Live updates: Handel celebrates following win in Georgia's 6th District

Karen Handel and her husband Steve take the podium for her victory speech at her election night party on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/
Karen Handel and her husband Steve take the podium for her victory speech at her election night party on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

Georgia is sending its first Republican woman to Congress.

News outlets began declaring Karen Handel the winner of Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat at roughly 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, three hours after most polls closed here in the north Atlanta suburbs. She will become the first woman to represent the Peach State in Congress since Democrat Cynthia McKinney lost her reelection bid 11 years ago.

Handel's hard-fought victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff came amid a deluge of outside money and attention. The race was being viewed nationally as a key test of President Donald Trump's popularity among GOP voters, the Republican health care overhaul and the left's nascent resistance movement. And the vote, as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night, was not as close as some had anticipated.

Read our condensed takeout of the race here. For full coverage, check out our live blog below and redesigned myAJC politics page.

Updated at 12:05 a.m. -- Trump calls to congratulate Handel 

Karen Handel was on the phone with our colleague Kyle Wingfield tonight when she had to quickly answer a call on the other line. Turned out it was President Donald Trump.

“He wished me well, said it was a great campaign, that he was very proud of me," she later told Wingfield. "He said he knew I was going to win. I’m glad I did.”

When Trump visited the 6th District and campaigned for Handel back in April, he famously told her she'd "better win." Recounting that comment on Tuesday, Handel chuckled and jokingly added, "I'm not sure what the consequences would be if you did not meet the president's expectations."

Updated at 11:05 p.m. -- A final thought on today's turnout

Kristina Torres, the AJC's point person on Georgia's voting trends, sent along this take putting tonight's final vote tally in perspective:

We already knew that while typical turnout during off-year special elections is notoriously low, Georgia's 6th District special election on April 18 (which decided who was in Tuesday's runoff) topped 37 percent — nearly 194,000 people voted.

But Tuesday's unofficial ballot count topped 241,500. That's more than the 210,000 votes cast in the district in 2014 – putting the contest squarely in common with midterm contests, not special elections.

Many had predicted a 210,000-plus turnout, although few were sure how high it would go. One of those who got it right was Mark Rountree, the president of Landmark Communications, who predicted an overall turnout of 235,000 to 240,000 voters — with a majority having voted early (and that's what happened).

The 6th District itself has long been considered highly motivated. In that sense, turnout percentage-wise didn't disappoint. In a district with about 526,000 registered voters in all, nearly half of them came out: Unofficial turnout stood at about 46 percent in the race.

Updated at 10:55 p.m. -- Handel thanks boisterous crowd

Our colleague Mark Niesse, who's been posted up at Handel's watch party tonight, sent along this report describing the jubilant scene at the Hyatt Regency in Dunwoody:

"This was going to be a very, very tight race, it was going to be contentious, and it was going to require all hands on deck, and that's exactly what we had," Handel said.

Handel thanked President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans who supported her in the nationally-watched runoff, leading to cheers of "Trump, Trump, Trump" from the crowd.

...She said Ossoff was gracious when he called her to concede.

"We may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, the community of the 6th District," she said. "My pledge is to be part of the solution to focus on governing, to put my experience to work to help solve the very serious issues we're facing in this country."

Updated at 10:50 p.m. -- Trump tweets congratulations 

The president had been silent for most of the day Tuesday while 6th District residents hit the polls, but Donald Trump was quick to congratulate Republican Karen Handel on Twitter after she defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff.

"Fantastic job," he

in one of three successive posts after the race was called. "We are all very proud of you!"

The president also thanked Fox News for saying that Handel's victory represented a "huge win" for Trump and the GOP.

Updated at 10:40 p.m. -- The 'fight goes on'

Democrat Jon Ossoff conceded to Republican Karen Handel in the hard-fought race to represent Georgia’s 6th District, ending a defiant address to hundreds of disappointed supporters with a pledge that the “fight goes on.”

Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide, shattered fundraising records and became a national Democratic rising star with his bid to flip the suburban Atlanta district. But Handel staved off his fierce challenge by consolidating GOP support across the district.

The Democrat said little about his political future – namely whether he would seek to challenge Handel next year – in a brief address to supporters. He has said repeatedly he would have to talk with his fiancée before deciding about another political run.

But his speech suggested he would not stray far from the political spotlight. He thanks his supporters for providing a “beacon of hope for people in Georgia.” And he said his campaign “showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.”

“This is not the outcome any of us would hope for,” said Ossoff. “But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us. So thank you – thank you for the most extraordinary experience that I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of.”

Updated at 10:25 p.m. -- Ossoff concedes 

Democrat Jon Ossoff called Republican Karen Handel around 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday night to concede the race, his campaign said. He is expected to speak to his crowd of supporters shortly, bringing the race to an earlier than expected end.

Updated at 10:20 p.m. -- An outpouring from Republicans 

Republicans from D.C. to Marietta cheered Karen Handel after she was declared the victor in Tuesday's 6th District special election.

"Things are looking great for Karen H!" President Donald Trump tweeted roughly 20 minutes after the race was called:

House Speaker Paul Ryan congratulated Handel for a "hard-earned and well-deserved victory."

“Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated," the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who campaigned for Handel on Monday, also tweeted his congratulations:

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said Tuesday's results say "exactly what we knew about this district."

“It’s a conservative district. And if you’re a Democrat who spent as much money as they did, and barely got what Hillary Clinton got, it says the district was not for sale,” Collins said. “And after a $30 million onslaught, the district saw through it.”

Collins said expects Handel to face a stiff challenge in 2018, whether from Ossoff or another contender.

“But Karen Handel, as an incumbent with a record of support, will win again,” he said. “In the last three months, we’ve had three moral victories from Democrats – and no wins.”

State Rep. Betty Price said she’s excited that Handel will succeed the congressional seat that was previously held by her husband, Tom Price, who is now President Donald Trump’s health secretary.

“It’s probably not unexpected,” Price said of the result. “Some people thought it was a referendum on Trump, but instead it was a comparison of the candidates’ experience.”

Updated at 10:00 p.m. -- Other outlets declare Handel the winner

CNN has also called the race for Republican Karen Handel.

Updated at 9:58 p.m. -- First outlet calls race for Handel

A first outlet, Decision Desk HQ, has declared Republican Karen Handel the winner. The AP and other news outlets have yet to declare.

Updated at 9:50 p.m. -- Fulton County surprisingly quiet 

Well, this is a headline we certainly didn't expect to see today from our colleague Mitchell Northam: "Fulton 'quiet and somewhat boring' on Ga. 6th District Election Day."

Fulton is notorious in these parts for election day mishaps. Back in April, its 6th District vote totals weren't reported until after 2 a.m. due to a memory card error.

But no major gaffs, problems or mistakes have been reported tonight in Fulton. In fact, Richard Barron, the county’s director of elections and registrations, told Northam that the most common complaint that Fulton heard Tuesday was from people who wanted to vote, but didn’t live in the 6th District.

“It seems like an ordinary Election Day,” Barron said. “It was quiet and somewhat boring, which is good.”

Updated at 9:40 p.m. -- Ossoff's future hinges on mail-in ballots

The window is beginning to close for Democrat Jon Ossoff. Republican Karen Handel is racking up a notable lead in the election returns as early and today's in-person votes have been tallied.

Democratic strategists we're talking to say there's still a path for Ossoff, albeit a narrowing one. Their hopes hinge on mail-in ballots. Those have yet to be tallied but tend to favor Democrats. Ossoff will likely need to win an overwhelming margin to stay alive. That's a high bar but not unfathomable, we're told.

