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Georgia Sixth: Democrats ask 'where has Karen Handel been?'

The Democratic Party of Georgia asked a stinging question this week: Is Republican Karen Handel in hiding?

Her campaign responded on Friday saying Handel is "preparing" and not hiding - and slammed Democrat Jon Ossoff for "hiding behind $13 million in television ads, paid for by Nancy Pelosi and the resistance movement."

Democrats are eager to paint Handel as a candidate who has gone underground as she prepares for the June 20 runoff. And Handel's campaign has pushed back on that narrative, arguing that she has kept a packed schedule even if it doesn't advertise every move she makes.

Since the April 18 vote, Handel's schedule has been under more scrutiny as she races to defend what Republicans see as a must-win district. She's had one press conference and a range of lower-profile events mixed in with some high-dollar fundraisers, including an April 28 appearance with President Donald Trump in Atlanta.

She's been less visible on the airwaves, since her campaign hasn’t spent a dime yet on any advertising. That's left conservative groups to pour more resources into the contest to counter the $6.6 million in airtime Ossoff has reserved since April 18.

In a statement, Handel's campaign said she spent the last three weeks consolidating Republican support after a fractious special election vote and that she has raised more than $2 million since the first round of voting. She plans a "full schedule" of campaigning this weekend, it added.

"Jon Ossoff continues to spend millions on television ads and is treading water," the campaign said, citing a WSB poll that showed her with a slight lead in the race.

Ossoff's campaign has had more media-driven events. He has hosted three gatherings advertised to the press in the last week alone, including canvassing events in Marietta and Sandy Springs and a Cinco de Mayo celebration in north DeKalb.

His supporters are eager to remind Handel of a quote in The Marietta Daily Journal in February where she talked of a "great track record of being accessible."

"Probably half the state of Georgia has my cellphone, maybe much to my husband’s dismay, but that’s my job," Handel said. "You shouldn’t sign up to do a role like this unless you really want to be accessible to the people."

We can expect Handel to ratchet up more appearances soon. She has an event Monday with House Speaker Paul Ryan in metro Atlanta, and she was filming ads this week for a likely roll-out next week.

One added note about the timing of Ryan’s visit: That’s the day before voting closes on the Senate District 32 runoff between Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick. And Handel put some skin in that game with a tweet on Friday.

Insider's note: This item was ripped and expanded from the Morning Jolt.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.