Update: Republican Karen Handel has won the race against Democrat Jon Ossoff for an open seat in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District, according to an early report from CNN.
Though CNN notes the district has historically favored candidates on the right, the polls show Handel beating Ossoff by a smaller margin than some would have expected, with her 52.6% to his 47.4%.
Handel's supporters have taken to Twitter to celebrate the victory, saying that despite the massive amount of money Ossoff spent during the campaign — he raised $23.6 million, while Handel raised only $4.5 million — he wasn't able to defeat the ideals his opponent represents.
During her victory speech, Handel thanked President Trump as well as her "new friend," Rep. Steve Scalise, who is still in the hospital after being shot during a GOP baseball practice last week.
Defeated but not deflated, Ossoff spent his concession speech encouraging supporters to continue their fight.
"We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was possible you could fight, we could fight," Ossoff said, according to Politico. "This is not the outcome any of us were hoping for. But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us."
This story was originally published on June 20, 2017 at 12:00 p.m.
A contentious special election was sparked when Tom Price joined President Trump's Cabinet as health and human services secretary and left an opening in Congress to represent Georgia's Sixth Congressional District. The Democrats' attempt to turn a long-time red district blue has become a symbol of liberals' resistance to the Trump administration and efforts to flip Congress, so the entire nation is watching what happens in the Atlanta suburbs today.
In the first vote for the seat, held in April, no single candidate received 50% of the vote, forcing a runoff election between Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and the Republican candidate with the most support, Karen Handel. With more than $50 million spent overall, it's become the most expensive House race in history, signaling just how much is at stake.
Let's break down what's going on in Georgia and why it matters.
Who are the candidates?
Ossoff is a political newcomer and positioned himself as a moderate Democrat while trying to win over a historically conservative district. Although he grew up in the Sixth District, he doesn't currently live there, which brought criticism from his opponent. Ossoff plans to move to the suburban Atlanta district if elected.
The Democratic candidate is pro-choice and wants to defend Medicare and Medicaid and prevent insurers from charging more for preexisting conditions. On immigration, his campaign website says he believes "America needs a strong border policy that protects American citizens and American jobs," but the country should welcome those who "seek the opportunity to work hard, play by the rules, and build better lives in America."
He previously worked as a congressional aide, and since 2013, has worked with BBC reporter Ron McCullagh producing documentaries on corrupt politicians and organized crime.
The Republican candidate, Handel, is currently the chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She was formerly a Georgia secretary of state and boasts on her website that she led the state’s implementation of voter ID requirements (proven to discriminate against minorities).
She's a self-proclaimed life-long conservative who opposes abortion, supports the GOP's current effort to replace Obamacare, and supports Trump's proposal for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Neither candidate has come out strongly with or against President Trump, though Ossoff has come to symbolize the national Democratic resistance to the current administration. When Handel was asked on CNN's New Day whether or not Trump would campaign for her, she said, "I would hope so."
The president has been tweeting criticisms of Ossoff since the lead up to the initial election in April, and his latest posts specifically endorse Handel. "She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up!" Trump tweeted about the Republican candidate the day of the runoff election.
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted his support for Handel after appearing at a campaign event with her.
Why the whole nation is watching the Sixth District
The Georgia race has come to symbolize the Democratic opposition to President Trump and the desire to take back congressional seats in 2018. If Ossoff wins, the victory would prove it's possible to overturn Republican districts, even in a strongly held red state like Georgia. One seat won't make a huge difference in Congress, but it would send the message to other politicians that it's dangerous for their careers to closely align themselves with Trump, which could make it more difficult for the president to push his agenda through Congress.
In 2010, Republicans were able to take back the House of Representatives using Tea Party momentum opposing President Obama, so there's precedent for flipping large numbers of congressional seats amid resistance to the person occupying the White House. The Republican Party has held control of the House since the 2010 election and the Senate since 2014.
However, Democrats lost special elections in Montana and Kansas earlier this year, so a third loss would raise doubts that the party can compete in historically conservative areas.
The runoff results are expected Tuesday night after the polls close at 7 p.m. ET.