Who Is Karen Handel, Winner of the Georgia Special Election?

Who Is Karen Handel, Winner of the Georgia Special Election?

- in House of Representatives


Karen Handel, winner of a special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, on Tuesday.

Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

ATLANTA — Karen Handel, a fixture in Georgia Republican politics, won surprisingly easily in Tuesday’s runoff to fill the House seat in suburban Atlanta vacated by Tom Price, the health and human services secretary. Ms. Handel turned back a well-funded Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, to keep a heavily conservative and affluent district in Republican hands.

■ Ms. Handel, 55, is a former chairwoman of the Fulton County Commission, the governing body for the most populous county in Georgia, and was elected Georgia secretary of state in 2006, overseeing the state’s elections. She ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 and for the United States Senate in 2014.

Democrats attacked her record, including increasing spending as secretary of state. But her frequent appearances on ballots in the Sixth District offered her an important name-identification advantage in the initial balloting in April. And in the runoff, Ms. Handel’s local reputation made it easier for her to forge a political identity separate from Mr. Trump.

■ Ms. Handel rarely mentioned the president’s name without being asked. While Mr. Trump narrowly carried the district last year, polls show a majority of the district’s voters view him unfavorably. While she appeared with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at fund-raisers, on the campaign trail, she preferred highlighting the Republican lineage of the district: Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker; Johnny Isakson, now a senator; and, eventually, Mr. Price all held the seat. Even when she spoke at a final get-out-the-vote rally with two of Mr. Trump’s cabinet appointees — Mr. Price and Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary — Ms. Handel ignored the president.

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