Hotly Contested Georgia Congressional Race Grinds Into Its Final Days

Branden Camp/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With just one day until polls open in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, the candidates are making their final appeals to voters in a race that has obliterated all-time spending records and come under a national microscope as a bellweather for Democrats’ chances of flipping districts under a historically unpopular President Donald Trump.

Republican Karen Handel, who is hoping to defend the GOP’s historic hold on the Sixth Congressional District, brought in some of the party’s big names to rally with her over the weekend. Both Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia who now serves as President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, whose congressional seat Handel is vying to fill, appeared at rallies for Handel, while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also made an appearance alongside Handel Monday.

Perdue criticized Ossoff’s attempts to appeal to disaffected Republican voters.

“The leftists have gone and typecast and they’ve picked this young man — charismatic, articulate — and they’ve taught him a few Republican buzzwords,” the former governor said at a Handel event. “They think he can fool you. It’s not gonna happen.”

Trump himself has not visited the district since appearing a fundraiser for Handel in April, but he urged voters to turn out for her in a Monday morning tweet:

Democrat Jon Ossoff has focused less on having big-name Democrats campaign for him, but did bring in civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) for an event on Saturday. The Democrat also held get-out-the-vote rallies and appeared at events with the canvassers helping his campaign knock on doors in the final stretch.

Ossoff and Handel are locked in a tight race to fill the seat vacated by Price when he joined Trump’s Cabinet. Since Trump won the district by just one point in the November election, Democrats are hopeful that they can capitalize on his unpopularity and flip the ruby-red district blue in Tuesday’s runoff election.

Ossoff fell just short of winning the seat outright in April’s jungle primary, when he netted 48 percent of the vote. Polls have shown a tight race in the final stretch before the runoff between Ossoff and Handel, but most recent surveys have shown Ossoff with a slight lead.

High turnout is expected in the hotly contested race, especially given that more than 140,000 people cast ballots early, including 36,000 people who did not vote in the initial April 18 jungle primary.

The race has attracted record-shattering spending, to the tune of about $50 million—making it the most expensive House race ever—and intense national attention, with outside groups injecting national politics into the House race.

The conservative Principled PAC released an ad over the weekend that tries to link Ossoff to last week’s shooting at the Republican congressional team’s baseball practice. Both campaigns quickly condemned the ad.

Conservatives also have spent a lot of time trying to tie Ossoff to national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and celebrities like Kathy Griffin, who got into hot water after she did a photo shoot with a fake severed head modeled after Trump.

While Ossoff did launch his campaign as something of a Trump resister, he’s since dialed that messaging back, instead presenting himself as a moderate looking to work with both parties.

“I think this race is about who can deliver for this community more than it’s about national politics,” Ossoff told NBC News in an interview published Saturday. “There are many in the community who do have serious concerns about the direction the administration is taking us in and I’m one of them and those concerns have only grown over time. But fundamentally what people want from their representative is the kind of results that improve quality of life.”