Trump weighs in as costly congressional race heads for a tight finish


Reuters

UPDATE 4-Trump weighs in as costly congressional race heads for a tight finish


(Adds results of South Carolina race, previous ROSWELL, Ga.)
    By Andy SullivanSANDY SPRINGS, Ga., June 20 (Reuters) - The most expensive
congressional race in U.S. history headed to a tight finish on
Tuesday as voters in suburban Atlanta cast ballots in an
election that was seen by many as a referendum on President
Donald Trump.
    Voting concluded at 7 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., Republican Karen
Handel had a 5-point lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political
newcomer, with more than 45 percent of the votes counted,
according to the New York Times.
    Ossoff is hoping to win a district that has been held by
Republicans since the 1970s.
    The outcome will not be pivotal to the balance of power in
Washington, where Republicans control both chambers of Congress,
but an Ossoff victory could help Democrats raise money and
recruit candidates as they try to win back the House of
Representatives in 2018. It also could encourage Republican
lawmakers to distance themselves from Trump, making it harder to
deliver on promised health and tax overhauls.
    "You have made a major down payment on changing not just the
6th District but changing our nation," Democratic Representative
John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights champion, told Ossoff
supporters on Tuesday night.
    Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, enlisted many
of the state's top elected officials to keep the district in
Republican hands. She avoided talk of Trump, instead focusing on
her track record.
    "The people of the 6th District are going to be looking for
someone who's been part of this community for nearly 25 years,"
she told reporters after casting her ballot on Tuesday morning,
as several dozen nearby Ossoff supporters chanted: "Flip the
6th."
    Handel's decision to not mention the president did not stop
Trump from weighing in on Twitter, calling Ossoff "weak on crime
and security" and telling voters that Handel is "a hard worker
who will never give up!"
    Republican officials and voters said Trump was a divisive
figure in this educated, affluent and increasingly diverse
district.
    "Do I agree 100 percent with what he does? God, no. But I
believe he has the country's best interests at heart," said
Jessica Podalsky, who voted for Handel on Tuesday morning.
    Ossoff initially campaigned on a promise to "make Trump
furious," but more recently avoided taking on the president as
he tried to win over centrist voters. He emphasized local
concerns and enlisted few prominent Democrats to campaign on his
behalf.
    "There's a lot of national interest, but it's about voters
in the 6th District who want to see representation that can grow
our local economy, improve access to health care and bring
accountability to Washington," he told reporters on Monday.
    Trump won the district by just 1 percentage point in last
year's presidential election, giving Democrats a new sense of
hope.
    "There are more of us than we thought," said Tricia
Gephardt, an Ossoff volunteer.
    The seat has been vacant since Trump tapped Republican Tom
Price to serve as his health secretary.
    Democrats are under pressure to win after steadily losing
seats in Congress and at the state level in recent years. They
fell short in other special congressional elections earlier this
year in Kansas and Montana.
    Democrat Archie Parnell also lost to Republican Ralph Norman
in another special congressional election in South Carolina on
Tuesday. That seat became open when Representative Mick Mulvaney
was tapped by Trump to head the Office of Management and
Budget. Norman was expected to win that race.

 (Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Amanda
Becker in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)
 ((andy.sullivan@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 354 5864; Reuters
Messaging: andy.sullivan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: USA POLITICS/GEORGIA (UPDATE 4, PIX, TV)



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