The polls are open: Here’s what could decide the 6th District race

Polls open at Hammond Drive Gym in Sandy Springs on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

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Polls open at Hammond Drive Gym in Sandy Springs on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

The polls are open in the nationally watched election to represent Atlanta’s northern suburbs in Congress, as 6th District voters choose whether to send Republican Karen Handel or Democrat Jon Ossoff to Washington.

The district stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb, and the voting booths will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The race is much more than a vote to fill out the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s term after President Donald Trump’s tapped him to be health secretary. Both parties have poured unprecedented resources into the race — the cost now tops $50 million — and both see it as a chance to send a message to the American electorate.

Democrats hope an Ossoff victory could deal a blow to Trump's presidency and the GOP agenda, while giving other candidates a path to flipping more conservative strongholds. Republicans see a Handel win as a chance to bolster incumbents in competitive districts who are nervous about allying with Trump.

The contours of the race have been shaped for weeks. Once an insurgent outsider running against a corrupt political system, Handel casts herself in this contest as an experienced politician and traditional conservative with deep roots in the district.

And Ossoff, a former congressional aide and political newcomer, has centered his message on two audiences: There’s left-leaning voters infuriated by Trump and eager to elect a fresh-faced Democrat. And there’s the moderates and independents who have backed GOP candidates but are turned off by national politics.

The rollicking race has been filled with twists and turns, and there is no shortage of wild cards as the race hurtles toward an end. Polls show the race neck-and-neck, and analysts say it’s too close to call.

“This is uncharted territory analytically. The extremely high turnout, the uncertain political environment,” said Ossoff. “It’s a neck-and-neck race.”

Read more on MyAJC: What to watch in the race for Georgia’s 6th District

ExploreAJC reporter Greg Bluestein answers questions and discusses what he'll be watching as the votes are counted in Georgia's 6th District runoff between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel.