parties
since Trump's upset victory in the 2016 presidential election.
    This time, Republicans are playing defense. Ossoff, a
30-year-old political newcomer, aims to win a district that has
launched the careers of nationally known Republicans like Newt
Gingrich and Tom Price, who vacated the seat to serve as Trump's
health secretary.
    Recent polls show a tight race, with Ossoff maintaining a
tight lead over Handel, a former secretary of state who has cast
Ossoff as a puppet of liberal interests who doesn't even live in
the district.
    "This race is not about what's going on around the rest of
the country - it is about you," she told supporters on Monday
    Total spending in the race has topped $56 million, according
to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, nearly
double the previous record.
    The outcome will not alter the balance of power in
Washington, where Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
    But an Ossoff victory would help Democrats raise money and
recruit candidates as they try to win back control of the House
of Representatives in 2018.
    The party has fallen short this year in other elections in
Kansas and Montana, and it is expected to lose another race on
Tuesday in South Carolina.
    But Democrats saw a chance for victory after Trump carried
this affluent, educated district by only 1 percentage point in
last year's presidential election.
    "There are more of us than we thought," said Tricia
Gephardt, an Ossoff volunteer.
    Ossoff gained national prominence by vowing to "make Trump
furious," but lately he has avoided mentioning the president,
promising instead to cut spending and "bring accountability to
Washington," as he said at a Monday campaign event.
    Handel also avoids talk of Trump, whose turbulent presidency
has led to low approval ratings.
    "Certainly the Republicans are split on (Trump), but at this
point the Republicans have mostly come together behind Karen,"
said Kay Kirkpatrick, a Republican state senator who represents
the area.

 (Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Robert Birsel)
 ((; +1 202 354 5864; Reuters


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