Georgia special election runoff: live coverage

Election Day is finally here in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, the closely watched special election runoff to fill the House seat left open by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are competing in what's become the most expensive House race in history.

Handel declares victory: "We are part of one community"

10:52 p.m.

Handel returned to the stage shortly after Ossoff gave his concession speech at his own watch party, declaring victory and striking a tone of unity after a long and frequently bruising campaign.

"To the Jon Ossoff supporters, know that my commitment they extend to every one of you, as well. We may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, the community of the Sixth District," Handel said at her Atlanta election night watch party.

"And I will work just as hard to earn your confidence in the weeks and months ahead. And I give every Georgian this promise. My promise is to work every single day relentlessly to make our state and there country a better place."

Handel also went on to thank the slew of Republicans who helped her on her path to victory. She specifically called out President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Freedom Caucus calls for Congress to work on shutdown through break Democrat previews Mueller questions for Trump’s AG nominee Trump inaugural committee spent ,000 on makeup for aides: report MORE and Vice President Pence, as the administration has deployed surrogates to help with the effort, as well as House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAnti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments Former Ryan fundraisers launch firm Romney writes new chapter in his like-hate relationship with Trump MORE (Wis.), whose associated super PAC spent millions on her behalf.

And she told the crowd about her phone call with a "more than gracious" Ossoff, wishing him and his fiancee "all the best in the new life that they are going to be starting."

Ossoff concedes race: "Beginning of something much bigger"

10:35 p.m.

Ossoff took the stage at his headquarters to concede, telling the crowd he called Handel and "commended her on a hard-fought race."

While Ossoff did not mention President Trump by name, he argued that the "fight goes on" as he urged Democrats to continue political work.

"This is about you, it's about an extraordinary community at an extraordinary moment in history. In the first opportunity in this country to make a statement about values can still unite people at a time when politics has been dominated by fear, hatred and scapegoating and division, this community stood up," he said. "This is not the outcome any of us had hoped for, but this is the beginning of something much bigger than us."

Trump: Handel chances 'looking great'

10:30 p.m.

Trump son celebrates win 

10:15 p.m.

Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to celebrate Handel's victory, calling it Democrats' "most expensive participation medal" since their November general election defeats.

Happy Handel close declaring victory

10:11 p.m.

A smiling Handel addressed her supporters at her election watch party in Atlanta shortly after multiple news outlets projected that she would win the race. Still, Handel stopped short of an outright declaration of victory.

NBC News and CNN have both projected that Handel will will, but Handel told supporters that she wasn't ready to say she's won.

"Now all of you know that I am a person who always likes to dot every 'I' and cross every 'T,'" Handel said during brief remarks. "Let's just make sure we do that and I'll be down in a very short time."

Handel projected to win

10:10 p.m.

Handel, who currently leads Ossoff 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent, is projected to win the seat. 

More good news for Republicans

9:50 p.m.

The GOP lead grew by one more percentage point as Handel expands her margin. She now leads by almost 6 percentage points — 52.9 percent to 47.1 percent with 65 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times.

The new numbers continue to look poor for Ossoff, whose window is beginning to close. The Times is reporting that 98 percent of precincts have reported in DeKalb County, Ossoff's strongest county.

So with the majority of outstanding ballots coming from Fulton and Cobb Counties, Ossoff is in rough shape. The crowd at Ossoff's election night party is reacting accordingly, according to The Hill reporter Lisa Hagen.

Handel widens lead

9:35 p.m.

Handel's lead is holding strong—5 percentage points—with 52.4 percent of the vote to Ossoff's 47.6 percent with 79 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times reports that 48 percent of precincts have already reported. It's continued good news for Handel as she remains in the driver's seat at about the halfway point.

Handel still leads as results pour in

9:12 p.m.

Handel is still holding strong and expanding her lead as more of the vote comes in.

She's currently at 51.6 percent, compared to Ossoff's 48.4 percent with about 39 percent of the precincts in.

The 466 vote lead is now up to more than 5,000 votes.

The former Georgia secretary of state continues to expand her lead in Cobb and Fulton Counties, meaning that Ossoff needs to pull closer in those counties and dominate in more Democratic-leaning DeKalb County to have a chance of winning.

