Karen Handel’s political career has taken her from Fulton County Commission chairman to becoming Georgia’s first elected Republican Secretary of State. Now, she’s one of two candidates in the special election runoff to fill the 6th district congressional seat previously held by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.
All along, she’s had the same supportive “running mate” by her side: Her husband, Steve.
“Steve saw in me things that I didn’t see in myself—he had a way of bringing out a different me, a better me.” Handel, 55, wrote in her 2012 book “Planned Bullyhood,” about her husband of nearly 25 years, whom she lives with in Roswell. In the acknowledgments she told him, “You put the love and laughter in each of my days—and put up with our crazy life; I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”
Steve Handel, 59, is often seen at his wife’s campaign events, though he rarely speaks publicly himself. With the 6th District race attracting extraordinary interest -- a whopping 18 candidates faced off in the April 18 special election, with Republican Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff making it to the June 20 runoff -- increasingly, so too are their mates (read about Ossoff’s fiancee Alisha Kramer here).
Here are some things to know about Steve Handel, who responded to questions we emailed to the campaign.
He’s a tech guru who runs a company that provides notification and reminder services: A University of Maryland grad with a B.S. in business management, Handel is president of TextGov, which provides notifications for various governments, such as juror updates, citation reminders and and also offers mobile based payment services for things like business licenses and tax and utility bills.
He and Karen celebrated one significant anniversary last month, with another big one coming up: In November 2017, the Handels will mark their silver wedding anniversary. As Karen wrote in her book, “We were married the Saturday after the November 1992 presidential election, in which George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle lost their bid for a second term to Bill Clinton. God really does have a way of balancing things out” (she’d worked as deputy chief of staff to the vice president’s wife, Marilyn Quayle). Steve told the AJC this week that they’d become engaged on April 18, 1992 -- “which is Karen’s birthday.”
When Ossoff and Kramer announced their engagement earlier this month, the Handels congratulated them in a statement (”Having a partner who is the love of your life ultimately makes the hard days better, and the journey more complete.”) which Karen tweeted this link to:
Congratulations to the future Mr. and Mrs. Ossoff https://t.co/5s1h3vqzvN— Karen Handel (@karenhandel) May 6, 2017
“Partner” is right: Again and again in her book, Karen Handel makes clear that nearly every important decision and moment regarding her political career happens in tandem with Steve. When she was first recruited to run for the Fulton County Commission, she “laughed . . . Steve, though, didn’t think it was funny at all. He said he could see me doing it.” Near the end of her first term as commission chair (“Steve and I were already uncertain about running for reelection . . .”) she was being courted to run for higher office: “After much contemplation, Steve and I made the decision together: I would run, but not for lieutenant governor—for secretary of state.” Months later, as she stood on the dais to be sworn in, “Steve was holding my hand.” More recently, when President Donald Trump tapped Price for HHS secretary and Handel’s name came up as a possible candidate for his congressional seat, she released this statement: "Steve and I are humbled by the outpouring of encouragement and we are seriously considering how to best serve the constituents of Georgia's 6th District."
Related video: Who is Karen Handel?
He’s a golf guy: Handel’s Twitter bio doesn’t mince words when it comes to his priorities: “Conservative who loves my wife, technology, golf and the Georgia Bulldogs.” While one politically-themed tweet recently backfired (actually, it was a retweet of something “he didn’t pay a lot of attention to . . . [that] clearly was not appropriate and has been deleted,” a Handel campaign spokesperson said), he also tweets frequently about golf.
It’s not just about social media links, though. The Handels hit the real-world links, too. And apparently they’re pretty good. “Karen and I both love to play golf,” Steve said in response to the AJC’s questions. “On the Friday after Thanksgiving (2016) I had my first hole in one. What made it extra special was that Karen and I were playing together. She birdied the hole as did the two gentlemen that we were playing a match against. So a hole in one and three birdies on the same hole.”
Yep, he’s a big UGA football fan: How’d it happen that a onetime Maryland Terrapin wound up becoming such a Bulldogs supporter that he now attends three to four home games each season? Handel: “(I) became a dedicated fan when I attended my first game at Sanford Stadium. There’s nothing like a Saturday afternoon in Athens.”