ATLANTA (AP) — A Tuesday special election in the northern suburbs of Atlanta will settle just one of 435 U.S. House seats, but it has become a national story in the early months of Donald Trump’s presidency.
A closer look:
— Democrat Jon Ossoff, 30, is a former congressional staffer-turned documentary filmmaker; now he’s a symbol of the Trump opposition movement, though he rarely mentions the president.
— Republican Karen Handel, 55, is a former Georgia secretary of state. She also was a Susan G. Komen Foundation executive when the organization in 2012 sought to cut off its support of abortion-provider Planned Parenthood.
The Georgia 6th spans traditionally conservative northern suburbs of greater Atlanta. It’s elected Republicans since 1978, from eventual Speaker Newt Gingrich to Trump’s Health Secretary Tom Price, who resigned in February to join the administration. It’s an affluent and well-educated district. Most noteworthy: Trump barely edged out Democrat Hillary Clinton here in November.
This is the most expensive House race in U.S. history, potentially topping $50 million. Ossoff has raised at least $23 million. Handel lags behind at about $5 million. But national parties and political action committees, eager to win a hot race ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, have made sure that both sides have the advertisements, staffers and other help they need.
WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR DEMOCRATS
Democrats have plenty of energy around the country, but they’ve yet to translate that onto the electoral scoreboard, and they need to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats by next November to reclaim a House majority. Party insiders say Georgia is not a must-win given the GOP advantages here, but winning in a district like this could put them on their way to a successful 2018, and it would embolden donors and volunteers nationally — and potentially give a boost to candidate recruiting in friendlier districts.
WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR REPUBLICANS
It’s about maintaining GOP strength on Capitol Hill and squelching Democrats’ enthusiasm. Winning in this once-safe GOP district would follow House special election victories this year in GOP-held districts in Kansas and Montana. Republicans are favored to hold a fourth seat up Tuesday in South Carolina, while Democrats already held their lone open seat in a California special election. If Handel loses, it will be a warning sign to House Republicans facing tough races in other suburban districts around the country, many of them among the 23 GOP-held seats where Trump trailed Clinton in 2016.