John Lewis takes the stage for Ossoff

9:05 p.m.

Civil rights icon and longtime Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis addressed the crowd at Ossoff's victory party to thank them and rally support for his former intern.

Lewis has been a key surrogate for Ossoff amongst black voters. Ossoff needs strong turnout from those if he's going to win.

 

Handel pulls ahead

8:51 p.m.

It's early in terms of vote reporting, so first place could switch back on forth. But with 9 percent of precincts reporting, Handel has snatched the lead.

She leads 50.2 percent to Ossoff's 49.8 percent in the vote count. That's a margin of just 466 votes.

Right now, Handel has a slight lead in Fulton County and Cobb County, while Ossoff is winning in DeKalb County. That's about what experts had expected — Ossoff has to run up the score in DeKalb to have a chance, while Handel's path to victory includes strong showings in Fulton and Cobb.

Handel sits in the driver's seat right now, according to New York Times analysts. They predict that the current vote count suggests Handel winning by a projected 1.3 point margin.

Ossoff maintains razor-thin edge 

8:45 p.m.

The first Election Day votes are now in. While Ossoff maintains a 1-point edge with less than 6 percent of precincts reporting, Handel got a little over 300 more in-person votes from earlier today.

Handel has a narrow Election Day vote lead, 3,563 votes to 3,223.

Some political observers point out that Ossoff's small lead in the early vote wasn't enough, so he'll need to gain ground with Election Day votes as they roll in.

Another scene from the Ossoff party

8:26 p.m.

Packed room tonight for Ossoff.

Ossoff inches ahead with DeKalb, Cobb early vote

8:05 p.m.

Ossoff has a slight edge now that the DeKalb and Cobb counties are in.

With less than 1 percent reporting, Ossoff has a narrow, early lead with 50.7 percent, compared to Handel’s 49.3 percent.

Handel leads both the early vote in Fulton and Cobb, where she’s expected to do better.

But Ossoff has an early vote edge overall: 58,152 to 56,619. The biggest early vote margin between Ossoff and Handel is in DeKalb County, which is a Democratic stronghold. He has a more than 5,000 vote lead there, while the two are only separated by about 2,000 votes in Cobb and Fulton.

Handel thanks her supporters

7:55 p.m.

Handel appeared briefly at her party to tout the early vote totals, which have favored her so far.

Handel also thanked her volunteers. 

"I know that whatever happens tonight, this is the most incredible group of winners I have ever had the privilege of working with," Handel said to cheers.

A scene from the Ossoff election party

7:48 p.m.

 

Handel leads Fulton early vote

7:40 p.m.

Handel stormed ahead to an early lead as the Fulton County early votes were counted. With less than 1 percent of precincts in the county reporting, Handel has a slim lead by a margin of 37,140 votes, compared to 35,111 votes for Ossoff.

Fulton County leans Republican, which makes it important for Handel to run ahead of Ossoff there.

Handel is predictably polling very well in the northern part of the district, a part of Fulton County that's considered a Republican stronghold.

No surprises yet for either side, which is good for Handel as she looks to keep the district in Republican hands.

Supporters start showing up to parties

7:33 p.m.

Polls are closed, but no election results have been made public yet. Meanwhile, supporters of Ossoff and Handel are starting to arrive at their respective parties.

 

 

 

NYT’s notorious live model returns

7:20 p.m.

The New York Times is bringing back its live prediction model for Georgia 6, complete with the swinging dial that horrified Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump boasts about checking gas prices while in motorcade: 'You think Hillary Clinton would've done that?' Harry Reid on Iraq War vote: 'It tainted my heart' New Hampshire is ‘must-win’ state for Warren, says veteran political reporter MORE supporters on election night in 2016 as they watched her lead shrink into an upset win for President Trump.

With no vote totals in they, the estimated margin is set at “Even.”

Nate Cohn, a reporter for the NYT’s Upshot, gives an explainer of how it works: “Our live model is based on estimates for the turnout and vote choice of every combination of precinct *and* vote method.”

 

RNC chair predicts record turnout

7:12 pm.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel predicted a record turnout for Georgia's special election runoff shortly after polls closed, as all signs point to a flood of voters coming to cast their ballots.

