By BILL BARROW and KATHLEEN FOODY
DUNWOODY, Ga. — Republican Karen Handel won a nationally watched congressional election Tuesday in Georgia, and she thanked President Donald Trump after she avoided an upset that would have rocked Washington ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Returns showed Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, winning about 52 percent of the vote over Democrat Jon Ossoff, who won nearly 48 percent in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
“A special thanks to the president of the United States of America,” she said late Tuesday night as her supporters chanted, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
It was Handel’s most public embrace of the man whose tenuous standing in this well-educated, suburban enclave made a previously safe Republican district close to begin with.
Handel’s margin allows Republicans a sigh of relief after what’s being recognized as the most expensive House race in U.S history, with a price tag that may exceed $50 million.
Yet the result in a historically conservative district still offers Republicans a warning that Trump, for better or worse, will dominate the looming campaign cycle. Georgia’s outcome follows similar results in Montana, Kansas and South Carolina, where Republicans won special House races by much narrower margins than they managed as recently as November.
Republicans immediately crowed over winning a seat that Democrats spent $30 million trying to flip. “Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
Democrats still must defend their current districts and win 24 GOP-held seats to regain a House majority next November. Party leaders profess encouragement from the trends, but the latest losses mean they will have to rally donors and volunteers after a tough stretch of special elections.
Handel, 55, will become the first Republican woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House, according to state…