SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — The top congressional Republican is providing campaign help to Karen Handel in her surprisingly competitive House race against Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff in a Georgia district that has been in GOP hands for nearly four decades.
Speaker Paul Ryan is appearing in the traditionally conservative suburbs of metro Atlanta on Monday for Handel. She faces a June 20 matchup against Ossoff, who has become a national face for opposition to President Donald Trump.
Polls suggest Georgia's 6th Congressional District race is a tossup, despite having been held by Republicans since 1979.
Along with a May 25 special election in Montana, the Georgia race is viewed as a barometer for how Trump and Republicans' monopoly control of Washington are playing with voters back home.
Democrats need to flip 24 seats to reclaim a House majority and oust Ryan as speaker.
Handel, an established face in Georgia politics as a former secretary of state, tries to downplay the national significance of her contest.
"This about who is the best person to go to Washington and represent the interests and priorities of residents of the 6th District," she said while campaigning at a local town festival this past weekend.
Yet Handel also has mostly echoed national Republican leaders.
She said she would have voted with Ryan for the Republicans' health care bill, and she said Trump's move to fire James Comey as FBI director was "probably overdue." She echoes Ryan in saying there's no need for a special prosecutor to probe potential ties among Trump's presidential campaign and Russian interests.
Handel said she trusts the Senate Intelligence Committee to handle any inquiries. "We should let the process play out," she told AP.
The speaker's rally with Handel comes two weeks after Trump held a fundraiser for Handel while he was in Georgia to address the National Rifle Association.
The candidates, parties and independent groups are on pace to make this the most expensive House race ever, with a final tab that could exceed $30 million — the overwhelming majority of it from outside the district.
A political action committee tied to Ryan and House Republican leaders already has committed more than $5 million, much of it on television ads assailing Ossoff as too liberal for the district.
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