Another Republican drops out of Georgia 6th, setting up Handel rematch with McBath

Sixth District Democratic challenger Lucy McBath, left, and Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.

Sixth District Democratic challenger Lucy McBath, left, and Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.

Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene abandoned her bid in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District race, giving former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel a clearer path in her comeback attempt against Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath.

Greene said Friday that she will instead compete for the heavily conservative 14th Congressional seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Graves even though she doesn't live in the district.

“We can't let the 14th fall into the hands of a tax-hiking career politician or Never Trump activist who will serve the politicians and D.C. lobbyists,” said Greene.

The 14th District is one of the most conservative territories in the South, and Graves won it by roughly 77% of the vote before abruptly announcing last week that he wouldn't stand for another term.

Though Greene is the first known candidate to enter the race, she won’t have the field to herself.

Potential candidates include Paulding County School board member Jason Anavitarte, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, former state Rep. Charlice Byrd of Cherokee County, and state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

Several possible contenders have ruled themselves out. State House Majority Whip Trey Kelley told House GOP members he would not compete for the seat, and state Sen. Chuck Payne said this week that he would stand for re-election rather than run for Congress.

Seen as a fringe candidate by local Republican leaders, Greene struggled to gain traction against Handel and other better-known contenders, each of whom have also dropped out of the race.

Handel, meanwhile, has consolidated GOP support and nabbed endorsements from Gov. Brian Kemp, and U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue. Greene's switcheroo offers Handel the chance to focus her campaign squarely on McBath rather than trying to fend off a GOP challenge.

Greene had telegraphed the move for days. The political newcomer told grassroots activists at a GOP breakfast on Saturday that she received calls from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who asked her to switch to the 14th District race. None have publicly endorsed her campaign.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cast Greene’s decision as a rescue mission for Handel by Washington Republicans to “muscle out true conservatives” in favor of their favorite “special interest swamp-dweller.”

“Consistently rejected by voters, Georgia families are exhausted by Handel’s reckless history of voting to jail doctors and strip away health care from Georgia women and that’s why she’ll lose yet again in 2020,” said Avery Jaffe, the group’s spokesman.

Greene’s switch drew criticism from some local conservatives who mocked the north Fulton County resident for running in a district where she doesn’t reside. The 6th District spans from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County, while the 14th covers most of northwest Georgia.

Shelley Wynter, a conservative commentator who lives in the district, called it a “bad move and an insult to her supporters.”

He added that it’s also an “insult to those elected officials in the 14th who have worked hard for those residents to improve the lives of residents.”