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Georgia Runoff Will Test Trump, Opposition

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Democrat Jon Ossoff drew 48.1 percent of the vote in Tuesday's special election, just shy of the 50 percent needed to win the most closely watched USA congressional race since Trump took office in January.

President Donald Trump gave himself some credit for forcing a runoff in a special election in Georgia on Tuesday, saying he was "glad to be of help" after Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to win 50% of the vote.

In second place in the special election, but lagging far behind with just under 20 percent of the vote, was Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state well known to voters. Handel had treated Trump gingerly in a district the president barely carried, but declared Wednesday she'd like to see him campaign for her ahead of the June 20 runoff.

"Donald Trump coming to town could be the biggest thing to happen to congressional elections in years", said Todd Rehm, a Republican strategist and founder of the blog GeorgiaPundit.com, told VOA.

Trump took to his favorite messaging service Tuesday to encourage Republicans to vote and to reject Ossoff, one of several tweets leading up to the election.

Those in the race are split among Trump supporters and candidates trying to hold the president at arm's length.

Ossoff points to Handel's criticism of Planned Parenthood, a position which led to her resignation from the Komen Foundation in 2012.

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Mr Ossoff, who ran on a pledge to "Make Trump Furious", portrayed the NY tycoon as a Washington insider. Democrats mostly consolidated support behind Ossoff, a 30-year-old filmmaker and former congressional aide.

Ossoff aims to win an outright majority in Tuesday's vote, a "jungle primary" with all 18 candidates from both parties on the same ballot.

Pete Korman, 6th District voter, said national enthusiasm for Ossoff has been frustrating to watch, but he thinks Handel will win voters in the 6th.

Mr. Trump won the district by only 1 percentage point over Hillary Clinton in November. "Anything short of describing that as a loss is sort of inconceivable to me in the sense that they literally said that is what they said would do".

"They ran to win last night and they lost", White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

With few other events on the political calendar, the race was billed as a referendum on President Trump's first few months in office.

In an email early Wednesday morning, Ossoff confirmed he is moving on to the runoff election, "This is already a remarkable victory".

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