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Ossoff within reach of Democratic Senate nomination in Georgia, but counting continues

Ossoff within reach of Democratic Senate nomination in Georgia, but counting continues
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Investigative journalist Jon OssoffJon Ossoff28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas cease-fire DC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill MORE is on the verge of clinching the Democratic Senate nomination in Georgia, but delayed vote counts have left the fate of the primary contest up in the air. 

So far, nearly 750,000 ballots have been counted in the Georgia Democratic Senate primary, with Ossoff coming in with just under 49 percent of the vote. His closest rival, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, is running far behind with less than 15 percent of the vote, while another well-funded contender, Sarah Riggs Amico, trails narrowly in third place at around 13 percent.

But tens – and possibly even hundreds – of thousands of ballots have yet to be counted in the race. Ossoff estimated on Wednesday afternoon that there “are near or possibly in excess of a quarter of a million votes that have not yet been counted.”

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“It’s far too early to talk about outcomes,” Ossoff said on a video call with reporters. “We don’t know what the outcome is because there are hundreds of thousands of votes that remain uncounted. The point today and the only point is that my campaign team and I are going to fight to make sure that every single vote is counted.”

Ossoff needs to secure at least 50 percent of the vote to clinch the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueGeorgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Georgia's top election official looks to shake political drama MORE (R-Ga.) in November. If he or any other candidate fails to meet that threshold, the two candidates with the most votes will head to a runoff primary in August.

The Senate primary and other elections held on Tuesday were marked by a full-scale meltdown of Georgia’s voting system. Many voters who requested mail-in ballots in advance of the June 9 nominating contest never received them. Meanwhile, new voting machines across the state malfunctioned, leading to long lines at polling sites, while some were reported missing altogether. 

Those problems have led to furious criticism of state election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, with some critics calling for his resignation and an investigation into his office’s handling of the primary elections.

Democrats expressed alarm at the widespread voting problems on Tuesday, raising the prospect of voter suppression, particularly in communities of color, which were among those hit the hardest by voting issues. There’s also concern that the primaries could portend larger problems in the November general election, when Democrats are hoping to put traditionally-red Georgia into play.

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Democrats argue that the state has shifted in their direction in recent years. Ossoff, for example, gained significant star power among Democrats in 2017 when he ran unsuccessfully to represent Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in a special election. The winner of that election, former Rep. Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelOssoff defeats Perdue in Georgia Senate runoff McBath wins rematch against Handel in Georgia House race House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R-Ga.), lost her seat less than two years later to Democrat Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathLawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history Giffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall MORE

Also in 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams came within two points of winning the race for Georgia governor, before conceding defeat to current Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

With the 2020 elections, however, Democrats are making a play for both of Georgia’s Senate seats, as well as in the presidential race, with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE’s campaign eyeing the state as a potential general election battleground.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ossoff declined to weigh in on his standing in the vote tally, repeatedly mentioning the many votes that had not yet been counted. Tomlinson, meanwhile, declared the primary a “two-person race” between her and Ossoff, expressing confidence that they would both advance to the runoff election. 

“Now that most have been counted, it appears that for the third time in his political career, Jon Ossoff has failed to break the 50% needed to avoid a runoff,” Tomlinson said in a statement. “Voters in Georgia know we need a strong candidate to take on David Perdue and even though Jon is universally known, a majority of voters have rejected him again.”

Amico, who currently trails Tomlinson by around 12,000 votes, called her remarks “a slap in the face,” accusing the former Columbus mayor of “unilaterally” declaring an outcome for the primary, especially with so many votes still waiting to be counted. 

“It's a slap in the face to every GA voter for a candidate to unilaterally declare an outcome when thousands of ballots remain uncounted,” Amico, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia lieutenant governor, tweeted. “Candidates for elected office awaiting results should be more invested in protecting voters' rights than advancing their political careers.”