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Georgia special election: Democrats claim 'victory for the ages' over Donald Trump but fall short of outright win

Dem hopeful Jon Ossoff performs even better than polls predicted in vote seen as bellwether for Trump presidency - but is 1.7% short of avoiding a run-off

Will Worley
Wednesday 19 April 2017 14:38 BST
Democrats claim 'victory for the ages' over Donald Trump in Georgia

Democrats have hailed a strong performance in a Georgia special election vote that was seen as indicative of support for Donald Trump's presidency.

Though he narrowly failed to secure an outright first round win, Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff claimed his 48.3 per cent was a “victory for the ages” in the Atlanta congressional race.

In a field of 18 candidates, including 11 Republicans, Mr Ossoff outperformed polls in Georgia's traditionally Republican 6th Congressional District.

But he came just short of the 50 per cent he needed to make it into Congress without a run-off, allowing Mr Trump himself to claim the result was a "big 'R' win".

Georgia voters are fighting back against Trump in special election

In June, Mr Ossoff will go head-to-head with Republican candidate Karen Handel, who won just 19.5 per cent of the vote, with 185 of 210 precincts reporting. Republican voters are expected to rally around their last remaining candidate, presenting a greater challenge to the Democrat hopeful.

But Mr Ossoff was undeterred. "This is already a victory for the ages," he told supporters. "We have defied the odds, we have shattered expectations."

Others agreed. Former Labour Secretary Robert Reich tweeted: “[Tom] Price won #GA06 by landslide victories every two years. Tonight's results are a huge repudiation of Trump in a ruby-red Republican district.”

And despite the President's confidence, some in his party were more cautious. Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said “Republicans shouldn't be patting themselves on the back”.

Republicans have held the House of Representatives seat since 1979. Mr Price, the previous representative, has left the role to serve as Mr Trump's Health Secretary.

Events were closely watched by the White House and it was widely seen as a bellwether poll on Mr Trump’s performance so far. The President tweeted several times about the race on the day of the vote, urging Republicans to get out to vote.

On Wednesday morning, he appeared to claim credit for preventing the Democrats taking an outright win. He tweeted: “Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!”

Mr Ossoff maintained during the campaign that he would be ready to face up to one Republican if it came to a head-to-head competition.

Before the polls opened on Tuesday, he said to supporters: “We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary. And there is no amount of dark money, super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this. So bring it on.”

Mr Ossoff’s "Make Trump Furious" campaign benefited from massive support from Democrats across the US.

Volunteers and money, poured in from around the country - in total, $8.3 million (£6.5 million) was raised, an unprecedented amount for the size of the contest.

The 30-year-old filmmaker was seen as a unifying figure for the Democratic Party, in its first opportunity to bounce back after the shock of Mr Trump’s election win last November.

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