Democrat Jon Ossoff fell below the threshold needed to outright win the race for Georgia's 6th District, triggering a runoff with Republican Karen Handel, the Associated Press reports.
Unofficial results from the Georgia secretary of state put Ossoff at 48 percent the vote. He needed 50.1 percent to avoid the runoff, set for June 20. Handel had nearly 20 percent of the vote in a field crowded with 18 candidates.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 19, 2017
Officials in Fulton County had technical difficulties that delayed the count in Georgia's nationally watched special congressional election.
A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Fulton is "having technical issues with uploading results from their memory cards" taken from voting machines. She calls it a "county issue" but says Kemp's office is trying to help.
Republicans believe a two-candidate scenario will benefit them in a district that has been in Republican hands since 1978, when Atlanta suburbanites elected a young congressman named Newt Gingrich. But Ossoff's campaign maintains momentum, fueled by more than $8 million in contributions from all over the nation, and liberal advocacy groups on Tuesday hailed his first-place finish as a success in its own right.
Ossoff has energized liberals and younger voters, while also aiming for disaffected independents and moderate Republicans.
Cedrick Gulley, a 25-year-old Georgia State University student from the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, compared Ossoff to former President Barack Obama and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Gulley said Tuesday they all "make me feel like my generation is being heard."
He added that Democrats were "a little lazy" in November, but now "there's an emergence of people fighting."
Ossoff has pledged to fight Trump when he "embarrasses" the country. But he's also said he would "work with anybody in Washington who respects your tax dollars."
That's a nod to the Republicans and independents he'd need to win — whether Tuesday or in a runoff.
That still wasn't enough for voters like Matt West, a 45-year-old financial planner from Roswell.
"He lives outside the district, he's a Democrat, and I just don't believe that he'd stand up to (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi if the district wanted him to," West said.
West said he voted for Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who is an establishment favorite and has led the GOP field.
Georgia voters streamed into polling sites throughout the day Tuesday in the suburbs north of Atlanta to cast their ballots in the special election to fill the vacancy left by Tom Price, who is now U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. Local election officials reported steady turnout all day, and state officials received few reports of problems.
The were issues in Fulton County, where eligible voters whose designated polling locations are Centennial High School or Johns Creek Environmental Campus will have extra time to vote.
The district, which spans parts of Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties, has been in Republican hands since 1979. Democrats are trying for an upset.
National Republicans predicted conservative voters would be energized in a Republican vs. Democrat runoff scenario, making it harder for Ossoff to run above the fray as he has leading up to the primary.
"Republican voters are not going to sit by and let this district go to a Democrat," Handel said at one of her final campaign stops.
The race is a barometer of Trump's standing and a chance for both major parties to test their strategies ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Trump took to Twitter to declare victory Tuesday night.
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG "R" win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
An election to fill the seat Judson Hill vacated in state Senate District 32 was also underway Tuesday night. Hill resigned to run in the special election for the 6th Congressional District.
Democrate Christine Triebsch led the field in Senate District 32.