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Democrat hovers near the 50% needed to capture Atlanta-area House race

Supporters of Democrat Jon Ossoff await election results Tuesday night. (John Raedle / Getty Images)
Supporters of Democrat Jon Ossoff await election results Tuesday night. (John Raedle / Getty Images)

A hotly-contested House election in the Atlanta suburbs remained up in the air Tuesday night as Republicans fought to deny a first-time Democratic candidate the right to claim the seat outright in a race that served as a referendum on President Trump.

Democrat Jon Ossoff was easily leading in the race for the 6th Congressional District seat, but hovering near the 50% mark he had to exceed to avoid a June 20 runoff. Areas yet to be counted appeared likely to provide Republican votes.

In distant second place as votes were tallied late Tuesday was former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican.

The first-place finish by Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and filmmaker, was greatly aided by millions of dollars in donations from restive Democrats and by the presence on the ballot of nearly a dozen Republicans, which split the party’s vote. The seat had been held until February by Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price.

Ossoff's odds would lengthen in a runoff, as Republicans will have the opportunity to coalesce around one candidate instead of being split.

The fight over the 6th District is a precursor of what is expected to be a huge battle for the House in 2018, assuming that Trump remains unpopular and Republicans remain in disarray. Republicans hold a margin of more than 40 seats at present, and the only opportunity for gains by Democrats depends on flipping seats where voters are less attached to the new president.

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