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The Journal Gazette

  • Democratic candidate for Georgia's Sixth Congressional seat Jon Ossoff greets supporters at a campaign field office Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Marietta. Voters began casting ballots on Tuesday in the special election to fill the House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1:00 am

Georgia Democrat leads early returns

Race to fill House seat in GOP area holds significance

Associated Press

DUNWOODY, Ga. – An upstart Democrat leads a special election in a conservative Georgia congressional district, but incomplete returns show he's barely clinging to the majority required to pull off a shocking upset in the Atlanta suburbs.

Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer, sought to parlay opposition to President Donald Trump into a victory that would rebuke the White House and embolden Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

With early voting totals and about half of precincts counted, Ossoff hovered right at the majority threshold required to win an 18-candidate primary outright in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.

But tens of thousands of votes remained uncounted, and Ossoff's lead has been shrinking as more precincts roll in across a district that has been held by a Republican since Newt Gingrich was elected here in 1978.

The trends point increasingly toward a June 20 runoff that would pit Ossoff against the top Republican vote-getter. Former Georgia Secretary of State is a distant second behind Ossoff but has a comfortable lead over other Republican candidates.

Republicans nationally and in Georgia acknowledged before polls opened that Ossoff would top the slate of Republicans, Democrats and independents who appeared together on one primary ballot. The question was whether Ossoff could win outright.

The winner will succeed Tom Price, who resigned to become Trump's health secretary.

Trump took to Twitter urging Republicans to cast ballots late Tuesday. He even mocked Ossoff's choice of residence – outside the district.

“Just learned that Jon @Ossoff, who is running for Congress in Georgia, doesn't even live in the district. Republicans, get out and vote!” the president wrote.

The contest is testing both parties' strategies for the upcoming national election cycle. National attention, already significant, intensified after last week's closer-than-expected GOP victory in a Kansas special House election. Republicans currently hold a 238-193 advantage in the chamber.

Ossoff would be a “disaster” in Congress, Trump declared earlier Tuesday on social media, a day after he blasted Ossoff as a “super liberal.” Ossoff has energized liberals and younger voters, while also aiming for disaffected independents and moderate Republicans.