The biggest outside player in metro Atlanta’s most competitive congressional races lives more than 850 miles northeast of I-285.
Groups affiliated with Michael Bloomberg have spent millions on Georgia’s 6th and 7th congressional district races in recent weeks, part of the former New York City mayor’s broader effort to help Democrats recapture control of Congress. The billionaire’s investments make up the lion’s share of outside money that’s been spent to sway voters in the suburban congressional districts.
The Bloomberg-backed gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, got involved in the 6th District race early to help its former surrogate Lucy McBath secure the Democratic nomination and then square off against incumbent U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.
Everytown has spent more than $3.8 million to date in pro-McBath mailers, television and internet ads, according to federal filings, making it by far the biggest outside spender in the district, which includes portions of Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties. More than two-thirds of the money came during the month of October.
Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC also entered the 7th District race for the first time late last week. The super PAC spent nearly $1 million on television ads in support of Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in the suburban Gwinnett and Forsyth-based district.
The ad buy came the same day that Bloomberg, an independent who is rumored to be mulling a 2020 presidential run as a Democrat, announced he was adding an extra $10 million to his $100 million initiative to help Democrats retake control of the U.S. House. Independence USA also earmarked $130,000 for internet ads backing McBath over the weekend.
The spending could help bolster the two Democratic challengers as they work furiously to build up name identification in the final week before Election Day. Riding a wave of anti-Trump energy on the left, Bourdeaux and McBath have both greatly outraised their GOP opponents in recent months but were trailing by several percentage points in recent independent polls conducted in their districts.
While little has been spent by outside groups in the 7th, Everytown and recently the National Republican Congressional Committee have hopped on the airwaves in the 6th District.
Federal law bars the campaigns from coordinating with such outside groups, but Handel’s camp has slammed what it’s described as attempts by Everytown to “buy” the 6th District seat for its employee. (McBath is on leave from the organization until after the election.) Handel’s team has also used Bloomberg’s involvement in the race to bolster its own fundraising in recent weeks.
McBath has brushed off Handel’s attacks about her former employer – she previously said she did not consider Everytown’s spending to be dark money, even though its political action arm does not need to disclose its donors – and alleged that Handel has been bought and paid for by the NRA. (The gun rights group endorsed Handel in 2017 and spent roughly $61,000 on last year’s special election.)
Everytown spokeswoman Molly Corbett said the group is “proud to support McBath's candidacy because we know she will stand up for Georgia families in Washington and put their health and safety first."
Beyond the NRCC, the only pro-Republican outside group to get involved in the north Atlanta congressional contests has been the Susan B. Anthony List. The political arm of the group, which aims to elect anti-abortion candidates, has spent roughly $30,000 on pro-Handel mailers.
Both districts are rated as “lean Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Many of the groups that spent heavily in last year’s record-breaking 6th District special election and past Georgia races have focused on the higher-profile gubernatorial contest and other congressional battles outside the state.
Insiders note: This post has been ripped and expanded form today’s daily Jolt. You can read that post here.
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