NORTH FULTON, Ga. — With the bitter June 20 Sixth District congressional runoff behind her now, freshman Congresswoman Karen Handel is jumping right into the fire as Congress bubbles with issues including healthcare, Russia, North Korea and White House tweets.
She’s not in North Fulton anymore. Sworn in Monday, she is the first woman Republican member of the Georgia congressional delegation to serve in Washington.
Handel said she is “extraordinarily humbled and honored at the tremendous privilege and high responsibility” she was given when elected.
“Growing up in a turbulent home, I could’ve given up and let the circumstances I was facing dictate and control the course of my life, but I did not,” Handel said. “That spirit, courage and tenacity I will take to Washington. It’s been a driving force in my life, and will be as I represent you.”
Taking 135,000 votes, or 51.9 percent of the nearly 260,000 votes cast, Handel won her seat over Democrat Jon Ossoff (48.1 percent of the votes).
In total, 58 percent of registered voters in the district participated in the election.
Handel, addressing the crowd of more than 350 supporters at her Election Day party at the Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina in Brookhaven, said she is proud to be the first Republican woman elected to this seat by Georgians.
Georgia Democrats have sent six females to Congress since 1940.
“It has been a great God and truly great nation that afforded a young girl the opportunity to grow up and be whatever she wanted,” Handel said. “I was told, ‘Karen, if you can win, it says to every 8-year-old girl, she can do it too.’”
There is a lot of work to do and problems to solve, she said, including healthcare, comprehensive tax reform, the economy and creating more and better paying jobs.
She thanked multiple groups of people, including local elected officials, her volunteers and her husband, Steve, whom she calls her number one supporter.
She also thanked President Donald Trump who tweeted many times during election night about Handel.
“Things are looking great for Karen H,” he wrote. “Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you.”
Handel said she knew the race would be tight, contentious and require all hands on deck.
“Most big things are not accomplished by one person alone,” Handel said. “I had a tremendous amount of support in this campaign from each and every one of you, to a great campaign team to individuals on the ground who put in countless hours knocking on doors and making phone calls. But through it all everyone persevered.”
The 6th District has produced many prominent Republicans, Handel said, including Tom Price, Johnny Isakson and Newt Gingrich.
“These statesmen have left big shoes to fill,” Handel said. “I will do my level best to live up to the standards that have been set.”
Before her speech, Handel said she spoke with Ossoff who was “more than gracious” and thanked her for a “spirited campaign.” She addressed his supporters and said her commitments extend to them as well.
“We may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, that of the 6th District,” Handel said. “I will work hard to secure your confidence in the weeks and months ahead. I give every Georgian this promise to work every day relentlessly to make our state and country a better place.”
Ossoff released a statement on the results and said, “for months, this community in Georgia has been a beacon of hope for people across the country.” He said it’s “extraordinary” what the community achieved, by mounting an “unprecedented grassroots effort powered by more than 12,000 volunteers.”
“At a time when American politics is dominated by fear and deception, this community stood up for politics based on shared values, shared interests, civility and respect,” Ossoff wrote. “We showed the world that in places no one even thought it was possible to fight, we can fight and we will fight.”