Vice President Mike Pence says suburban Atlanta Republicans must elect Karen Handel to Congress to help President Donald Trump or risk a loss that could help hand House control back to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
“I don’t see this race so much as a choice between Karen Handel and her opponent,” Pence told a gathering of Republican donors who paid $1,500 per person to hear his pitch.
“Karen Handel will partner with President Donald Trump to make America safe and prosperous again,” while Jon Ossoff represents a throwback to Pelosi’s first tenure as House speaker, Pence said.
Handel and Ossoff meet in a June 20 runoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which covers the northern suburbs of Atlanta but has become a proxy for the national political dynamic.
Ossoff, a 30-year-old making his first bid for public office, has become a face of the anti-Trump movement nationally on his way to a record-setting $23 million fundraising haul, most of it from well beyond Georgia. Handel, a 55-year-old former secretary of state, has struggled to keep pace, instead depending on millions of dollars in ads from national Republican groups.
The 6th District has been held by a Republican since 1979, but Trump isn’t particularly popular here. He barely topped Democrat Hillary Clinton in November and still fell short of a majority. Previous GOP nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain got more than 60 percent of the vote.
Democrats have for months identified Ossoff as their best shot to pick up a GOP seat ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans already have defended House seats in special elections this spring in Montana and Kansas.
Democrats need to flip 24 seats between now and November 2018 to reclaim a majority.
Handel said Friday that the Pence event would push her fundraising total beyond $5 million, still less than a quarter of what Ossoff has collected — and a sum that already includes two earlier fundraisers headlined by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Handel said the Pence event, which also included a $10,000 host opportunity to have the donor’s picture taken with the vice president, raised about $250,000.
The vice president’s visit comes a day after former FBI chief James Comey testified on Capitol Hill that he believes Trump fired him to interfere with his investigation of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign.