EAST COBB, GA — Hours after the polls closed Tuesday, incomplete results from the 6th District race showed that Democrat Jon Ossoff, who was bolstered by early voting, was leading, but by a dwindling margin as ballots from Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties continued to be tallied. The last of the polling sites closed just shy of 8 p.m. in Tuesday’s closely watched special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Election day in the district, watched by much of the nation as well as Washington’s political elite, was marked by Twitter attacks from President Trump, showers that caused flooding locally and voting issues that plagued some polling stations.
As the first wave of incomplete results began to trickle in from the Secretary of State’s Office, they showed that Democrat Jon Ossoff led the crowded field. At 10:40 p.m., he tallied 50.3 percent of votes counted at 71,970 ballots so far, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Republicans followed, led by Karen Handel with 25,934 votes for 18.13 percent; Judson Hill with 14,390 votes for 10.06 percent; Bob Gray with 13,765 votes for 9.62 percent and then Dan Moody with 12,040 votes for 8.42 percent. SIGN UP: To get notified of the results of this election instantly, click here to sign up for the East Cobb Patch. Or find your Atlanta-area town here. Or, if you have an iPhone, download the free Patch app.
Incomplete Cobb results showed that Ossoff pulled 57 percent of the vote there. Hill, the only Republican from the county, was the top GOP vote-getter there, but he still trailed Handel by a wide margin overall.
In north Fulton, a judge agreed to extend voting at two polling stations — the Johns Creek Environmental Campus in Alpharetta and Centennial High School in Roswell — because of earlier problems. In Roswell, poll workers reportedly showed up after the 7 a.m. start time; in Johns Creek, a computer glitch foiled the opening of the station until about 8 a.m.
“Unfortunately, there were unforeseen staffing and equipment issues that caused these two polls to open late,” Richard Barron, director of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, said Tuesday afternoon. “As required by law, we are extending the operating times for these two locations to allow voters the complete 12 hours available to cast their ballots. All other polling locations will close at 7 pm.”
The adjustments meant that the Johns Creek site closed at 7:55 p.m., nearly an hour past the original 7 p.m. cutoff, while voting at Centennial High ceased at 7:35 p.m.
Also, scores of prospective voters who don’t know their Congressional district complained that there were no 6th District ballots at their local polling stations. So many people mistakenly think they live in the 6th District that Fulton County officials had to release a statement.
“We are receiving many calls from people not eligible to vote for the 6th Congressional District seat because they do not live in the district,” a Fulton County spokesperson said Tuesday, WXIA-TV reports. “Unfortunately, they did not do their research to determine which district they live in. Please help us spread the word to KNOW BEFORE YOU GO so people will be able to determine their eligibility.”
Just before dusk, several of the candidates arrived at their respective watch party locations — among them Ossoff at a Dunwoody hotel and Kurt Wilson at a Roswell country club — as the votes tallied. In a video on social media, Gray was seen walking with supporters inside a Roswell establishment.
Polls Ahead of Election, President Tweets
The latest polls have put Ossoff, a Democrat and first-time candidate, in the driver’s seat of the race, while former Secretary of State Karen Handel is the front-runner among the Republicans. But Gray, a former Johns Creek City Councilman, and former state Senators Dan Moody and Judson Hill all can catch her with strong voter turnout.
Even the highest office in the United States is paying close attention: President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, “Republicans must get out today and VOTE in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win! Dem Ossoff will raise your taxes-very bad on crime & 2nd A,” Trump said.
He again tweeted about the race in the afternoon, chiding Ossoff, who resides in DeKalb’s Northlake area, for not living in the 6th District.
Ossoff’s strong showing has galvanized Democrats, who had long conceded the 6th District to Republicans since Newt Gingrich got elected there in the late 1970s. But the presidential election changed things: Donald Trump slipped by Hillary Clinton by a razor-thin 1.5 percentage point, a far cry from 2012’s race when Mitt Romney won by 23 percent.
Potential voting issues began even before Tuesday: Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Monday that his office is investigating the theft of some voting equipment from a Cobb County precinct manager’s vehicle. Kemp said although the incident happened Saturday, his office was not alerted until two days later.
Politicos and pundits nationwide are watching the race to see if Democrats can pick off the seat, and perhaps shake off the losing momentum of the presidential race.
In an earlier tweet, President Trump called Ossoff a “super Liberal Democrat” who “wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!” Fact-checking site Politifact weighed in with this response: “In his tweet, Trump inaccurately characterized Ossoff’s immigration stance. The candidate has spoken in favor of securing the U.S. borders.”
The race — which has featured stumping TV stars, attack ads based on “Star Wars” and even Osama bin Laden — has garnered unusual attention in Washington, especially for one this early in the year following a presidential election. Not only is Trump invested in the race, but White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is said to be watching every development.
“Ossoff running smart campaign,” Bannon reportedly texted a New York Times reporter last month. She said that Trump’s closest adviser had a surrogate keeping track of everything 6th District-related. “It’s something that I’m tracking specifically for Bannon,” the official said, “and keeping an eye on, following all the polls, following the kind of narrative out there — so it’s definitely something we’re paying attention to and the political department’s paying attention to as well.”
“We are within striking distance,” Ossoff told volunteers at his Sandy Springs campaign office Saturday, reports NPR. “Every piece of data we have says this thing is winnable on Tuesday.”
Polls show Ossoff‘s support in the mid-40s, with GOP contenders Handel, Gray, Hill, and Moody further back. Republicans hope to hold Ossoff under 50 percent, giving the GOP candidate who finishes second a chance to regroup and win in the June 20 runoff.
“The eyes of the whole nation are on us. The eyes of the world are on us,” Ossoff told supporters. “And it’s a rare chance for us to stand up and make a statement about what we stand for, and to prove that we believe in a country that is decent and kind, compassionate, courageous and tough, that we reject fear and division, that we stand together in all of our diversity, working for a better community here, and a better country.”
On Twitter, Ossoff posted Tuesday, “This is not about me, this is about us and what we believe is worth fighting for.”
Other candidates were on social media as well. Gray tweeted a picture of his spouse with a campaign sign, saying: “My lovely wife Suzanne working the polls today. Thanks sweetheart! GO VOTE!”
Both political parties have much riding on the election, not just in Georgia, but nationally. Ed Rogers writes for The Washington Post that “If Democrats win, their victory will speak to and embolden the intensity of their radical, left-wing, anti-Trump supporters. And if Republicans pull through, it will confirm that the GOP was organized and able to maintain control over traditionally red districts in the age of the resistance.”
And the Los Angeles Times says that the close race is fallout from President Trump’s narrow win in November. While Trump’s strong showing in rural regions that were once Democratic strongholds but where blue-collar voters sided with the Republican nominee this time around, the vicious campaign turned moderate suburban districts like Georgia’s 6th more Democratic than they previously had been.
The 6th District election will test whether the Trump effect poses a threat to Republicans beyond himself, even to those running the sort of conventional GOP campaigns seen in the special-election race, says the Times.
Sample Ballots, Voting Precincts
Gov. Nathan Deal called the special election in early February after Roswell doctor and U.S. Rep. Tom Price was tapped by the Trump administration to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Qualifying began on Feb. 13 and concluded two days later as 18 candidates — 11 Republicans, five Democrats and two Independents — threw their respective hats in the ring.
If Ossoff fails to win 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between him and the next highest vote getter will take place two months later.
“I don’t think he’ll get to 50 percent,” Sue Everhart, a former state GOP chairwoman, told the U.S. News & World Report. “When it comes to the runoff, we do what we always do, we join together. We’ll sing kumbaya. That’s what we’ll do this time.”
Here are the 6th District voting sites in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. To find a voting precinct in Fulton, look up the closest one to you on this map.
Cobb County has made available scores of polling locations. Here are the voting precinct addresses.
DeKalb County has also provided a list of polling sites. Here is the DeKalb voting precinct list.
In early April, Ossoff disclosed that his campaign has raised an unprecedented $8.3 million in the race, an apparent record for a single quarter. The top GOP fundraiser is Hill, who has pulled in 473,000, according to financial disclosures records.
While Ossoff has benefited from some high-powered endorsements, namely Atlanta Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson, who he worked for as a legislative assistant, Handel has countered with big-name GOP backers as well.
On Monday, Handel was endorsed by Rayna Casey, Trump’s Georgia campaign co-chair for the 2016 election. Handel also has received endorsements from Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
A runoff election, if necessary, will take place on June 20.
Image via Patch
Get free real-time news alerts from the East Cobb Patch.