ATLANTA - Republican Karen Handel won Tuesday's special election to claim Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat following a hard-fought runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
The numbers were extremely tight all night, but Handel took an early lead in the early voting numbers. After Ossoff gained some ground during the early evening, around 9:30 p.m., Handel widened her lead. The race was eventually called just after 10 p.m.
Ossoff addressed his supporters saying his campaign provided a beacon of hope in Georgia, across the nation and across the world. He said his campaign showed what courage, kindness and humility can do to the world.
Handel said she knew it would be a tight race and said it she knew it "would require all hands on deck." She thanked House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.Congratulations came quickly from fellow Republicans for Handel.
Handel addressed the incident of suspicious packages sent to her and her neighbor's homes last week.
"No one should have their life threatened over their political belief," Handel said.
Handel qualified the statement directing it to both sides of the aisle.
In her speech, Handel said she wants to focus on finishing healthcare, stimulating the economy by creating jobs and focusing on small businesses. She also said she wants comprehensive tax reform, lowering both corporate and induvial taxes to try to create a healthier middle class. She also pledged to do better for veterans.
"My pledge is to be part of the solution, to focus on governing, to put my experience to work," said Handel.
Handel said she looks forward to serving Georgia.
President Donald Trump tweeted "Things are looking great for Karen H!" just moments after the Associated Press projected her as being the winner.
Senator David Perdue issued the following statement:
“Georgians again sent a loud message to Washington that we are committed to changing the direction of our country. Liberal Democrats dumped millions of dollars into this campaign to try and buy another House vote for Nancy Pelosi, and it still didn’t work. Nobody knows Georgia’s 6th District better than Karen Handel. I congratulate Karen on her victory and look forward to working with her on the issues that matter to all Georgians.”
The runoff contest in Georgia's 6th Congressional District became a proxy for the national political atmosphere and a test of GOP strength early in Donald Trump's presidency.
President Trump barely won the district in November, giving Democrats an opening once Republican Tom Price resigned the seat to join the president's Cabinet as health secretary.
Election officials said voting went smoothly at polling sites in Georgia's closely-watched House election.
Richard Barron, director of Fulton County's registration and elections, said the state's most populous county is on pace to have around 36,000 people come through when polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. He said about 16,500 people had already voted by 12:30 p.m.
Barron said there have been a couple of voting issues, but it's nothing that would derail having final results in by 11 p.m. He said one of the most common complaints has been from poll workers canceling people's absentee-by-mail ballots at polls.
In the April 18 general election, state officials reported polling machines used to check in voters at one precinct in Johns Creek weren't working properly, but the problem was resolved.
Earlier in the day, election officials said two polling places stayed open late after an equipment problem delayed the start of voting. Officials said polling places at Livsey Elementary School and Holy Cross Catholic Church received the wrong equipment for checking in voters.
“Well because a mix-up with the [electronic books and batteries] the electronic poll books for Holy Cross went to Livsey and vice-versa,” H. Maxine Daniels, director of Voter Registration and Elections for DeKalb County. “So, when the poll manager opened this morning, they were not able to create cards to vote on the voting machines.”
DeKalb County officials said the problem was resolved by 7:30 a.m. but they wanted voters to have a full 12 hours to cast ballots in the runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Daniels said the poll managers followed protocol offering paper provisional ballots until the issue was fixed, but some voters felt uncomfortable using those.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams signed an order Tuesday afternoon keeping polls open until 7:30 p.m. at both locations.
"The process in Georgia requires anybody who votes in extended hours to vote on paper which would allow us to back those votes out in the event of a court challenge of that extension," said Daniels.
Those provisional ballots will not be counted until Monday.
As voting got underway in Georgia's closely-watched Congressional race, the state's chief elections official posted a video on social media urging voters to head to the polls and "wear your peach voting sticker with pride."
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in the Facebook video Tuesday morning that Georgians' right to vote for their public officials should never be taken for granted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report