DeKalb's mail-in ballots are expected to be tallied shortly. That should be a big pickup opportunity for Ossoff, although he's been underperforming there re: in-person votes tonight.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. -- Ossoff slipping in Cobb

We mentioned earlier today how Cobb would be an important bellwether in this race. The county is deeply Republican, yes, but just how well Democrat Jon Ossoff does there will be critical in determining his performance overall.

A number-crunching friend of ours predicted that Ossoff needed to secure more than 45 percent of the vote there to win the contest. So the Democrat's campaign is likely not happy at all with the current numbers, which have him trailing Handel there by nearly 20 percentage points and notching only about 40 percent of the vote.

As we mentioned earlier, Ossoff is also underperforming in DeKalb, the most Democratic part of the district. He needs to rack up the score there to stay competitive.

Meanwhile, Republicans strategists, and even some Democrats, began to question whether Ossoff still had a path to victory as precincts continued to trickle in.

Updated at 9:05 p.m. -- 'Major down payment'

John Ossoff’s supporters got a pep talk from Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who helped launch the candidate’s political career.

Lewis, who hired Ossoff as an intern, told the crowd that they’ve “made a major down payment in changing our nation.”

“When we send Jon Ossoff to Washington, we are all going with him,” he said. “This district, the state of Georgia, will never ever be the same if Jon Ossoff is elected.”

He said Ossoff’s campaign has already inspired other Democratic candidates to step forward and run for office.

“So I say to you, more than ever before, we need a leader. We need someone like Jon Ossoff. We need his kindness. We need his leadership. For these are the times that try a man’s soul.”

Updated at 8:50 p.m. – Cautious optimism at Ossoff party

More than 500 people crammed into a Dunwoody hotel ballroom to cheer on Jon Ossoff, erupting into cheers each time CNN aired updates on the race -- and a deafening chorus of boos when President Donald Trump flashed on the screen.

The mood was cautiously optimistic, as early vote totals showed a tight race.

Melanie Childers, a structural designer, said she was feeling “nervous but good” about the race.

“I was out there today talking to folks, and I saw a lot of thumbs up, a lot of waves and happiness. I think we can pull this off,” she said.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. -- Early returns looking positive for Handel

Early election night returns in Georgia's 6th District are sending positive signals about Republican Karen Handel's chances of capturing Price's old seat.

Roughly 90 minutes after the polls closed, Democrat Jon Ossoff was leading Handel only narrowly. Ossoff's campaign was counting on strong support from early in-person voters, and Handel's campaign is doing much better than expected in that category.

Early numbers from DeKalb County also aren't where Democrats would like them to be:

Ossoff is expected to get a boost from mail-in ballots, which are typically not counted until later and tend to favor Democrats. What's unclear at the moment is how much the strong early turnout will cannibalize the in-person votes that both campaigns were hoping to run up the score with today.

At Handel's watch party, dozens of supporters cheered and crowded around TV screens when Fox News showed early results with about a 2 percentage point lead for Handel.

Matthew Hardwick, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, said he’s confident Handel would triumph.

“We need to maintain the Republican seat, and she has a lot of experience,” said Hardwick, who lives in Smyrna in Cobb County. “So far, so good.”

Updated at 8:00 p.m. -- Handel makes first appearance

Our colleagues at Karen Handel's watch party in Dunwoody, Mark Niesse and Jim Galloway, sent this dispatch after the Republican made a surprise early speech to supporters:

The Republican arrived to loud cheers at her campaign event just before 8 p.m. Tuesday night as supporters showed enthusiasm for their candidate’s lead in early in-person voting tallies. Handel said the early results were “very encouraging.”

"It's still very very early," she told the crowd. "To win in-person early voting is big."

Handel told her supporters to wait for more returns to come in and hope the trend continues.

"Whatever happens tonight, this is the most incredible group I've ever had the privilege of working with,” she said.

