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New Georgia congresswoman to take seat

South Carolina Republic also elected last week also to be sworn in

Republican Karen Handel
Republican Karen Handel

WASHINGTON – The Republican winner of the most expensive House race ever is preparing to take her seat representing Atlanta's outskirts, along with a South Carolina Republican who claimed a narrower-than-expected victory to retain a strongly Republican seat.

Monday evening's swearing-in ceremony would return Republicans to full strength in the chamber at 241 seats after the party won four special elections to replace GOP lawmakers who left the House to join President Donald Trump's Cabinet.

Karen Handel won the closely watched Georgia election by a 52-48 margin last week after a lengthy campaign. Handel's opponent, first-time candidate Jon Ossoff, raised $23 million for the race and narrowly led in most polls.

Republican Ralph Norman, a staunch conservative, had a 3 percentage point victory last week in a far quieter South Carolina race in a district that went for President Donald Trump last year by 18 percentage points.

Republicans retained all four House seats vacated by lawmakers this year to join the Trump administration, but in every case Democrats outperformed the recent trends in the districts, which were all solidly Republican. The Georgia seat went only narrowly for Trump last year, even though it solidly backed Tom Price, who resigned to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Money poured into the Georgia race, which Republicans won after running ads linking Ossoff to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. After Handel's victory, some Democrats called for the party to drop Pelosi as its leader.

Handel had narrowly lost a 2010 race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Norman, a former state lawmaker, ran a campaign aligning himself with Trump and is expected to join the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-right lawmakers who are sometimes a thorn in the side of GOP leaders. His predecessor, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney helped found the group.

The only remaining House vacancy is a Los Angeles seat formerly held by Democrat Xavier Becerra, who resigned in January to become California's attorney general. Democratic state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez easily retained the seat for the party in an election earlier this month, and will assume his seat after completing some remaining state business.