"Jon Ossoff's first-place finish tonight is a huge triumph for the Resistance and for progressives, who boosted Ossoff to the top of a crowded race in a Republican-leaning district". Georgia's 6th District has elected Republicans to the House since the late 1970s. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, for whom the seat is being filled, won by more than 20 points in 2016.
Ossoff said on CNN that Trump was misinformed about his positions and that he was focused on issues affecting the region, not Washington.
The district, which spans parts of Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties, has been in Republican hands since 1979. The superPAC aligned with House GOP leadership spent about $3 million on a heavy advertising blitz attacking Ossoff.
Handel's showing was due to more than name recognition from her long tenure in state politics. Trump won the Southern state by about 5 percentage points in November's election. That primary is June 13 - a week before the Georgia runoff.
Ossoff harnessed opposition to President Trump to lead an 18-candidate field in the typically conservative district.
It will be a steeper challenge for Ossoff, as Handel will nearly certainly benefit from her party coalescing around a single candidate in a conservative leaning district.
Early returns looked promising for Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, who had 51 percent of the vote with 97 of 210 precincts reporting. Party officials say they can beat Ossoff once the primary is over and they unite behind a single candidate. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, as well as Democrats' congressional strong arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
"We have an unbelievable chance here, an extraordinary moment for Georgia", Ossoff told campaign volunteers as they headed out for a final round of door-knocking on Monday afternoon. He's decried "wasteful spending" and promised to be a "bipartisan problem solver".
And while it was clear many of his supporters saw his candidacy as a way to send a shockwave to the Trump White House, Ossoff himself rarely mentioned the president directly. "And it's a rare chance for us to stand up and make a statement about what we stand for, and to prove that we believe in a country that is decent and kind, compassionate, courageous and tough, that we reject fear and division, that we stand together in all of our diversity, working for a better community here, and a better country". He even mocked Ossoff's choice of residence - outside the district. On Tuesday, he tweeted that Republicans "must get out today and VOTE in Georgia 6" and warned that "Dem Ossoff will raise your taxes" and is "very bad on crime". They said it couldn't be done.
Ossoff, a former Capitol Hill staffer who lives just outside the district, now has one last shot to use these factors to his advantage. Trump then took to Twitter after midnight to celebrate the contest's results.