Political Insider

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Forces that once opposed Karen Handel helped notch historic 6th District win

WASHINGTON — It might not have seemed that way, but the scene at a stuffed Roswell restaurant on the eve of last week’s runoff was a quietly remarkable one.

It was the night before the 6th Congressional District vote, and Gov. Nathan Deal was campaigning for a former opponent his staff once described as a spout of “unhinged blather.” Sprinkled in the crowd of hundreds of energetic Karen Handel supporters were other onetime rivals and critics who once fought to derail her political career.

The spectacle of GOP figures rallying around Handel was at once expected and extraordinary. She was at the center of the most expensive U.S. House contest ever, a must-win for Republicans if ever there was one — what Handel often called a true “all hands on deck” moment.

Yet it crystallized how she was embraced — wholeheartedly by some, begrudgingly by others — by the same establishment figures who long tried to shut her out of office. After all, this was the same politician who launched her 2010 gubernatorial run with a pledge to end a Gold Dome culture that she criticized in unsparing terms: “sex, lies and lobbyists.”

Now the 55-year-old will arrive in Congress — perhaps the country’s pre-eminent boy’s club — and take the mantle as Georgia’s first-ever Republican congresswoman. She’ll do it thanks, in no small part, to the establishment that once rejected her.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.