Speaking with Fox News just after the polls closed, McDaniel said that early voting appears to be "neck and neck," while adding that the GOP expects their candidate to have an edge with the Tuesday in-person vote.

"We think this will be record turnout. In 2014, you saw 210,000 voters turn out, I think we'll see between 230 and 250,000 voters turnout for this special election," she said. "The interest is very high and each of them are making their case, and, of course, Karen is better suited to represent the district."

Polls close in Georgia — mostly

7:00 p.m.

The polls have now closed in all but two precincts in Georgia's 6th District, with the other two remaining open until 7:30 p.m. because of early voting problems there. We should be expecting the first round of returns coming soon.

Ossoff tweets to supporters as poll closing nears

6:46 p.m.

Ossoff sent words of encouragement to his supporters with just minutes until polls close across the state. So far, there haven't been reports of significant polling-place delays, but he called on his supporters to stay the course until they are able to vote. 

 

 

Georgia's not the only game in town tonight

6:19 p.m.

All of the attention is on Georgia and rightfully so — the race could go either way. 

But there's another special election going on tonight in South Carolina's fifth congressional district. 

There, Republican former state Rep. Ralph Norman is looking to win the seat left vacant by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Norman is a heavy favorite in the deep-red district that Trump won by 19 points in November. 

But Democrat Archie Parnell is hoping to score an upset that few are expecting.

Read more about the dynamics of the race in this report from The Hill's Lisa Hagen.

The Onion gets in on the fun

6:05 p.m.

How big is the Georgia 6 race? Big enough that it's getting parodied in The Onion. The satirical website poked fun at the outsized attention on the race with a new video today, "5 Things to Know about Jon Ossoff."

The Onion's video includes jabs at Democrats' lack of political power and the inevitable post-election spin.

Georgia 6 has been a GOP stronghold — until recently

5:40 p.m.

The suburban Atlanta district hasn’t always been a bellwether that has captured national attention.

The sixth district had been strongly Democratic until former Speaker Newt Gingrich won the seat in 1979. Since then, it has trended Republican and had easily reelected now-Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenators offer measure naming Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying Georgia’s midterm elections reveal historic voter realignment Veterans have been deprived of their earned benefits for two decades MORE and now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

But the district has been steadily changing, most dramatically between 2012 and 2016. The affluent and well-educated district was carried by Mitt Romney by 20 points in 2012, but only went for Trump by less than 2 points.

On the scene at Ossoff party

5:23 p.m.

The Hill's Lisa Hagen has a picture of Ossoff's party, where Georgia Democrats will sweat out the results once polls close.

Keep an eye on county turnout

5:00 p.m.

The key to following tonight's results is watching how the candidates fare in the three counties that make up the 6th District: DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton.

Ossoff is expected to do well in DeKalb, but he will likely need big turnout there to overcome Handel's advantage in Republican-leaning Cobb and Fulton counties. 

Flash flood warnings complicate turnout

4:25 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning that will impact some of the largely Democratic portions of the Georgia congressional district.

That flood warning largely cuts across the southern part of the 6th District in DeKalb County, a Democratic stronghold that's key to Ossoff's path to victory. It also includes parts of Fulton and Cobb counties, which are more Republican, but appears to affect the Democratic areas most heavily.

The warning, issued at 1:11 p.m., will last through 7:15 p.m., just after the vast majority of polls close.

It's unclear how this will affect the turnout, but it can't be a welcome development for the Ossoff camp.

Get ready for a long night

4:20 p.m.

Tonight's race is expected to go long, in part because the election is thought to be close. A poll taken right before the vote found Ossoff and Handel practically tied, at just a tenth of a percentage point apart.

Steady stream of voters but no long lines

3:45 p.m.

The rain is still coming down hard in the 6th District, but that hasn't stopped voters from casting their ballots.

Mimosa Elementary School in Roswell, Ga., houses four different precincts. Polling managers there say there's been a steady stream of voters coming in throughout the day.

Around 3 p.m., a polling manager for three of the precincts said they had about 223 voters so far. The number of voters has grown modestly from 10 a.m., when they had a total of 68 voters.

The longest line they had was this morning, and while they've gotten small lines here and there, none have been "out the door."

