In one of the most closely-watched election contests in recent history, Karen Handel defeated 30-year-old Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th District special election on Tuesday, June 20.
While the GOP celebrated Handel’s victory in the Peach State, South Carolina Republicans extended the GOP’s winning streak to four House wins since President Trump’s inauguration with Ralph Norman‘s win over Democratic opponent Archie Parnell to inherit Mick Mulvaney’s 5th congressional seat in the Palmetto State.
Handel’s victory with 52 percent of the vote preserves GOP dominance in the district stretching back to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s first win in 1979. In South Carolina’s 5th District, Norman eked out a three-point win over Parnell.
Handel succeeds the departed Tom Price, who resigned his seat in the House in early February to serve in the Trump administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
While both seats were hotly contested, most political observers were fixated on the outcome of the Handle–Ossoff race, which became the most expensive House contest in history. An estimated $60 million was spent between the pair, but sources differed widely for each candidate.
For Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, outside groups amassed $18 million, which doubled Ossoff’s take. In contrast, Ossoff, a former congressional aid who was unable to vote in the election due to residency requirements, raised $23 million from individual contributors, five times what Handel raised.
Following the Tuesday night losses, congressional Democrats began to publicly criticize party leadership for the lack of special election success since Trump’s election, despite his general lack of popularity throughout the country.
“Ossoff race better be a wake up call for Democrats – business as usual isn’t working,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) tweeted. “We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent.”
More poignantly, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday on MSNBC that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s “time has come and gone.”
“The rationale for getting new leadership is we are losing and we have been losing since 2010 — that’s it,” Rice continued.
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who opposed Pelosi in a House member election to lead the Democrats in 2017, also commented Wednesday it will be “very hard” for his party to win back a majority in Congress if Pelosi is still in a leadership role.
“You see these commercials that tie these candidates to leader Pelosi week in and week out in the last several months. That still moves the needle,” Ryan said.
While Democrats will need to win 24 Republican-held seats in the House of Representatives to take majority-control of Congress back in January 2019, 23 such districts were carried by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November.
[Roll Call] [Wall Street Journal] [Reuters] [NBC News] [Photo courtesy Roll Call via nymag.com]