Republican Karen Handel is headed to a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff, who came just short of the 50 percent required to win a special election on Tuesday.
Ossoff’s election was seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s first months in office. The spotlight was quickly placed on him as Trump took to Twitter to attack the Democrat as being soft on crime when he is most known for working to end political corruption. But few know the background of Handel.
Here are the top six things you should know about Karen Handle as we head into the runoff:
1. The Susan G. Komen disaster.
Handel is perhaps most known for taking the fall for the PR disaster it caused when the non-profit group decided to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings. The argument against Komen was that Planned Parenthood provides reduced or no-cost cancer screenings for women in need. For many, Planned Parenthood is the only place that they can afford to get such screenings. Handel called the organization “Planned Bullyhood” and accused them of “vicious attacks and coercion” against her for the backlash she received and was forced to resign.
2. Handel quit her job after being elected for just two years.
In 2009, Karen Handel was just two years into her first term as Secretary of State of Georgia when she abruptly quit to run for governor. Handel was coming under fire after working to gut voting rights to help favor GOP candidates.
According to both the Democrat and Republican running against Handel, however, Handel’s ethics were the reason she resigned. She was quickly coming under fire for blatantly partisan attempts to remove a Democrat from the ballot and failing to meet her election promise to provide a papertrail for electronic voting machines.
She lost the race by just 2,500 votes and conceded to Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA). The race was a contentious one as Deal attacked her for being a part of the Log Cabin Republicans, the LGBT group within the Republican Party. Handel, who is married to a man, denied being a part of the group but earned a “Pants on Fire” rating on the claim by Politifact.
3. She works hard to cozy up to anti-choice groups that have never supported her before.
Handel seems desperate for the endorsement and approval for anti-choice advocates, but when running for governor in 2010, she proved to be the only candidate not endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life. Perhaps that is why she has worked so hard to wave the anti-choice flag.
“I am Pro-life and believe that life begins at conception,” Handel claims on her website. “We have made significant strides in fostering a Pro-life culture. Still, more must be done. I am proud to be the only candidate in this race to be endorsed by Susan B. Anthony List, and I am also certified by the Georgia Life Alliance.”
But even the anti-choice community doesn’t want her.
4. She’s trying to have it both ways on Obamacare.
Handel wants to repeal Obamacare, parroting President Donald Trump that it is the single biggest intrusion on Americans’ lives in decades. But according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Handel lobbied for Obamacare while she worked for Komen.
5. Handel is just as anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim as Donald Trump.
One of the many things Handel has in common with Trump is her support of the president’s immigration plans. She wants a big beautiful wall along the southern border and wants to make changes to the temporary visa program.
However, Handel took it even further when the Save The American Way PAC said she supports Trump’s Muslim ban.
“If elected to Congress, she will work to build a wall on the border and end Muslim immigration,” the PAC said, according to the Huffington Post.
6. She wants to prevent people from voting.
If there’s one thing Handel has been consistent on it’s her advocacy for restrictive voting rights. In the state that prides itself on being home to civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Handel sought to enact restrictive voter ID laws.
As Secretary of State, Handel pushed a measure that would ensure someone was a citizen before registering to vote. At the time, the Justice Department said her work “does not produce accurate and reliable information and that thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged.” Both Justice Departments under George W. Bush and Barack Obama put the hammer down on Handel.
Like many Republican secretaries of state, Handel worked to purge voter rolls, which forced tens of thousands of Georgians to reregister, prove they were citizens and go through the whole process again. The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division ordered the state to stop the purges. When the Trump administration pulled away from challenging a Texas voter ID law, Handel heralded the decision on Twitter, calling it “commonsense [sic].” The appeals court ruled that the Texas law violates the Voting Rights Act.
With these positions and actions, Handel ultimately ends up looking like nothing more than a political opportunist, desperately searching for where her supporters are going so that she may lead them.