Congressional District 7 candidates face off in primary debate

Seventh Congressional District candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux, who narrowly lost the general election in 2018, was challenged by her five Democratic opponents about whether she can pull out a win this year.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Renee Unterman, businesswoman Lynne Homrich, physician Richard McCormick and four others at various times tried to position themselves as the most conservative and best prepared to support President Trump in Washington.

There were technically difficulties early in the GOP debate, a combination of the number of participants and getting participants acclimated to a virtual platform. But over the hour they discussed the impact of the coronavirus on the national debt, immigration reform and healthcare.

Unterman said she will not shy away from her support of the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill, although her opponents questioned whether that could hurt her chances with swing voters in the general election.

“I will stand up for the value of life and especially children and taking care of vulnerable children, like in sex trafficking,” she said.

Asked to answer whether he voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, McCormick pivoted to his military service and said questions along these lines were a distraction from issues that matter. He also said he was the best candidate to keep the district from flipping to blue in November.

This debate was a first in a series that will stretch out over two days and is hosted by The Atlanta Press Club in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting. All candidates who qualified to have their name on the ballot in June's primary were invited to participate, and all of them accepted.

The other 7th District GOP candidates are educator Lisa Noel Babbage, real estate investor Mark Gonsalves, hotel auditor Zachary Kennemore and businessman Eugene Yu.

After the hour-long Republican debate, it was the Democrats' turn.

In addition to Bourdeaux, the candidates are state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, activist Nabilah Islam and educator Rashid Malik.

Bourdeaux said that she came within 500 votes two years despite challenging an incumbent seeking a fifth term and various voting irregularities.

“We are coming back to finish the job,” she said.

Both Lopez Romero and Karinshak touted their experience as elected officials in the community and said they have spent years getting to know the people of the district and their issues.

Lopez Romero spoke about her plan for improving and modernizing constituent services so that District 7 residents have new ways to express concerns and ask for help.

Karinshak mentioned that she had served as one of Unterman’s main foes on the “heartbeat” bill.

“I helped lead the fight against the extreme abortion ban; it was one of the toughest fights at the Capitol,” she said. “And I strongly believe that reproductive health choices are between a woman, her family, her doctor and her god.”

Visit AJC.com for more coverage of The Atlanta Press Club’s primary debates on May 3 and 4.

Read more: Who’s running in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District

Also: The latest fundraising totals ahead of the June primary

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