ATLANTA - Karen Handel won a spot in the 6th Congressional District runoff on June 20 by capturing 19.8 percent of the vote to take second place in a field of 18 candidates.
As the first Republican to serve as Georgia secretary of state, Handel had the highest name recognition among the special election’s 11 Republicans hopefuls, and she was able to finish among the top GOP candidates in fundraising by taking in about $463,000 ahead of the April 18 election.
National leaders in both major parties agreed the Georgia race is a prime test run for the 2018 election cycle, because the affluent, well-educated district is replete with the kind of voters Democrats must win over to have any chance at reclaiming a House majority and winning more governor's races.
Handel promised to cut spending, repeal Obamacare and reduce regulations when she announced her candidacy in the 6th Congressional District special election.
While she held President Donald Trump at arm’s length leading up to the initial election, she has embraced the president since gaining a spot in the runoff. He, in turn, participated in a fundraiser for her campaign late last month while he was in Atlanta for the National Rifle Association convention.
With the special election gaining national attention, the national GOP is using all of its resources to make sure Handel wins the seat.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan came to Atlanta to show his support for Handel. Vice President Mike Pence is also slated to come to Atlanta in June to stump for Handel.
A political action committee backed by Ryan funneled more than $2 million into attacks on Ossoff, mostly tying him to national Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Handel, meanwhile, called Ossoff Pelosi's "hand-picked" candidate. Pelosi remains an unpopular figure in the district, which includes GOP-leaning territory in three metro Atlanta counties: Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb.
Throughout her campaign, Handel has worked to gain the support of past rivals from previous campaigns.
Handel narrowly lost a battle for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010. She was the top vote-getter in the primary but lost the runoff to Nathan Deal. In 2014, she ran for an open U.S. Senate seat but finished in third place in the Republican primary.
In between those races, she served a short stint in a leadership role with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation before resigning when it reversed its decision to cut ties with the abortion rights group Planned Parenthood.
Her resume also includes leading the Fulton County Commission as its chairwoman; working in the office of Marilyn Quayle, the wife of then-Vice President Dan Quayle; and serving as deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.
A financial disclosure shows that Handel has more than $300,000 in assets, mostly from several investment accounts and mutual funds. She said her consulting firm, Handel Strategy Group, earned about $10,000 last year and is worth between $15,000 and $50,000. Another firm owned by her husband, Steve, the text-messaging service TextGov, is valued at less than $50,000.
The Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.
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