Why are we here?
Residents of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District—a generally affluent area that includes Atlanta’s northern suburbs—are voting Tuesday to decide who will replace former Republican Rep. Tom Price in Congress. (Price vacated his seat to become Donald Trump’s secretary of health and human services and to maybe get prosecuted for stock-related corruption.) The ol’ Fightin’$2 6th has been held by Republicans—including former House Speaker Newt “Snoot” Gingrich—since 1979, but the Republican Party and its president are currently unpopular enough that 30-year-old Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff actually has a slight polling lead over Republican candidate Karen Handel going into Tuesday’s vote. Ossoff got the most votes in an open election for the seat that was held on April 18 but didn’t reach the 50 percent total that would have been required to win the race outright. So now he and Handel are in a runoff.
Is it true that the United Kingdom scheduled and held an entire national election in less time than it took for us to get around to holding this runoff?
Yes. British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an election on April 18, the same day as the first round of voting in Georgia.* The British election was then held on June 8.
Oi! Ossoff has a slight lead, you say? How slight?
He’s ahead by 1.5 points in RealClearPolitics’ polling average. That’s small enough that it would not be at all surprising if Handel won.
Regardless of who wins and by how much, will the results of this election be considered extremely and definitively important by a political world desperate for a “referendum” on Donald Trump’s performance?
You betcha! Nate Silver has a good breakdown of what the election could mean for congressional Republicans, who might well interpret an Ossoff win as a very ominous sign for their chances in 2018 and start bailing on the Trump agenda as a result. (Of course, as Silver points out, the fact that Ossoff is even close to winning is probably just as relevant as whether he actually does pull out a victory in Tuesday night’s coin flip. But narratives gonna narrative.) If Handel wins, Democrats will argue angrily with each other about whether Ossoff—a former congressional aide who has run a relatively mild-mannered campaign—was too much of an establishment moderate. In fact, they’ll probably find a way to argue about that even if Ossoff does win!
Karen Handel—what’s her deal?
Handel is a businesswoman and longtime Republican politico who you may remember from the controversy over the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation’s decision to stop giving grant money to Planned Parenthood. Handel worked for the Komen foundation at the time and reportedly pushed for the move, which was quickly reversed after public outcry.
What is going on in this race in terms of horrific, degrading rhetoric and dirty tricks?
A Georgia GOP official was caught committing a Kinsley gaffe on Saturday when he boasted that last week’s shooting attack on Republican congressmen by a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter “is going to win this election for us.” An independent pro-Handel group ran an ad claiming that Ossoff’s supporters have been “cheering last week’s shooting.” Meanwhile, white powder and letters calling Handel a “cunt” and a “bitch” were left a few days ago left in mailboxes belonging to Handel and some of her neighbors. Good stuff.
How much money has been spent on this single congressional race while the United States remains trillions of dollars in debt and millions of its citizens suffer in poverty?
An estimated $50 million, making it what the AP describes as the most expensive House race in history. That’s not much less than was spent by all parties and candidates combined in the U.K. elections held two years ago. (This year’s totals aren’t yet available.) The United Kingdom is about 93 times as big, population-wise, as the Georgia 6th.
*Correction, June 19, 2017: This post originally misspelled Theresa May’s first name.