Democrat Jon Ossoff conceded the Georgia special election runoff to Republican Karen Handel Tuesday night, even as he argued that the "fight goes on" for Democrats looking for a path forward.
"This small community in Georgia, which has become the epicenter of politics, sometimes to my chagrin, for months now, it’s had nothing to do with me, it never has," Ossoff said as he addressed a packed room of supporters at his campaign’s watch party outside of in suburban Atlanta, soon after news outlets declared Handel the winner.
"It's about you. It's about an extraordinary community at an extraordinary moment in history."
Democrats had hoped a victory would send a rebuke to President Trump's agenda by winning a once-safe Republican seat. Yet he fell short by about 5 percentage points, leaving Democrats frustrated about the tens of millions spent on his behalf.
Supporters packed the ballroom of the Westin Hotel in Sandy Springs. CNN played on the two large monitors, and the crowd cheered loudly when vote tallies showed Ossoff up earlier in the night.
When CNN projected that Handel would be the 6th District's next congresswoman, the crowd grew silent, with a mixture of boos and a noticeable shift in the mood. There were sporadic chants of “this is what democracy looks like” and “not my congresswoman.”
But when Ossoff took the stage alongside his fiancee, the jam-packed room erupted in cheers.
Ossoff struck an optimistic tone in his address that lasted several minutes, making an indirect reference to the party's fight against Trump and calling on supporters to continue the struggle.
"In the first opportunity in this country to make a statement about how values can still unite people at a time when politics has been dominated by fear, hatred and scapegoating and division, this community stood up," Ossoff said.
"This is not the outcome any of us had hoped for, but this is the beginning of something much bigger than us ... the fight goes on."
Ossoff began the speech by briefly mentioning Handel, noting that he called her to congratulate her on a "hard fought race." But outside of that comment, he barely mentioned his opponent.
Tuesday's vote was the culmination of a monthslong slog — Ossoff and Handel advanced to the runoff in April when Ossoff fell just short of winning the all-party special election outright, extending the election cycle another two months.
Handel took the stage at her own party shortly after Ossoff conceded, striking a tone of unity after a long and sometimes bruising campaign.
"To the Jon Ossoff supporters, know that my commitments, 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 6th District," Handel said.
"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 the country a better place."
Handel also thanked the slew of Republicans who helped her on her path to victory. She specifically called out President Trump and Vice President Pence, as the administration had deployed surrogates to help with the effort, as well as House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-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."