House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Republicans Monday to rally behind Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District race, saying voters should back someone who is “tested and true” in next month’s nationally-watched race.
In a brief pep-talk at a Dunwoody hotel, Ryan invoked the history of the suburban Atlanta district, which has been in GOP hands for decades and was once represented by Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson and Tom Price.
“These are very, very hard shoes to fill,” he said. “I can tell you this, but you already know it – Karen Handel is the only person capable of filling these big shoes.”
Saying that the “stakes are as high as they ever could be,” Ryan said Georgians could play a deciding role the June 20 race between Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff in ensuring whether the sweeping plan to repeal Obamacare or overhaul the tax code is achieved.
“The left and Nancy Pelosi are trying to stymie people here in the 6th District,” he said. “They’re trying to hit you with an avalanche of ads.”
Ryan has been one of Handel's most outspoken supporters since she notched a spot in the June 20 runoff, and his visit is the latest sign that she is consolidating GOP support after brutal infighting in the first round of the vote.
Republicans have held the seat since Jimmy Carter’s presidency – although the district has changed since then - and national GOP groups have poured in millions of dollars to thwart Ossoff from pulling off an upset victory that could embarrass the party.
A 30-year-old former congressional aide, Ossoff has countered with unprecedented fundraising success - overwhelmingly from out-of-state donors - that have turned this into the costliest U.S. House race on record.
President Donald Trump’s name was hardly mentioned by the handful of speakers at the event, though Handel has embraced him and other Republican leaders since her No. 2 finish in the April 18 vote. Instead, there was much red-meat assailing Ossoff as an inexperienced stooge of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Handel drew applause when she said “we’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi and her hand-picked candidate steal this seat from the Republicans.”
“We do need someone who is going to get the job done, to hit the ground running,” Handel added. “Do we really think a career staffer with a flimsy inflated resume is going to get anything done? We need experience, folks. We need someone with a track record.”