State Sen. Brandon Beach speaks during a meeting at the state Capitol. He’s heading a Senate panel that is studying the potential of expanding gambling in Georgia, with horse racing and casinos as possible options. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Brandon Beach abruptly drops out of 6th District race in Georgia

Republican Brandon Beach abruptly abandoned his bid for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Thursday after struggling to gain traction in the crowded GOP race to represent the suburban Atlanta seat.

The state senator said in an email to supporters that he decided to remain in the General Assembly after Gov. Brian Kemp convinced him over the weekend that he can “help more Georgians in the positions I currently hold” than in Washington.

His decision makes the path even clearer for a potential 2020 rematch between former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, the Democrat who flipped the seat last year. 

Still, Handel won’t have the field to herself. Also running as Republicans are former Merchant Marine Nicole Rodden and Marjorie Taylor Greene, an executive with a construction firm.

Beach, an Alpharetta business executive, will remain as the chairman of the influential Senate Transportation Committee and seek another term in 2020. Earlier, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wouldn’t quit his “day job” in the Senate to run for Congress.

Beach was the first major GOP candidate to announce a 2020 campaign against McBath, whose victory last year in the affluent district stretching from from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County was the biggest Georgia Democratic upset of the 2018 midterms. 

She was helped by surging turnout in the state’s marquee gubernatorial race, simmering suburban dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump and outside assistance from gun control groups, including Michael Bloomberg’s organization, who embraced McBath’s message.

McBath has quickly become a leading national figure in the firearms debate. On the stump and in her television ads, McBath has described how the death of her teenage son sparked her own activism as a spokeswoman for the firearms control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Beach and other Republicans have criticized McBath’s support for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her vote to allow a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump to go forward. 

First elected to the Senate in 2013, Beach took conservative stances in some of the state’s most heated debates, including votes to back the campus gun measure, restrict abortion and support a version of the “religious liberty” measure. 

But he also carved out a reputation supporting two issues that could have potentially helped him in a general election but hurt him in a primary: He’s championed the legalization of casino gambling and sponsored several initiatives to expand mass transit

On the campaign trail, he leveled a string of attacks against Handel, mocking her narrow victory over Jon Ossoff in the 2017 special election and questioning the degree of her support for Trump.

And he raised money at a solid clip, amassing about $500,000 since he filed paperwork to enter the race in January. Handel, by contrast, has collected more than $700,000 for her comeback bid. 

Beach didn’t immediately endorse Handel or any other candidate for the seat, but he said he broadly supports a candidate “who can go beyond the rhetoric and advance commonsense policies and practical solutions” for the district. 

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