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A Democratic wave sends a ripple through Georgia politics

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A Democratic wave sends a ripple through Georgia politics

Georgia’s Gold Dome. AJC file.

Georgia Democrats strung together improbable victories on Tuesday night, emboldening partisans who hope their strong performance is a prelude to next year’s statewide vote – and the beginning of a forceful rebuke of President Donald Trump.

Democratic newcomers flipped two state House seats in northeast Georgia considered so conservative that the party hasn’t even contested them since the lines were redrawn in 2012. And Democrats captuted an Atlanta-based state Senate district long held by a Republican, breaking the GOP super-majority in the chamber.

The Georgia results were but a ripple of the national wave that engulfed Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey. And with a wide-open race for governor next year, Democrats Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans trumpeted the results as validation of their strategies.

Supporters of Abrams said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s victory in Virginia said it confirms their approach to the election, which hinges on energizing the party’s base.

And Evans backers said Northam’s success in districts carried by Trump, coupled by the Democratic wins in Georgia GOP strongholds, shows there’s an opening for Democrats who aim for disaffected Republican voters.

And Democrats of all stripes saw the votes as a warning shot to Republicans who cling too closely to Trump.

“The results are a rejection of Trump – it’s clear as day,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta. “Republicans who continue to embrace him can start the countdown on their political careers.”

Republicans didn’t bother trying to spin the defeats in House districts covering parts of Athens and Watkinsville late Tuesday. Trump had carried both districts in November, and Republicans mounted solid contenders for the seats. One GOP operative made clear that the outcome was stunning.

“No one saw this coming,” he said. “It’s a big loss.”

State Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican running for governor on a pro-Trump platform, quickly posited that Republican Ed Gillespie was defeated in part because GOP primary voters overlooked other candidates who more ardently backed the president.

“For Republicans to continue winning elections, we have to elect pro-Trump conservative Republicans who are willing to take on the establishment of both parties,” said Williams.

The results of Tuesday’s vote also seem likely to spark other Democrats to embark on campaigns once written off as longshots – and prod higher-profile potential candidates to take another look at their options.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, who lost this year’s epic battle for the 6th Congressional District, still hasn’t said whether he will challenge Republican Rep. Karen Handel next year. But he made clear on Tuesday that he was watching.

“This is a great night for our country,” he tweeted, adding: “Historic and decisive wins in Georgia tonight.”

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