Poll: Jon Ossoff, Karen Handel leading in Georgia special election

Karen Handel (center), with her husband, Steve Handel (left) as she waits to qualify for the Sixth District congressional seat. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com
Karen Handel (center), with her husband, Steve Handel (left) as she waits to qualify for the Sixth District congressional seat. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are beginning to distance themselves from the crowded field in Georgia's special election, according to a Fox 5 Atlanta poll.

The poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy, showed Ossoff leading the 18-candidate field with 40 percent of the vote and Handel at 20 percent. The top two vote-getters in the April 18 special election are headed to a likely June 20 runoff.

The poll showed a trio of other Republicans are essentially tied for third place – Bob Gray, Judson Hill and Dan Moody all tallied between 8 to 10 points – while the rest of the candidates combined for about 6 percent of the vote. It found only 6 percent were undecided.

Most Republicans now concede Ossoff, a 30-year-old former Congressional aide, will land one of the two runoff spots. But the poll underscores the challenges ahead for the other Republicans scrambling to outlast Handel.

She remains at the top of the GOP heap in most polls despite not spending a dime on TV and radio advertising thanks in part to her strong name recognition. A former Fulton County commission chair, she has run four statewide campaigns and has long been a fixture in 6th District politics.

The other Republicans in the contest are facing mounting pressure to go on the offensive. Club for Growth, a conservative super PAC that endorsed Gray, suggested in a memo it could soon target Handel. And other campaigns are increasingly throwing elbows at Gray, including questioning his pro-Trump credentials.

The district, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb, has long been a Republican stronghold. But Donald Trump's struggles in the area, along with Ossoff's surprising rise, have given Democrats hope they can flip the seat vacated by Tom Price.

The poll shows Ossoff would be virtually deadlocked in a head-to-head matchup with the four top Republicans in the poll. The scenarios showed Ossoff with narrow leads over Gray, Moody and Handel in hypothetical matchups, while Hill has a one-point lead over Ossoff in the contest.

The poll surveyed 462 registered voters in the 6th District, and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

More AJC coverage of the Sixth District race:

Republicans, Democrats target Ossoff in Georgia special election

In Tom Price's backyard, a Republican split over healthcare

How outside forces play an outsized role in Georgia’s 6th District race

Bob Gray's pro-Trump credentials under fire

Ad blitz for Georgia's Sixth District race already tops $3.7M

House GOP health care plan divides Sixth District candidates

Jon Ossoff rattles conservatives in race for Georgia’s Sixth

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