Democratic candidates for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District participated in an Atlanta Press Club debate on Georgia Public Broadcasting earlier this month.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta’s top congressional contests include wide-open field for Dems

If there’s one thing that’s clear about Georgia’s two most competitive congressional races, it’s how jumbled the Democratic field is going into this week’s primaries. 

The Democratic matchups in the 6th and 7th districts in the north Atlanta suburbs are seen as such wide-open affairs that even seasoned party hands quietly admit they have no idea how the contests will turn out on May 22. 

There are so many Democratic challengers on the ballot – four in the 6th and six in the 7th – that a nine-week runoff is virtually guaranteed in both contests. And there is little concrete data or polling available to suggest which candidates will make it into any head-to-head contest on July 24. 

Meanwhile, the Republican races in those districts are downright sleepy. 

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, does not face any primary challengers in the Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb-based 6th District after emerging victorious from last year’s record-breaking special election. And in the 7th, which encompasses portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, faces only one GOP opponent who has raised little money. 

Read more: Georgia’s U.S. House races see surge in contenders this election cycle

The debates were held at Channel 2's studios.

Unlike last year’s circus-like special election, outside forces have largely stayed out of metro Atlanta’s congressional contests. The parties and major super PACs are mostly waiting to see the results of the primaries before sinking substantial money into the region. Other major donors have focused their attention on the gubernatorial race and contests outside of Georgia that are seen as more competitive. 

The biggest exception has been the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, which has doled out more than $830,000 in favor of its surrogate Lucy McBath, one of the four Democrats challenging Handel in the 6th District. 

The trade union-linked PAC Middle Class Values PAC has spent roughly one-tenth of that advocating for Bobby Kaple, one of McBath’s Democratic opponents, in recent weeks. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List chipped in roughly $20,000 to aid Handel earlier this spring. 

Top fundraisers

Despite the herd of first-time candidates – all but one of the Democrats running in the two districts are political newbies – several have emerged as the strongest fundraisers

In the 7th, Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux has raised the most. Lawyer Ethan Pham and businessman David Kim, meanwhile, have bolstered their own efforts with sizable loans. 

In the 6th, businessman Kevin Abel and Kaple have been able to raise the most money, and both have loaned their campaigns upwards of $150,000. McBath’s last-minute entry into the contest in March put her at a fundraising disadvantage, but she’s been buoyed by Evertown’s spending and her national reputation. 

Woodall and Handel have both avoided the spotlight in recent months, allowing their Democratic challengers to duke it out among themselves. 

Handel in particular has fundraised heavily. She kicked off May with a sizable war chest of nearly $800,000. 

“I am always going to be a very diligent and tenacious campaigner,” she said earlier this month. “I never take anything for granted.” 

Staff writer Jeremy Redmon contributed to this article. 

6th District 

Democrats

  • Kevin Abel of Sandy Springs, businessman
  • Steven Knight Griffin of Roswell, management consultant
  • Bobby Kaple of Alpharetta, former news anchor
  •  Lucy McBath of Marietta, gun control advocate

Republican

  • Karen Handel of Roswell, incumbent

7th District 

 Democrats

  •  Kathleen Allen of Norcross, risk management consultant
  •  Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee, professor
  •  Melissa Davis of Cumming, financial management
  •  David Kim of Duluth, businessman
  •  Ethan Pham of Duluth, lawyer
  •  Steve Reilly of Lawrenceville, lawyer

 Republicans

  • Shane Hazel of Cumming, Marine Corps veteran
  • Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville, incumbent  

About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...

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