ATLANTA - Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel have advanced to a runoff in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat from Georgia's 6th Congressional District. The Associated Press called the race shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. Ossoff fell just short of the 50% mark he needed to win the seat outright. The runoff will take place June 20.
Final results were delayed into the early morning hours as ballot counting in Fulton County was interrupted by technical problems.
Ossoff led a crowded field of 18 candidates that included 11 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 2 independents. Handel, a former Fulton Co. Commission chair, was the top Republican vote-getter, emerging from a group of GOP candidates who directed some campaign attack ads at one another.
The U.S. House contest was the biggest and most widely publicized race among several special elections held Tuesday. The district covers a portion of north metro Atlanta area including parts of Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties. The seat was vacated by Tom Price, who now heads the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration.
The runoff is sure to draw national attention over the next couple of months. Millions of dollars poured into the campaign before Tuesday's vote, and more is sure to be spent on the runoff.
In remarks to supporters Tuesday night before the final outcome became clear, Ossoff was jubilant about the vote. "No matter what the outcome is tonight, whether we take it all or whether we fight on, we have defied the odds ... shattered expectations," he said.
President Donald Trump responded to the results on Twitter, calling it a big victory for Republicans.
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG "R" win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
President Trump is visiting Atlanta later this month to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual convention.
A second race on the ballot Tuesday was for Georgia's State Senate District 32 seat, in portions of Sandy Springs and Cobb County. Former State Sen. Judson Hill resigned from the office to focus on his unsuccessful congressional run. That race is also headed to a runoff, involving Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick.
Bob Gray, who was serving on the Johns Creek City Council Post 4 seat, also resigned to run in the 6th District race. That meant a special election in the city Tuesday to fill his post. Chris Coughlin defeated John Flores to win that post.
Also on the ballot in north Fulton was the Roswell City Council Post 4 left vacation after Kent Igleheart's resignation. Lori Henry defeated Marie Willsey to claim that seat.
And in the newly created city of South Fulton, citizens voted to choose a mayor and seven city council members for the first time.
Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except for two Fulton County voting locations which had their voting hours extended due to not being open exactly at 7 a.m. The county said Centennial High School will remain open until 7:35 p.m. and Johns Creek Environmental Campus will remain open until 7:55 p.m.
“Unfortunately, there were unforeseen staffing and equipment issues that caused these two polls to open late,” stated Richard Barron, Director of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections in a release sent to FOX 5 News. “As required by law, we are extending the operating times for these two locations to allow voters the complete 12 hours available to cast their ballots. All other polling locations will close at 7:00pm.”