At least one couple wearing Bikers for Trump garb is here.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, who won Judson Hill’s District 32 Senate seat is here. AG Chris Carr is here as well – but otherwise a notable lack of statewide Republicans.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. -- Uncle Sam awaits Karen Handel

Here's the first dispatch from our colleague Mark Niesse at Republican Karen Handel's Dunwoody watch party:

The dressed-up man, Peter Ludwinski, said the choice was clear between Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

"People support him are misled and walking dead," Ludwinski said. "On the issues – it's like they've lost their minds. He's against common sense and against the nation."

Handel's backers surrounded a podium tuned to Fox News while upbeat songs played, including and "Don't Worry About a Thing" by Bob Marley and "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum.

Like Ossoff's campaign event, Handel's party also offers a cash bar for donors to contribute a bit more to the most expensive congressional race in history, costing more than $50 million.

Updated at 7:00 p.m. -- Most polls close

Polls have closed everywhere outside of two precincts in DeKalb County.

Per our colleague Kristina Torres, those two precincts had received permission from a judge to extend voting by 30 minutes after they experienced problems checking voters in this morning.

Read more here about how the votes are tallied, and follow along with the election results as they come in live here.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. – 6th District geography

As far as congressional districts go, the 6th is compact. It encompasses portions of just three counties: north Fulton, east Cobb and north DeKalb. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as vote tallies begin to trickle in from this suburban stretch of north Atlanta:

  • North Fulton is home to some of the most conservative turf in the district. Republican Karen Handel hails from there, and it encompasses the highest share of early votes. The county has a reputation for being slow to tally its votes (it took Fulton until after 2 a.m. to fully report during the first round of votes in April), but Fulton's top elections official said he expects things to move smoothly today since there's only one race on the ballot.
  • North DeKalb accounts for the most Democratic-leaning part of the district. It's where Democrat Jon Ossoff grew up, and it's also where he'll be looking to rack up votes. Voting at two precincts there has been extended by 30 minutes after officials reported slow check-ins this morning.
  • As we mentioned below, it's particularly crucial to look at Cobb County, which is a traditional Republican stronghold. If Ossoff does well there it'll be a good sign for his odds to win the congressional seat.

It's worth checking out our breakdown of how the three counties voted by party and neighborhood during the contest's first round on April 18. Back then, the 11 Republicans on the ballot collectively won 51 percent of the vote, with Democrats picking up the remaining 49 percent. If Handel is able to hold onto the precincts her party won two months ago and prevent Ossoff from winning any additional ones she'll be in good shape.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. -- Who will be hurt by the rain? 

At least one local GOP strategist thinks that Karen Handel will be aided by today's rain, according to the AJC's Torres.

Elections officials are continuing to report a slow but steady turnout. That's good news for Handel, according to GOP strategist Chip Lake said.

“If you’re Karen Handel, you want as many people voting on Election Day,” said Lake, adding that Handel’s margin over Ossoff among people voting today could be as high as 20 points -- assuming they come out to cast a ballot.

Updated at 6:10 p.m. – The superPAC offering free rides to the polls

Even before today's rain came into the forecast, a super PAC had raised more than $60,000 to offer free rides to the polls for 6th District voters.

My Ride to Vote has been offering voters of all political stripes a ride to precincts, much as they did during last year’s presidential race in Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.

Voters were able to use the service by calling or texting a hotline that sent them a promo code that worked on the Uber app.

Updated at 6 p.m. -- Our latest analysis of the race 

We're getting close to go-time. Check out our preview of the race on Facebook Live:

Updated at 5:50 p.m. -- Of victory parties and cash bars 

An hour before the polls closed, more than 50 reporters already packed Jon Ossoff's victory party at the Westin in Sandy Springs.

Supporters were expected to show up in force by 8 p.m. They better bring their wallets.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. – Online betting market predicts Handel win

Take this with as many grains of salt as you'd like, but the online election prediction market PredictIt is projecting that Karen Handel will win tonight:

That trend ended yesterday, June 19, after almost 50,000 shares traded hands. After opening at 44 cents, Handel share prices closed at 52 cents. Meanwhile, Ossoff opened at 60 cents and has trended down ever since, dropping to a current price of 46 cents."

