Paul Ryan headlines Monday event with Karen Handel in Georgia 6th runoff

House Speaker Paul Ryan will headline an event with Republican Karen Handel on Monday amid questions about how Donald Trump's abrupt firing of the FBI director and the sweeping Obamacare repeal could influence the race for Georgia's 6th District.

Ryan's visit to the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center at 4 p.m. comes as Democrat Jon Ossoff's supporters try to capitalize on Trump's sudden decision to can FBI Director James Comey amid an investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

Handel said Trump's decision was "probably overdue" but has not said whether she would support an independent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 vote. And Ryan wouldn't defend the president's flurry of tweets warning that Comey "better hope" he didn't have private recordings of their conversations.

“I’m focusing on what’s in my control, and that is what is Congress doing to solve people’s problems,” Ryan said at a Wisconsin event last week.

Ryan is also the chief advocate for the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which narrowly passed earlier this month and sent a jolt through the race. Handel quickly embraced the proposal, saying that lawmakers should not let "the perfect be the enemy of the good."

On both counts, Ossoff has drawn stark dividing lines. He has echoed fellow Democrats in calling for an independent commission to investigate the Russia ties. And he said he "strongly" opposes the health plan, which he said does too little to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

"This bill puts Georgians' lives at risk," said Ossoff. "Congress should put aside partisan politics and work to make affordable insurance and quality care available to all Americans."

Ryan is the latest in a string of high-profile Republicans to stump for Handel in the June 20th runoff to represent the district, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb.

It's a must-win for Republicans who have held the seat for decades, and it’s been a launching pad to bigger titles for Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson and Tom Price.

Ossoff’s surprising success has rattled Republicans. The 30-year-old former congressional aide has seized on Trump’s struggles in the district – he barely carried it in November – and leveraged unprecedented fundraising hauls to almost win the seat outright on April 18.

Since notching the No. 2 spot, Handel has openly embraced Trump – and Ossoff has largely refused to criticize her for it. But her supporters are eager to feature her on the campaign trail with a more mainstream Republican figure in the establishment-friendly district.

Ryan and his allies have poured millions into the race. He's raised record sums for the House GOP's campaign arm, which has spent more than $6.2 million on the race. And the Congressional Leadership Fund - a super PAC endorsed by Ryan - has laid out another $5 million on the contest. He held a fundraiser for her in Washington that took in $150,000 and signed four emails that netted another $50,000 for her candidacy.

Ossoff has dismissed the visits by Trump and other prominent Handel supporters, saying he’s not concerned with the “comings and goings of figures from Washington.” He was asked in a recent interview if his campaign will line up its own visits with big-name Democrats.

“I’m not sure yet,” Ossoff said. “I’m really focused on driving the economic message and articulating the vision for metro Atlanta’s economic growth and economic potential that will serve the dreams of Georgia’s families.”

More recent AJC coverage of the 6th District race:

How the 6th District went from red to purple

A 6th District rift over the House healthcare plan in Tom Price’s old turf

Sixth District TV ads are creating the news. No, really.

Ossoff takes aim at disgruntled Republicans in Georgia’s 6th

Update: Democrats celebrate 6th District voter registration ruling

Ahead of Georgia’s Sixth District contest, a May 16 test vote

Ossoff outlines $16B plan to slash ‘wasteful spending’

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.