More than 40 percent of all registered voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District cast ballots on Tuesday, a high figure for a special election.
The 43 percent figure across the district (193,483 of 445,095 registered voters) may not be replicated in the June 20 runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. By contrast, there were 171,000 votes cast in the district during the 2016 presidential primary, and only 51,000 in that year's primary for the district seat itself, according to the Atlanta Journal constitution.
Ossoff and Handel will face off in a June 20 runoff to succeed current U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in a district that has been in Republican hands since 1979 and remains in the national political spotlight.
Ossoff enjoyed broad support, winning 48 percent of the vote and nearly all of the 210 precincts in the district, which stretches from north DeKalb to north Fulton, most of Sandy Springs and East Cobb.
In Ossoff’s stronghold of DeKalb, where he got nearly 59 percent of the vote, the turnout was 45 percent.
The Democrat did better in central DeKalb precincts than in the north. He also polled above 50 percent in a handful of precincts in Sandy Springs, Alpharetta and Johns Creek.
Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate, did best in the Roswell/North Fulton area where she resides. The Fulton turnout was 40 percent, with bigger precinct swings than DeKalb in some areas. Ossoff won 47 percent of the Fulton vote, while Handel got 22 percent. The only precincts Handel won were eight polling stations in north Fulton.
Former Johns Creek City councilman Bob Gray received 12 percent of the Fulton vote, and along with other GOP rivals publicly lined up behind Handel Wednesday.
The most interesting battleground in the runoff could be in East Cobb, a reliable Republican enclave that had a 47 percent turnout and where Ossoff won with 41 percent of the vote, to just 18 percent for Handel. This portion of the 6th district was more evenly divided among GOP candidates.
Ossoff won all 51 precincts in East Cobb, where Donald Trump prevailed last November, and where Republicans are the only officeholders in federal, state and local government. However, Ossoff received a majority of the East Cobb vote in only a few precincts in or near Marietta city limits.
Former State Senator Judson Hill, who represented District 32 (East Cobb and a portion of Sandy Springs) until resigning to run for Congress, pulled in nearly 11 percent of the vote on his home turf.
The seat he left behind is also up for grabs, and provides another unexpected partisan matchup in a runoff. Democrat Christine Triebsch, a Marietta attorney, got 24 percent of the vote. She’ll face Republican Kay Kirkpatrick, an orthopedic surgeon, who pulled 21 percent of the vote.
Triebsch is a political novice who has benefited from the energized base backing Ossoff, with whom she has appeared and campaigned.
The state senate runoff is May 16, a month earlier than the 6th district runoff, and could provide an important bellwether for Ossoff and Handel.