Recent polling in this race shows Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff neck-and-neck, with only one-tenth of a percentage point between them.

Updated at 5:10 p.m.– Newly registered voters

A federal judge in early May extended voter registration in the district by two months, part of an ongoing lawsuit over how Georgia handles voter registration ahead of federal runoff elections. Voters had until May 21st to register, an extension that led to an extra 8,000 voters being added to the rolls.

Most of those newbies did not vote early, according to a recent AJC analysis. Only one in five of them voted early, comprising about 1.2 percent of the race’s total early vote.

Mark Rountree, a local pollster from the Republican-leaning firm Landmark Communications, recently posted this analysis to Facebook yesterday:

When 7PM strikes on Election night, we estimate that maybe 2,750 or so of these voters will have voted. Probably split 3-1 for Ossoff, so maybe 700 of these votes will be for Handel vs perhaps 2,100 for Ossoff: a 1,400 vote differential.

Extra clarification (a few people asked): More than 10,000 new voters were registered during those 60 days in question and then processed (I don't remember the number at the moment). However just 1600 have actually voted in early voting so far, and perhaps around a total of 2750 will have voted once Election Day voting has closed.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. – Prominent Democrats weigh in on race

After entering the 6th District race on a pledge to "make Trump furious," Democrat Jon Ossoff has tacked hard to the center, advocating for bolstering tech jobs and cutting government waste as a way to win over independents and unhappy Republicans.

Democrats have tried to walk a similar line before in Georgia, vouching for moderate-sounding proposals while trying to keep a base of left-leaning supporters energized. It hasn’t worked (see Jason Carter, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2014).

Our colleague Jill Vejnoska caught up with Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, during an event today on the roof (yes, roof) of his grandfather’s presidential library.

He said he’s optimistic about Ossoff pulling out a win. But Carter cautioned that political types shouldn’t draw too many broader conclusions from tonight’s race given all the outside money that’s streamed into the district.

“It's clear, though, that his demeanor, his message of bringing people together, of bringing some civility back into politics has resonated in that district,” Carter said of Ossoff. “And that to me is a great lesson.”

State Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat whose power center lies in DeKalb, said he also thinks Ossoff will be victorious.

"I only came to that conclusion in the last few days because this is not a district that a Democrat should win based on the partisan breakdown of voters,” he said. “But I’ve watched the race closely. Ossoff ran a better campaign and his supporters are far more enthusiastic.”

Updated at 4:10 p.m. – Poring over the early vote

As we wait for the polls to close, let's take a look at the votes that rolled in well before today.

Early turnout in this race has been historic, our colleagues Torres and Jennifer Peebles report, with more than 140,000 people casting their ballots early in person or by absentee-by-mail ballots. That's a 150 percent increase over the number of people who voted early ahead of the race's original April 18 special election.

In DeKalb County, about 25 percent of eligible voters turned out early. More than one-in-three registered people voted early in Fulton County's portion of the 6th District, while more than 23 percent came out early in Cobb.

Said Torres over the weekend:

This time, in Round 2, many are expecting easily more than 200,000 voters — with some saying it will go even higher in a district that has about 530,000 registered voters in all.

We also know that 37 percent of the people who voted in the runoff also cast ballots in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, versus 22 percent for the Democratic presidential primary.

Read Torres and Peebles' analysis of the early vote and what it could mean here.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. -- Breaking down the money 

As we mentioned above, this 6th District contest has become the most expensive in the history of the U.S. House, prompting more than $50 million in spending. It's nearing the records hit by the most expensive Senate contests of all time -- pretty impressive considering that we're talking about a three-county district and not an entire state.

Here are some key figures from the totals we reported yesterday:

  • $42 million -- that's how much has been spent or reserved for TV and radio ads (about two-thirds of that came in the runoff).
  • $14.2 million -- how much of the above total was spent by Ossoff's campaign.
  • $2.5 million -- how much Handel's campaign spent on ads.

