World

Republican wins pricey $79m Georgia race

Latest congressional race defeat to trigger soul-searching among Democrats

SANDY SPRINGS, GEORGIA: Republican Karen Handel of Georgia won the most expensive congressional race in history, avoiding a Democratic upset in a race widely seen as a referendum on US President Donald Trump.

By a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent, the former Georgia secretary of state beat Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political newcomer who sought to wrest control of a suburban Atlanta district that has elected Republicans to Congress since the 1970s.

This will not significantly change the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

But it could give Republicans a boost in confidence as they struggle to advance health and tax legislation bogged down by infighting and investigations into whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russia in last year's presidential election.

Mrs Handel said at her victory rally that she knew it was going to "require all hands on deck" for Republicans to hold on to the district.

"I stand before you, extraordinarily humbled and honoured at the tremendous privilege and responsibility you... have given me," she told a crowd that chanted Mr Trump's name.

BIG MONEY

Spending on the race reached at least US$57 million (S$79 million), nearly twice the last record, said the Centre for Responsive Politics, a watchdog.

The election was held to fill the seat vacated by Mr Tom Price after he was appointed secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Democrats celebrated the fact that they had turned a conservative stronghold into a competitive district.

"We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was possible, we could fight," Mr Ossoff told supporters.

But this is sure to spark soul-searching in a party that is shut out of power in Washington and has steadily lost influence at the state level in recent years.

Despite spending more than US$30 million, Mr Ossoff lost the district by a wider margin than Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Democrats also lost a special election in South Carolina on Tuesday, where Republican Ralph Norman prevailed over Democrat Archie Parnell in a seat formerly held by Republican Mick Mulvaney, who is now Mr Trump's budget director. Democrats are lagging 0-4 in congressional elections this year, having earlier lost races in Kansas and Montana. - REUTERS

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