Voters head to the polls in the state of Georgia Tuesday to decide the most expensive US congressional race, a $60-million political brawl where a Democratic novice could score an upset in a conservative stronghold and strike a blow against the presidency of Donald Trump.
The race — seen as an indicator for next year’s mid-term elections — appeared virtually deadlocked as both candidates sprinted to the finish, polls showed.
Republicans are facing a sobering reminder of their president’s poor approval ratings, as 30-year-old centrist Democrat Jon Ossoff, a filmmaker and onetime political assistant, clings to the narrowest of leads.
Polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm (1100-2300 GMT).
With Democrats potentially striking the first blow against Trump in 2017, the race has drawn substantial national attention — and vast outside contributions to both candidates.
“It’s a neck and neck race, and it’s all about turnout now,” Ossoff told WSB television Monday. “That’s why we’re so focused on get out the vote” operations.
Ossoff and his Republican rival, the former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, spent the last days crisscrossing the southern state’s sixth congressional district speaking to voters.
Despite Trump’s low approval ratings the president expressed support for Handel, 55.
“Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district,” he tweeted just before sunrise Tuesday.
“KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS. She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY,” he then added.
Ossoff is trying to flip the suburban Atlanta district that Republican Tom Price left to become Trump’s health secretary.
The Democrat won the first round against several candidates in April, but fell just shy of outright victory.
The June 20 runoff quickly became the most expensive US House race in history, with the campaigns, political action committees and other outside groups raising nearly $60 million, according to government reform and ethics group Issue One.
Ossoff has unleashed a massive ground operation reportedly consisting of 12,000 door-knocking, call-making volunteers. The two campaigns and political groups have bombarded Atlanta airwaves with election advertising.
– ‘Wake-up call’ –
Republicans have held Georgia’s sixth district since 1979. But as an increasingly well-educated, diverse suburban district it is exactly the kind of territory which Democrats need to flip if they want to gain the 24 seats necessary to reclaim the House of Representatives in 2018.
“If the Democrats win the Georgia Sixth it should be a wake-up call to the Republican Party,” GOP strategist Rick Tyler, ex-spokesman for Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, told MSNBC.
Some observers were also eyeing the race for clues into how voters perceive the Republican health care bill currently making its way through Congress.
Handel has aligned herself with Trump, who campaigned heavily on repealing Obamacare. If she loses, Republicans in swing districts may be forced to reassess their positions on health care.
Tuesday’s runoff is the third chance opposition Democrats have to win a House seat since Trump took office.
Special congressional elections in Kansas and Montana — also to replace Republicans who joined Trump’s team — were seen as a chance for Democrats to score first strikes against the administration.
But with Democrats falling short in those races, and the Republican expected to win in South Carolina — a second state which is also holding a special congressional election Tuesday — all eyes have turned to Georgia.
Should Democrats fail to convert at least one of the special election seats, it could be a demoralizing blow for administration opponents who have seen these races as early tests of the national strength of an anti-Trump movement.
The shooting of Republican congressman Steve Scalise — who remains hospitalized in serious condition after being shot in the hip — last Wednesday in Washington however has cast a shadow over the Georgia race.
Both candidates have reported receiving threats, prompting heightened security in the final days of the race.
Jared Kushner’s ties to Saudis could be fair game if Trump keeps going after Hunter Biden: Dem lawmaker
On MSNBC's "AM Joy," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) laid out the case for impeaching President Donald Trump — and warned of the consequences for Trump's own family at the hands of future presidents if he is allowed to get away with it.
"He abused his power by trying to trade government resources for a political favor, to knock out a political rival in Joe Biden, the guy that he thought would emerge as nominee for 2020," said Castro. "We can't set a precedent where Congress says it's okay for a president to do that, because if we do that then a few things will happen. Number one, it opens the door for Donald Trump to do it again or a future president to do it again. To ask a country to interfere in our elections and knock out a political rival by digging up dirt."
Melania Trump scorched by columnist for standing by president’s Thunberg bullying: ‘Indefensible’
In a piece for the Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty called out first lady Melania Trump for her statement defending her husband's bullying of 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg in a fit of jealousy after she was selected Time Magazine's Person of the Year.
Responding to a statement from the White House that stated, “BeBest is the First Lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It is no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy,” Tumulty wasn't having it.
BUSTED: Devin Nunes is hiding how he’s paying for all his frivolous lawsuits — which could land him in more trouble
On Saturday, the Fresno Bee dived into a lingering question: How does Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) pay for all the lawsuits he is filing against journalists, satirists, and political critics?
"Nunes, R-Tulare, has filed lawsuits against Twitter, anonymous social media users known as Devin Nunes' Cow and Devin Nunes' Mom, a Republican political strategist, media companies, journalists, progressive watchdog groups, a political research firm that worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and a retired farmer in Nunes’ own district," noted the Bee.
These lawsuits were mainly filed in Virginia — a state with very loose laws against so-called "SLAPP suits," or meritless lawsuits intended to drown people in legal expenses in retaliation for expressing political opinions. Nunes was assisted in these suits by Steven Biss, a Virginia attorney, and yet except for the suit against the retired farmer, there is no clear record in Nunes' FEC reports of how he paid for the suits.