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May 26, 2017

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Georgia race seen as early Trump test

Washington -- A Democrat came close to outright victory in Tuesday's closely watched U.S. congressional primary in Georgia, heading to a runoff in a race that Democrats tout as an early test of resistance to President Donald Trump.

Jon Ossoff, 30, came in first in a crowded field of candidates in a traditionally conservative 6th district, but narrowly fell short of passing the all-important 50 percent threshold.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Ossoff finished far ahead with 48.1 percent support. The nearest Republican — former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel — came in at just 19.8 percent.

Winning the June 20 runoff will be a steeper challenge for Ossoff, however, as Handel will almost certainly benefit from her party coalescing around a single candidate in a conservative-leaning district.

But Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, told energized supporters before all the returns were in that he and Democrats "shattered expectations" with their performance.

"There is no doubt that this is already a victory for the ages," Ossoff said.

"No matter what the outcome is tonight — whether we take it all or whether we fight on — we have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations."

As two candidates advance to a head-to-head vote Democrats still hope that Ossoff can capitalize on Trump's lackluster popularity and make the race a test of the president's first 100 days.

A shock upset in the national spotlight, the argument goes, would deeply embarrass the president and could jumpstart efforts to retake control of the House of Representatives in next year's midterm elections.

Georgia's 6th district is in the relatively affluent and conservative suburbs of Atlanta. It has remained a Republican fortress since 1978 when it was won by Newt Gingrich.

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