After unsuccessful bids to be governor and a U.S. senator, Karen Handel’s victory in Georgia’s 6th congressional district special election Tuesday keeps the longtime Republican seat in conservative hands.
Handel, a former businesswoman, cast herself during the race against Democrat Jon Ossoff as “a lifelong conservative who built her career on delivering results in both the public and private sectors.”
Her previous positions in government include serving as Georgia’s secretary of state from 2007-2009 and as chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners from 2003-2006.
Handel’s tried to winnow down Georgia voter rolls as secretary of state, drawing allegations of voter suppression and a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU.
She left that post early in 2009 to run for governor of Georgia. Though she gained endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and future GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Handel lost in the Republican primary by less than 3,000 votes to Nathan Deal, who is now finishing up his second term as governor.
Her next attempt at running for public office came in 2014, when she sought to replace to retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss but came in third in the primary. But she jumped into the race for the 6th District earlier this year when Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price vacated the seat to join Trump’s Cabinet. In April, Handel came in second in the all-party special primary, triggering Tuesday’s runoff against Ossoff.
During the campaign, which was the most expensive House race in history, Handel backed many of President Donald Trump’s policy positions, including building a wall on the southern border. She also touted the House proposal to repeal Obamacare, rolling back federal regulations and simplifying the tax code.
Perhaps most central to her conservative agenda was a staunch pro-life stance. Handel left a high-ranking position with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity in 2012 after the cancer-fighting organization decided to restore funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization she called “blatantly partisan.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence both campaigned for Handel in Georgia, and outside groups poured money into her election bid.
Still, though Handel supported most of Trump’s policies and held a private fundraiser with him in April, she did not go out of her way to mention the president on the campaign trail, in a bid for the district’s moderate voters. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percentage points, but it became much closer last year. In 2016, Trump won the district by just 1.5 points.