Former Georgia Secretary of State, gubernatorial and senate candidate Karen Handel leads the larger Republican field at 20 percent, with Johns Creek City Councilman Bob Gray and State Senator Judson Hill tied at 10 percent.
Handel leads in name recognition in the “jungle” election where candidates of both parties will compete in a large (19 candidate) ballot. If no candidate achieves an outright majority, the top two will head to a runoff. At this point, it’s very likely the runoff will be between Handel and Ossoff.
Outside Democrat money is pouring in to help the 30-year-old Ossoff win a seat from a heavily GOP district north of Atlanta. Tom Price was one of the more conservative members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, and Democrats would love to pull off a coup to use for their 2018 election efforts.
Polling in a Handel/Ossoff runoff is tight: Handel 41, Ossoff 42, 17 percent undecided.
The big question is if Handel can finish. In her two previous attempts, despite widespread name recognition and popularity–especially with pro-life groups due to her stand against Planned Parenthood–Handel could not hold on in primaries against Nathan Deal in the governor’s race and David Perdue in the senate.
In a close race with a well-funded, youthful Democrat, can she finish well? Some Republicans have backed Gray as a viable alternative. With the election on April 19, the next few weeks are critical for Handel, and for Gray.
I’ve always liked Karen Handel, and have consistently backed her. In this race, I’ve stepped back a bit and remained neutral, especially since I don’t live in the 6th CD. I do believe either Handel or Gray would be good conservative members of Congress and worthy to step into Price’s seat.
With a race so important on the national scene–the first Congressional race of the Trump era–it’s vital that Republicans hold this seat. If Handel wins a spot in the runoff, she must deliver the goods. If voters aren’t so sure she can, they can’t hold out over sentiment or personal loyalty on this one.
Handel has to convince those voters she can finish strong, or they’ll go with the candidate who can.