Political Insider

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Republican state Senate win tests 'Ossoff effect'

If the Senate special election to replace Judson Hill really is an indicator for how next month's 6th District runoff will turn out, then Republicans are feeling a bit more confident.

Republican Kay Kirkpatrick easily defeated Democrat Christine Triebsch in Tuesday night's vote, calming some conservatives who worried that the "Jon Ossoff effect" could cost them Hill's deep-red seat.

The Senate district stretches through a swath of east Cobb and Sandy Springs that overlaps Georgia's 6th District, and Triebsch showed surprising strength in a first-place finish in the April 18 vote. It had giddy Democrats hopeful that the energy and enthusiasm surrounding Ossoff's June 20 runoff against Republican Karen Handel would spill over to other races.

That didn't exactly happen. Triebsch carved out a narrow lead in Sandy Springs, a fast-purpling part of the district that Ossoff won. But Republicans came out in force in east Cobb. Kirkpatrick won by about 4,000 votes in the low-turnout affair. That was good for a 14-point victory.

(Read more about the race here.)

Democrats were quick to note that the state Senate race is an imperfect barometer.

Both candidates had low name recognition, little cash and little media attention. Ossoff did little to overtly campaign for Triebsch.

The Senate seat spans some of the reddest parts of the 6th District, territory so conservative that Democrats didn't challenge Hill in the last four election cycles. (He defeated his last Democratic challenger, in 2008, by a 2-1 margin.)

And they found a silver lining: Hillary Clinton took about 40 percent of the vote in the Senate district. Triebsch outperformed her by 3 points. If Ossoff outdoes Clinton in the 6th District by the same margin, he'll be on his way to Washington.

Republicans, meanwhile, heaved a sigh of relief. Gabriel Sterling, a GOP candidate for Fulton Commission chair, called it a "big win." And Handel took to Twitter to applaud Kirkpatrick.


It had all the makings for an awkward moment.

Armed with thick bundles of paper, Sandra Sidhom approached both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican Karen Handel at Monday's GOP rally with petitions laden with more than 1,100 signatures demanding she debate Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Both took her approach in stride. She said Ryan signed a folder holding the petition - before he knew what was inside it - and that Handel told her she would agree to several debates. And both posed, smiling, for pictures with her.

Handel's campaign has so far not publicly confirmed which - or how many - debates she'll attend. When contacted Tuesday, a spokesman referred to an earlier statement that said she is "looking forward to having several debates" before the June 20 runoff.

"We sent a message today that voters demand a public debate," said Sidhom, an Alpharetta real estate agent who backs Ossoff. "This is bigger than the 6th. Hey, she could come out and impress me and win my vote. This is a nonpartisan issue."


Republican strategist Nick Ayers is moving closer to a decision on whether to run for governor.

The aide to Mike Pence - and an early member of Georgia's vaunted Perdue political network - has flirted for weeks about joining the Republican field to replace a term-limited Nathan Deal.

We're told he is beginning to chart out the team who would run his campaign in case he runs.

Read more about Ayers here.


U.S. Sen. David Perdue offered Donald Trump some backup after The New York Times story that FBI Director Jim Comey said the president tried to shut down an investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

He tweeted a video of recent testimony from acting FBI Director Andy McCabe saying that "there has been no effort to impede our investigation."


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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.