By Andy Sullivan | SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.
Republican Karen Handel won a hotly contested Georgia congressional race on Tuesday, CNN reported, fending off a Democratic challenge in a race that was widely seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump.
With more than 65 percent of the votes counted, CNN predicted that Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, would defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political newcomer who sought to wrest control of a suburban Atlanta district that has elected Republicans to Congress since the 1970s.
The election will not significantly change the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.
But it could give Republicans a boost of confidence as they struggle to advance health and tax legislation that has been bogged down by infighting and an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in last year’s presidential election.
Ossoff and Handel both tried to focus on local issues and avoided mentioning Trump, whose approval rating sits at 37 percent, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
But that did not stop Trump from weighing in on Twitter, calling Ossoff weak on national security and urging voters to support Handel.
Spending on the race reached at least $57 million, nearly twice the previous record, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group. The special election was held to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price after Trump appointed him as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Democrats were 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)