At the end of the night, it’s about keeping the Atlanta suburbs conservative by supporting Republican front-runner Karen Handel in the runoff for Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
That was candidate Bob Gray’s message in his concession speech Tuesday night to nearly 200 supporters at Ippolito's Italian restaurant in Roswell.
“She’s going to need our help, and we’ve got to rally around her and ensure that we stand by what we’ve been asserting for quite some time, and that is this is a conservative district,” Gray said. “And sends a message to those that they could flip this district.”
Many of Gray’s supporters were disheartened and eager to send someone to Congress who they felt was “anti-establishment.” Gray supporter Nicole Tunez said the results were bittersweet.
“Now that we have one defined party and one defined leader, we will rally behind her, and we will push and this district will stay Republican,” Tunez said.
Many supporters said it will take them time, and they aren’t ready to support Handel’s campaign just yet after spending months betting on Gray.
“It’s not very good, but we will try and try until we succeed. I hope he will run for governor or senator next time,” Marissa Hardwick said. “The GOP establishment never supported Bob Gray. That’s the problem. I feel like the GOP supported Karen.”
Tunez, who voted for Gray, has volunteered for Handel before and said she was ready to support her again.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this campaign with Bob,” Tunez said. “It’s sad to see how it ended, but hey you know we have a strong Republican contender, a woman I can stand behind. And if she’s going to be the one that's going to go on to defeat Ossoff then that’s who we’ll rally behind.”
A special runoff election will be held on June 20.
City of Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker wouldn’t say who he voted for, but showed up at Gray’s election night watch party.
“For those of us that stand on the ‘R’ side of the aisle, the only thing that’s important now is that we make sure that this seat doesn’t flip,” Bodker said. “Bob said it very well, everybody needs to rally around the presumptive nominee. We’re going to back our nominee.”