Karen Handel concedes 6th District race, congratulates Lucy McBath

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel has conceded and congratulated Lucy McBath, who will take her seat in Georgia’s 6th District.

“After carefully reviewing all of the election results data, it is clear that I came up a bit short on Tuesday,” Handel said in a statement. “Congratulations to Representative-Elect Lucy McBath and end her only good thoughts and much prayer for the journey that lies ahead for her .”

McBath is the first person of color to represent the district and the third black woman to ever represent Georgia in Congress.

The two graduated from Election Day to the day after in the fight for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  While Handel maintained a slim lead in the early hours of Wednesday, the opposite was true by the time the sun came up.

MORE: Where the candidates stand on top issues

Initially on Wednesday, McBath said the race appeared headed to a recount and launched a new fundraising effort via social media.

Before long, she declared the race had ended in her favor, although Handel initially held off, noting all votes weren’t yet in.

Here’s the rest of Handel’s statement:

“While Tuesday’s loss is indeed disappointing, there is much for which we can and should be grateful.

We live in a great country. In no other nation in the world could a girl leave home at 17 – finish school on her own and then work her way up – and have the incredible opportunities that I have had.

This country has enabled me to follow my dreams personally and professionally. You gave me the honor of serving as Chairman of the Fulton Commission, as Secretary of State. And, for the last year and a half, you gave me the high honor – the incredible privilege – of serving you as your representative in Congress.

My story underscores just how exceptional this country is. In this great nation, the least among us have opportunities to offer our best. We’re a country that encourages and rewards hard work.

And in this country, no loss, no failure, is ever final nor is it the end. God has a plan for each and every one of us. Sometimes, though, HIS plan and our plan are different. So, Steve and I will be put our faith in Him and trust that whatever lies ahead will be exactly what we need.

When I was elected last year, I promised to give you my all in representing you and the entire District. I've done my absolute best to do that – every moment of every day. While our country and hardworking families here in the 6th District and across the country are doing better, these remain challenging times with too much anger and animosity. That’s why we must all recommit ourselves to giving hope, creating opportunity, and building a better America for our fellow Americans —and to doing so with grace, humility, heart, and compassion.

I do not know what the future holds for me and Steve. We will do what we’ve done every other time God has led us down a different road. We’re going to pray. We're going to listen.

There are so many people to thank, and that starts with Steve. Yesterday, we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary — and I can assure you that NONE of this was ever Steve’s plans! I love him for so very many reasons,. You’ve heard him say it — “He’s my #1 supporter” — and indeed he is. He’s been by my side throughout this crazy journey, and I know with great certainty that wherever the road leads — wherever God’s plan leads — I will go there hand in hand with this incredible man.

And to each of you — Steve and I can never repay your kindness, but please know that we are forever grateful. Your friendship and love continues to enrich our lives.

And so, we move on. Tuesday was not our night, but tomorrow will still be our day. Let’s all make the most of it.”

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel at her election night watch party. Photo: Curtis Compton

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

IN THE GOVERNOR'S RACE: Republican Brian Kemp maintains lead but Democrat Stacey Abrams isn't conceding

Lucy McBath is challenging incumbent Karen Handel. Photo: Ariel Hart

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The 6th District matchup drew far less national attention than the last time the district was in play, when Handel, Georgia’s former Secretary of State and a former Fulton County Commission chair, fended off a star-studded challenge from political newcomer Jon Ossoff.

He raised a record-breaking $30 million and enjoyed robust celebrity support but lost by 4 percentage points.

Ossoff showed up at McBath’s watch party and expressed confidence early on that she would manage to unseat his former opponent. He pointed to President Donald Trump, who held campaign rallies stumping for Republican candidates including Georgia’s Brian Kemp, as a motivating factor in voter turnout.

"There’s no doubt (Trump) is a huge part of why there’s this much activism, this much concern about the country, why so many people for example in the 6th district who may have voted Republican historically are questioning their political identity and asking whether the GOP under Donald Trump really reflects our values," Ossoff said.

Jon Ossoff poses with Lucy McBath supporters during her watch party at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North. Photo: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

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Credit: Jason Getz

Handel staked her first reelection campaign on some of the GOP's big-ticket legislative items, including the tax law, school safety grants and response to the opioid crisis.

Karen Robinson of Johns Creek made the trek to Handel's Perimeter area event and was thrilled at what she saw: lots of young people. She’s also been cheered by reports of robust turnout.

"I'm thrilled to see the enthusiasm, whatever way it goes," she said. Economy, security and limited government are her key topics.

Karen Robinson of Johns Creek says she is happy to see such robust voter enthusiasm, regardless of election outcome. Photo: Jennifer Brett

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Anne Jarrello of Roswell counted education, security, immigration and the budget among her key topics.

“She has held the line on conservative values,” she said of Handel.

Given the reports of challenges some voters had on Tuesday, we asked if anyone here ran into problems. Jarrello voted on Halloween and it took about an hour. No snags.

“I was dressed as an English suffragette,” she added.

The 6th District representative shared some thoughts after casting her ballot in Roswell the morning of Nov. 6, 2018.

McBath, a gun control advocate and former flight attendant, has spent much of her campaign sharing her personal story to make the case for why she should be in Congress. She lost her teenage son to gun violence in 2012 and is a breast cancer survivor. Gun control has been the central tenet of her campaign, and it resonated with supporter Beth Freeman, who was one of several women wearing red “Moms Demand Action” T-shirts at McBath watch party.

“I think I’d be a puddle. As a candidate, she’s amazing,” Freeman said. “To pull herself out of such tragedy and run to do something about it.”