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Republican Karen Handel Hopes To Win Traditionally GOP House Seat


We're going to bring in another voice now, NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, who is following the special election in Georgia and just heard that conversation with Jon Ossoff. Hey, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So we just heard Ossoff laying out his case for why he thinks he can take this seat. What's Karen Handel's message, the Republican here?

GONYEA: It really is all about her experience. She criticizes Ossoff for being just 30 years old, for not having a record to run on. She, of course, was secretary of state in Georgia. But let's listen to a bit of Karen Handel making her pitch this past weekend at a campaign stop. Here she is, referencing her time as chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.


KAREN HANDEL: It's the difference between my opponent, who likes to talk about what he's going to do, and me, someone who has actually done it.


HANDEL: He talks about cutting spending and balancing budgets. When you gave me the great privilege of being the Fulton County commission chairman, we did it.


HANDEL: He talks about reaching across the aisle and being able to persuade those who might disagree to come along with your proposals. I did it.

GONYEA: And Rachel, she attacks Ossoff for all the money that's poured in from out of state to help him. He's outraised her by a huge margin. She talks about his ties to Nancy Pelosi and calls him a San Francisco Democrat.

MARTIN: Which are not good words for Republicans. So she's trying to tie Ossoff to national Democrats. Is he trying to tie her to President Trump? Because he's not so popular in that district.

GONYEA: Absolutely. He only carried this district by one point. He didn't crack 50 percent back in November. She has really tried to straddle the line on Trump. She asserts her independence. But she's fundraised with him. She names him in her latest fundraising emails. He tweets support for her. She followed up with an email with the heading, did you see what Donald Trump just tweeted? But she's also gotten visits from Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House and other national GOP figures. So she's tying herself more to the party than to Trump.

MARTIN: Yeah. We should say President Trump has been tweeting about this race, even this morning. We talked about the money, Don, lots of money in this House race - most expensive House race in history. People are going to be glad when this is over.

GONYEA: Absolutely. And some of the ads have gotten very ugly. You know, one outside group just ran an ad using the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball game to argue against voting for Ossoff. Both candidates denounce that. But that's how ugly it's gotten.

MARTIN: NPR's Don Gonyea. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.