After personally congratulating Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel Wednesday morning for advancing to a runoff election scheduled for June, President Donald Trump declared on Twitter that her race against Democrat Jon Ossoff will pit “Hollywood vs. Georgia.”
The characterization of the upcoming head-to-head election was seemingly borrowed from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who used the same line during a Wednesday morning interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” the morning cable news show that Trump is known to prefer.
“Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job Karen Handel!” Trump wrote in a post to Twitter, referring to last week’s special election in Kansas, where Republican Ron Estes won a relatively close race against his Democratic opponent. “It is now Hollywood vs. Georgia on June 20th.”
Handel advanced to her June 20 runoff by virtue of her second place finish in Tuesday’s special election, a race in which Ossoff fell just short of the 50 percent threshold he needed to win the Congressional seat outright. Democrats from around the country eager to hand Republicans an embarrassing defeat just months after Trump’s inauguration had poured money into the race, opening Ossoff up to criticisms that his campaign was propped up by out-of-state donors.
In a Wednesday morning interview with “Fox & Friends,” Handel said “the vast majority” of Ossoff’s funds had come from the liberal strongholds of California, New York and Massachusetts. She attacked his residency, noting that he lives just outside the sixth congressional district that he is running to represent and wondering aloud “what does he even know about the community and the district?”
Ossoff, who grew up in the sixth district, has explained previously that he currently lives just outside of it with his longtime girlfriend in order to better accommodate her medical studies at Emory University.
With 11 total Republican candidates, Tuesday’s election splintered the GOP vote in Georgia’s usually deep-red sixth district, a seat most-recently occupied by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. Handel, now with a unified Republican Party behind her, is likely to be a much more formidable opponent for Ossoff in a district that has not been represented by a Democrat since the administration of former President Jimmy Carter.
Trump, apparently eager to protect the Republican-held seat, was active in the race’s final days, tweeting multiple times to attack Ossoff and recording a robocall to warn sixth district residents that “if you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants."
Handel told “Fox & Friends” that “I was very grateful for that push. It got a lot of Republicans to the polls so that people really understood what was at stake.” She said Trump “was beyond gracious and encouraging” in his congratulatory phone call to her and that “we need every single Republican we can be get, including the president, to be coalesced and united as we come into fighting what’s going to be — it will be a tough race.”