The first big special election of the Trump era may be headed toward a runoff

Jon OssoffJoe Raedle/Getty Images)Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff greets volunteers and supporters at a campaign office as he runs for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on April 18, 2017 in Marietta, Georgia.

Voters in Georgia appear to be on the verge of forcing a runoff between a Democratic and Republican candidate for a congressional seat Republicans have held for the last 40 years.

The special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district made Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel the leading candidates set to compete in a runoff on June 20.

Ossoff, a 30-year-old upstart candidate, earned major financial support and national attention in the first closely watched state election of President Donald Trump’s tenure. He took a significant early lead in Tuesday’s special election, but soon fell back toward the 50% threshold needed to claim the seat outright.

Ossoff was a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide before he jumped into the race. He has raised more than $US8 million from party donors keen to send a message to Trump and the Republican Party at large ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to reclaim seats in the House and Senate.

Early vote tallies in the 6th congressional district Tuesday night immediately pushed Ossoff to the head of a crowded field. Eighteen candidates were on the ballot Tuesday — 11 Republicans, five Democrats, and two candidates running as independents.

Shortly after polls closed, Ossoff launched ahead with more than 60% of the early vote, with Fulton and DeKalb Counties both backing him on more than 55% of their ballots. Ossoff claimed roughly 40% of Cobb County.

Some observers have warned against extrapolating this particular election as a predictor for national midterm elections in 2018, though the results in Georgia’s 6th district were seen as a general indication of voter sentiment toward Trump and Republicans in Congress. Trump won the district by 1.5 points last November. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, for whom the seat is being filled, won by more than 20 points in 2016.

Trump lent his own voice to GOP candidates late in the race, recording a robo-call in which he described Ossoff as a potential “disaster” for Congress and calling him a “super liberal.” Ossoff responded to Trump in interviews, saying simply, “I don’t have great personal admiration for the man.”

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