Roughly five hours after polling locations closed, major networks began projecting that Georgia’s 6th District U.S. House special election would be heading toward a runoff on June 20.
That means Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, the race’s top two vote-getters, will have nine more weeks of expensive and heated campaigning before voters decide who will replace Tom Price, now Trump’s health secretary, as the representative for Atlanta’s affluent, leafy northern suburbs in the House.
Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and political novice, told his supporters late Tuesday that a runoff “shattered expectations.” “We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday evening, former Secretary of State Karen Handel vowed to “start the campaign anew” on Wednesday, as her onetime Republican opponents began to coalesce around her. “Beating Ossoff and holding this seat is something that rises above any one person,” she told supporters.
Outside groups poured millions into the nationally-watched contest, which was widely viewed as an early indicator of Trump’s popularity as he closed out his first 100 days in office. Even the president himself weighed in, via a series of attacks against Ossoff on Twitter, and he tweeted again moments after CNN called the race:
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG "R" win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
As of publishing time, with more than five-sixths of precincts reporting, Ossoff had won 48.6 percent of the vote in the 18-candidate field, and Handel 19.5 percent. Ossoff would have needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.