Much of the rest came from outside groups and the two political parties.

The nonpartisan advocacy organization Issue One has a higher tally of money spent on this race: $59.6 million.

If you want more detail on how the campaigns spent the rest of their money, click here.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. -- A little more about the candidates

An inexperienced shill for Nancy Pelosi. A career politician who would harm women's health. Jon Ossoff, Karen Handel, the two parties and a handful of outside groups have spent millions trying to shape public perception of their opponents.

But in the hours before the polls close in the 6th District, it's worth taking a step back. Check out our in-depth profiles of Handel and Ossoff.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. -- Watch Cobb returns tonight

We included this item in our morning newsletter today, but we think it bears reposting here:

One month ago, the runoff was held for state Senate District 32. Most of that state legislative district and the Cobb County portion of the Sixth overlap.

Republican Kay Kirkpatrick, a physician with strong ties to former congressman Tom Price, beat Democrat Christine Triebsch, a Marietta lawyer. (The seat had formerly been held by Republican Judson Hill.)

In that runoff, Kirkpatrick pulled 58 percent of the vote to Triebsch's 42 percent. The latter was woefully underfunded.

Our number-crunching friend tells us that Ossoff doesn't have to win Cobb to pull out a victory tonight. But he does have to do better than Triebsch. By his calculation, if you see Ossoff pulling 45 percent or better in Cobb – he'll win.

If he's pulling only 43 percent – Ossoff could still win, but it'll be much closer.

If Handel keeps Ossoff under 43 percent in Cobb, then the night is probably hers, and Republicans retain a congressional seat they've held since Newt Gingrich was a young man.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. -- Photos from the front

Our AJC photographers have been on the ground today snapping pictures of voters and the two campaigns. Check out a photo gallery of their work here. 

Updated at 2:25 p.m. – Voters weigh in on being in the spotlight 

The voters of the 6th District have been clobbered with non-stop attack ads on television, radio and in the mail for months now. Many have been on the receiving end of campaign canvassers at their front door several times over.

It's hard to overstate how many of the locals we talked to who are anxious for things to get back to normal.

Take Keiko Coghlin of Sandy Springs. She told our intern Martha Michael that she voted for Karen Handel because Jon Ossoff’s campaign “just drove me crazy.”

“They called our house, stuffed up our mailbox, they even rang our doorbell. We were really turned off by that,” Coghlin said. “For anyone that was on the fence in this election, this kind of stuff really pushed you towards Handel.”

Some of Jon Ossoff’s supporters said they see the national attention as energizing.

“I’ve lived in Cobb County since 1998. I’ve taught here. And I know how deep the conservative roots run here. But I’ve been so encouraged by the way people have come out and come together,” said Karen Thorpe, a former teacher who came out to wave signs for Ossoff in Roswell on Tuesday morning. “This is democracy at its finest.”

Updated at 1:55 p.m. – Could weather dampen turnout? 

6th District voters who haven't already dashed to the polls should plan on getting very wet when they do cast their ballots, our colleague Ben Brasch reports. And it's only supposed to get worse as the day goes on.

The National Weather Service has issued weather advisories and flash flood warnings for the region, the latter of which is expected to last until after polls close.

We don’t have a great sense yet re: how that will impact turnout yet. In general, though, rain tends to dampen turnout which has historically hurt Democrats. Ossoff’s campaign said it’s confident it has the edge in terms of voter enthusiasm, which can help make up for any voters staying home due to the weather.

Meanwhile, Georgia GOP Chairman John Watson tweeted this about the fain:

Updated at 1:35 p.m. -- DeKalb voting hours extended

And just like that, DeKalb County officials have received permission to extend voting hours at two precincts for 30 more minutes tonight. Torres has more.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. – Fairly smooth at the polls so far

It's been relatively smooth sailing so far at 6th District polling places, Torres reports.

