Washington: Republican Karen Handel won a fierce, closely-watched special congressional election on Tuesday in Georgia, US media projected, salvaging a seat in traditional conservative territory where Democrats had hoped to strike a blow against Donald Trump's presidency.
With about 83 percent of the vote counted, Handel was ahead 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, prompting CNN and NBC News to call the race in Handel's favour.
The result no doubt comes as relief for Republicans who had grown concerned about whether their party — buffeted by the scandals plaguing the Republican president — could hold the seat in Georgia's sixth district. It became the most expensive congressional race in US history.
"Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!" tweeted Trump, who had publicly backed Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state.
Trump's party also claimed victory in another congressional race Tuesday, in neighbouring South Carolina. Both contests were held to replace lawmakers who vacated their seats in order to join the Trump cabinet.
"Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated," US House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement about the Georgia race.
"We dodged a bullet tonight," Georgia-based Republican strategist Chip Lake told AFP.
In conceding the race, Ossoff, a filmmaker and former political staffer, signalled Democrats could learn from these races and prepare for the larger battle for control of the US Congress in 2018.
"This is not the outcome many of us were hoping for," he told supporters. "But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us."
But Democrats are now zero for 4 in converting special elections this year, following earlier losses in Republican-held districts in Kansas and Montana.
Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 10:48 AM