Georgia 6th District: Bios of Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel

Karen Handel

Karen Handel won a spot in the 6th Congressional District runoff on June 20 by capturing 19.8 percent of the vote to take second place in a field of 18 candidates. 

As the first Republican to serve as Georgia secretary of state, Handel had the highest name recognition among the special election’s 11 Republicans hopefuls, and she was able to finish among the top GOP candidates in fundraising by taking in about $463,000 ahead of the April 18 election. 

Handel promised to cut spending, repeal Obamacare and reduce regulations when she announced her candidacy in the 6th Congressional District special election. 

April 18, 2017, Roswell: Republican candidate Karen Handel thanks her supporters and her husband Steve Handel at the conclusion of her election night viewing party in the special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional district at the DoubleTree Hotel on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Roswell. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton

While she held President Donald Trump at arm’s length leading up to the initial election, she has embraced the president since gaining a spot in the runoff. He, in turn, participated in a fundraiser for her campaign late last month while he was in Atlanta for the National Rifle Association convention. 

Handel has also worked to gain the support of past rivals from previous campaigns. 

Handel narrowly lost a battle for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010. She was the top vote-getter in the primary but lost the runoff to Nathan Deal. In 2014, she ran for an open U.S. Senate seat but finished in third place in the Republican primary. 

In between those races, she served a short stint in a leadership role with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation before resigning when it reversed its decision to cut ties with the abortion rights group Planned Parenthood. 

Her resume also includes leading the Fulton County Commission as its chairwoman; working in the office of Marilyn Quayle, the wife of then-Vice President Dan Quayle; and serving as deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. 

A financial disclosure shows that Handel has more than $300,000 in assets, mostly from several investment accounts and mutual funds. She said her consulting firm, Handel Strategy Group, earned about $10,000 last year and is worth between $15,000 and $50,000. Another firm owned by her husband, Steve, the text-messaging service TextGov, is valued at less than $50,000.

May 15, 2017, Atlanta: House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigns for Karen Handel in Georgia as the Obamacare repeal bill is debated in the Senate on Monday, May 15, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton

Jon Ossoff

Jon Ossoff fell just short of the majority needed for an outright victory in the 6th Congressional District special election on April 18, drawing 48.1 percent of the vote. That put the Democrat in the June 20 runoff. 

Until he joined the race in January, Ossoff was unknown to most Democrats even in metro Atlanta. But he entered the crowded field with endorsements from U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis and $250,000 in cash. He parlayed that into an unprecedented $8.3 million fundraising haul, with donations from across the country, and he emerged as face in the resistance to President Donald Trump. 

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff speaks during his election watch party, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Sandy Springs, Ga. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: Branden Camp

Ossoff’s interest in politics was first stirred as a 17-year-old student at the Paideia School when he read Lewis’ autobiography and was moved to ask the congressman for a job. That turned into an internship in the Atlanta Democrat’s Washington office. As a student at Georgetown University, Ossoff volunteered for Johnson’s 2006 campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney. Ossoff rose to become the deputy communications chief of the campaign, and after Johnson’s congressional victory, Ossoff worked as a legislative aide to the new congressman. 

After leaving Johnson’s office, Ossoff — who also is a graduate of the London School of Economics — joined a filmmaking firm, and the topics of his documentaries include corrupt judges in Ghana and atrocities that the Islamic State committed in Iraq. 

The north DeKalb County native does not reside in the 6th Congressional District, living just south of it so his girlfriend of 12 years, an Emory University medical student, can walk to work. Members of Congress don’t have to live in their districts, but Ossoff has said he will move to the 6th after she graduates. 

A financial disclosure shows Ossoff has more than $1.7 million in assets, including more than $250,000 in Apple stock and an additional $50,000 in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment firm. His England-based documentary company, Insight TWI, is valued at more than $250,000. He also has a stake of at least $50,000 in NWC Partnership, a solar panel installation firm.

ATLANTA, GA APRIL 18: Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff walks with his girlfriend Alisha Kramer after speaking to his supporters as votes continue to be counted in a race that was too close to call for Georgia s 6th Congressional District in a special election to replace Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services on April 18, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The winner of the race would fill a congressional seat that has been held by a Republican since the 1970s. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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