Voters at two polling locations in DeKalb County reported slow check-ins earlier this morning, which could cause local officials to seek an extension of voting hours.

Otherwise, it’s been pretty calm here, outside of the very ominous storm clouds that have hovered over the region this afternoon.

Fulton County's top elections official vowed that voting would go smoothly today, the AJC's Arielle Kass reports. During the first round of 6th District voting on April 18, it took Fulton County until after 2 a.m. to count the votes as the county juggled a number of separate database and an issue popped up with a memory card in Roswell.

Updated at 12:40 p.m. -- Handel casts her ballot

It was nothing if not a circus at an orthodox church in Roswell as Republican Karen Handel cast her vote.

Dozens of reporters and camera crews scrambled for a view of the candidate as she quickly filled out her ballot. After the deed was done, Handel repeatedly mentioned how her opponent couldn't do the same.

"I've lived here for nearly 25 years, and I think that's going to make a big difference to the voters in this district," she said.

Ossoff lives next door in the 5th District. The Democrat said it's so his fiancé can walk to work at Emory University hospital. Congressional candidates don't have to live in the districts they represent, but Ossoff said he plans to move to the 6th if he wins.

Handel predicted today's race "is essentially a jump ball."

She was nearly drowned out by roughly 50 Ossoff supporters as they chanted "flip the 6th! flip the 6th!" at the entrance of the polling place.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. -- Ossoff's final pitch

Democrat Jon Ossoff held a host of rah-rah rallies across the district Tuesday, including an event in Sandy Springs with about two dozen supporters – and just as many reporters.

“This is about this community at an extraordinary moment of time, a coalition that we have built that’s founded on the core values that bring people together in this community,” he said, giving his volunteers a closing nudge.

“It’s close. And those of us in the room right now – and I know you’ve been working hard for hours, days, months – this is the final push. Let’s give it everything we’ve got.”

Updated at 12:05 p.m. -- Recovering lawmaker gets involved

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., tweeted his endorsement of Karen Handel in today’s contest, writing that she is a “great candidate.”

The 6th District race took a tenser turn after Scalise and other Republican legislators, including Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, were ambushed at a baseball field in suburban Washington last week. Scalise, the House's No. 3 Republican, was shot in the hip, suffering severe damage in his internal organs, and is in critical condition at a local D.C. hospital.

Handel and several neighbors soon thereafter received a threatening letter with a white powder later deemed to be non-hazardous by the FBI. Jon Ossoff hired a security detail amid a spate of unspecified threats targeting him. Both condemned an attack ad by a fringe GOP super PAC that sought to politicize the shooting.

It's uncertain whether the shooting will help shore up votes for either candidate, but a WSB poll released Monday showed a majority of voters who had yet to cast their ballots said they had no effect on their decision.

About one-third of election-day voters said the attack would make them “more likely” to cast their ballots, and most of those were Republican.

Original post -- 12:00 p.m. 

It's election day in the north Atlanta suburbs.

Welcome to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's live blog. We'll be tracking all things 6th District special election throughout this rainy day (and night) in this closely-watched nail-biter of a contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The two candidates are duking it out for Tom Price's former U.S. House seat, which has been vacant since the six-term lawmaker was sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary on Feb. 12. The race has attracted a deluge of outside money and attention in the intervening four months. By our tally, more than $50 million has been spent so far, making it by far the most expensive contest in the history of the U.S. House.

Fueling the intense outside interest is the idea that the special election will tell the country something about support for President Donald Trump (the commander-in-chief tweeted about the race several times on Monday and Tuesday), Democrats' nascent resistance movement and the House GOP's health care overhaul heading into next year's high-stakes midterm election. Both candidates insist their focus is on DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb counties, the affluent and well-educated suburbs that will decide their fate Tuesday.

Check back here throughout the day for the latest updates on the candidates, the turnout, the results and the reaction. And for full coverage, check out our redesigned politics page on myAJC.

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