The other precinct, which is normally in a different location, has had 200 voters on Tuesday. They expect longer lines to pick up from 5 to 7 p.m. That precinct had close to 800 voters in the first round of the special election in April.

These precincts have some catching up to do in terms of their primary numbers, but keep in mind that 140,000 people already participated in early voting — twice the number of early voters from the primary. That could cause Election Day turnout to be lower.

Two polling sites to stay open late

3:40 p.m.

Two polling sites in DeKalb County will stay open 30 minutes later, until 7:30 p.m.

The polls are staying open after a mixup snarled check-ins this morning, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The paper reported that officials realized they had taken the wrong electronic poll book, which prompted the delay.

Those polling places are in Tucker and Embry Hills, two solidly blue spots in the county. So while the slight extension may not play much of a role in the final result, it's good news for Ossoff.

NRCC chair: This is a 'must-win' for Dems

3:20 p.m.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, tried to raise the stakes for his Democratic rivals Tuesday in an interview with Fox News.

"Democrats know that if they don't win this race, they really have no shot of taking over the House next year. They need to win this; it's a must-win seat for them," he said.

At the same time, Stivers downplayed the consequences of a Republican loss. While Stivers noted that this seat is the most competitive special election of the four House races this year, he argued that it would not be the end of the world for Republicans if they lost the seat.

"We want to win, we prefer to win, I think we are gonna win. But if we lose this, we are 3-1, if they lose this, they are 0-4. So, they need to win this much more than we need to win it, I feel comfortable we are gonna win," he added.

Republicans have seen a Georgia win as a chance to blunt Democratic momentum nationally before the 2018 midterms. But other Republicans have admitted that a loss for them would raise questions about how closely vulnerable members should associate with President Trump ahead of their reelection bids.

Spicer pushes back on race as Trump referendum

2:45 p.m.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to tamp down the idea that Georgia's runoff is a referendum on Trump's agenda when asked about the race during a press briefing.

"I think if you look historically, special elections generally don't foretell the outcome of races multiple years down the road. This is a race that the president — or a district that the president won by one point. It's obviously going to be competitive," Spicer said.

While Republicans have held the seat since the Carter administration, typically winning by a double-digit margin, Trump barely squeaked out a victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, a result that has boosted Democrats' hopes.

Heavy rain on polling day

2:20 p.m.

Around 1 p.m., voters were doused in torrential downpour that has yet to let up. Scattered thunderstorms are predicted to continue past 7 p.m., when polls close.

The rainy weather could affect turnout. Heavy rain and potential thunderstorms can deter some voters from getting to the ballot box.

Both campaigns are relying on their base and targeted voters getting to the polls on Tuesday, but a lot of the vote is already in, with more than 140,000 people participating in early voting. That could reduce the impact of Tuesday's weather on voter turnout.

Handel jabs Ossoff as she casts her ballot

2:00 p.m.

Handel headed to cast her ballot Tuesday morning in Roswell, where she chided her opponent for living outside of the district.

“He wishes he could vote like me, because he doesn’t live in the district,” Handel said as she walked into a polling place.

“I’ve lived here for nearly 25 years and I think that’s going to make a big difference to the voters in this district,” she said after she cast her ballot.

Republicans have made Ossoff's residency a key piece of ammunition against him — Ossoff lives a few miles outside of the district while his fiancée attends medical school at Emory University. He grew up in the 6th District and said he plans to move back once his fiancée finishes her degree, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from framing him as an outsider.

For more on Handel's brief chat with the media at her polling site, check out Lisa Hagen's report from the scene. 

High stakes in Georgia race

1:10 p.m.

Election Day is finally here in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, the closely watched special election runoff to fill the House seat left open by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Polls close at 7 p.m. The Hill will provide live updates throughout the afternoon and evening.

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The battle between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel has turned into a battle over President Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The candidates, their parties and outside groups have spent nearly $60 million on the race, making it the most expensive House election in history.

Democrats hope a victory will hurt Trump's agenda and scare Republicans ahead of the midterms. But the GOP sees huge upside in a Handel win, aware that a Democratic defeat would devastate the party's momentum.

Here are five things to watch for as the results come in and where each candidate needs to win their votes.