The race for the 6th Congressional District seat was going down to the wire into the late hours of Election Night with incumbent Karen Handel holding a slight lead over Democrat challenger Lucy McBath, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State. The race was too close to call shortly after midnight.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel first greeted supporters at her watch party in Dunwoody about an hour after the polls closed. (Phil Mosier)

Handel won the seat last year in a special election, narrowly defeating Jon Ossoff. She is vying for reelection to her first full term.

In 2017, Democrats invested more than $20 million hoping to flip the conservative stronghold blue with first-time candidate Ossoff. This year Democrats put forward McBath, who became a national gun rights advocate after she lost her son Jordan Davis in an infamous 2012 murder by a gunman outraged by loud music from a car stereo.

Lucy McBath.

McBath’s campaign focused on progressive issues like health care, gun control, women’s rights, education as well as opposing President Trump’s promise of a border wall. Handel stayed true to GOP issues like tax cuts, the economy, funding national security and increased funding to veterans. She also focused on finding ways to alleviate the opioid epidemic and voiced strong support for border control.

Gail Vinson of Dunwoody was one of dozens of Handel supporters gathered early in the evening at the Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter hotel to watch election results. She said she was a “staunch Republican” who first voted for Handel last year. This year’s race seemed much different than 2017, she said.

“I thought this race was much easier than Ossoff,” Vinson said well before the race became too tight to call. “It didn’t seem as intense. I don’t think the Democrats poured all the money in here like they did two years ago.”

Outside money did play a role in the race, on both sides. Everytown for Gun Safety’s, the gun control group McBath once worked for and backed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, spent nearly $4 million on the race. The National Republican Campaign Committee spent $1.4 million in TV ads to bolster Handel’s chances.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel supporters watch election results on Tuesday night. (Dyana Bagby)

Handel made a brief appearance at the watch party about an hour after the polls closed. She hugged friends and said while it was early in the night, she was feeling optimistic.

In an interview, she said she was excited to learn she won the Ashford-Dunwood precinct in Brookhaven and called it a “good harbinger.” She lost that precinct to Ossoff.

“It’s all about results for the hardworking citizens of the 6th District,” Handel said. Her message and the GOP’s message, she said, had substance over the “resistance and their radical agenda.”

McBath held her watch party at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North in Sandy Springs.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.