Karen Handel beats Jon Ossoff in Georgia House race.

Republican Karen Handel Beats Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia Special Election

Republican Karen Handel Beats Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia Special Election

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June 20 2017 10:48 PM

Republican Karen Handel Beats Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia Special Election

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Karen Handel addresses supporters gathered at Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina on Tuesday in Atlanta.

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With a few votes left to be tabulated, CNN is calling the Georgia 6th for Republican Karen Handel.

After lagging behind in early returns, Democrat Jon Ossoff’s only hope was an unprecedented surge in mail-in ballots. That did not happen.

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Democrats did not get the congressional win they had hoped for in this race to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's House seat. But could they claim a moral victory? Depends who you ask.

Republicans first won the Georgia 6th in 1979, and the seat has been kept warm by staunch conservatives ever since. In that regard, Ossoff’s performance is encouraging.

On the other hand, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by one measly percentage point there last November. Despite the president’s general unpopularity, this wasn’t the loud rebuke of Trump many Democrats were hoping for. It was, if anything, another little burp of mild displeasure.

Though commentators Tuesday night and Wednesday will surely look for broader takeaways, in many ways, this race was an anomaly. It was by far the most expensive congressional race in history, with roughly $55 million spent on and by the candidates. It was silly to spend that much money on one congressional seat, and let’s hope people chill out from now on.

The race also earned heavy national interest and participation (both financial and otherwise), giving it the feel of a proxy war. But the district is not exactly representative of national dynamics. It is suburban, highly educated, and firmly conservative. Ossoff played to those factors. His political leanings are heavily to the center of center, and his campaign’s focus was on small government and economic growth—not on Trump. This looked like it was working, until it didn't.

There was another special election tonight. It was in South Carolina’s 5th, a rural, conservative district. There, Republican Ralph Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell by a surprisingly narrow margin. In what has been a flurry of special election losses for Democrats, that’s the one that may come out looking the best. For whatever that’s worth.

Nick Greene is a Chicago-born writer who currently lives in Oakland, California. Follow him on Twitter.