Debate between Handel, Ossoff shows tense moments between candidates

by: Justin Farmer, Carl Willis Updated:

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ATLANTA - A major night in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District as the candidates squared off in their only prime-time televised debate live on Channel 2 Action News.

The race between the Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff has garnered national attention as they fight for the congressional seat left vacant by now-HHS Secretary Tom Price.

The election is being seen as a referendum on President Trump’s administration.

The debate was moderated by Channel 2’s Justin Farmer. Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot, WSB Radio’s Condace Pressley and Greg Bluestein with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution severed as a panel for the debate.

[Complete Coverage: The 6th District Debate]

From the start, the debate brought tense moments between Handel and Ossoff.

"I will not, not be lectured by you or anyone else," Handel told Ossoff at one point.

[MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: The 6th District debate]

“We need an independent voice in Washington, not someone like Secretary Handel," Ossoff said.

Tuesday’s debate was a rare chance for voters to hear in-depth from the candidates on the major issues.

[PHOTOS: 6th Congressional District Debate on Channel 2]

On health care, Handel said the current system under Obamacare is collapsing.

Ossoff stressed keeping protections for pre-existing conditions.

"Secretary Handel supports a bill that would gut the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions," Ossoff said.

"My sister has a pre-existing condition she was born without an esophagus and for you to suggest that I would do anything that would negatively affect her is absolutely outrageous," Handel said.

Candidates in Georgia's 6th Congressional District race Republican Karen Handel, left, and Democrat Jon Ossoff prepare to debate.
(Branden Camp/AJC)

Throughout the hour, Handel cited what she calls Ossoff's lack of experience. Ossoff pitted Handel a career politician.

Things heated up again when the candidates questioned each other.

"So Jon, I guess I would like to know is exactly who are you going to vote for in this election?" Handel asked Ossoff, bringing to light that he lives outside of the 6th District.

[READ: Social Media reactions to the Jon Ossoff, Karen Handel debate on Channel 2]

Ossoff said he's been transparent that he grew up in the 6th District, but currently lives just outside, while he supports his fiancée while she finishes medical school.

Ossoff questioned Handel about her time with the Susan G. Komen foundation.

"If you were committed to going in and defunding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, why did you take the job in the first place?” Ossoff asked Handel

"I was tasked by the CEO and chairman of the board to develop options for how the organization could disengage from Planned Parenthood," Handel said.

The reaction to each candidate's performance Tuesday evening was just a varied as the candidates themselves.

"She's got her gloves off and she's beginning to pummel him,” Handel supporter Jim Boyd told Channel 2’s Carl Willis.

"He had substance and actual real problem-solving ways to take care of the 6th,” Ossoff supporter Sonaly Wadehra said.

Willis split time between two watch parties Tuesday evening.

On one side were members of the women's group "Pave it Blue" in Roswell as they cheered on Ossoff.

"He seemed open to working across the aisle. That's what we really need," Ossoff supporter Puja Pereira told Willis.

Supporters of Handel, gathered in Cobb County’s GOP headquarters. They say they believe she gave a strong showing Tuesday night.

"Absolutely. Because he has tapped danced around it the entire time he's been at the podium," a Handel support who did not identify themselves said.

Despite visits and tweets from Republican leaders, Handel supporters pushed back against efforts to make her one in the same with Republican national leaders, including President Donald Trump.

"I’m proud that Karen has taken a stance of where she disagrees with President Trump,” the Handel supporter said.

Ossoff supporters fought off rally cries that he's not from the 6th District.

"That law was changed to suit Newt Gingrinch so he could live out of the district and represent this very district," Ossoff supporter Mary Beth Manning said.

“We need to answer the call about the current administration and their attack on civil rights and civil liberties,” Ossoff supporter Jen Cox told Willis

“I think they're going to find that in the 6th District, we hold our line. We know who we are. We know what we stand for,” the Handel supporter said.

Heading into the debate, Ossoff held a slight lead over Handel according, to the latest exclusive
WSB-TV, Landmark Communications poll
.

The election for the 6th Congressional District will be held June 20.