Crowdfunding site urges Georgians to run for Congress

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

WASHINGTON -- New billboards popping up in greater Atlanta and Northwest Georgia this week will have a different sort of message than the typical plugs for local eateries and colleges: run for office.

The San Francisco-based political startup Crowdpac is launching a new national campaign in Georgia urging citizens to consider challenging their local congressmen using their crowdfunding website.

The nonpartisan company is homing in on the three-dozen or so U.S. House districts with members of Congress who did not face major party opposition in November -- representatives who were "automatically reelected," per the group's assessment. It is kicking off its initiative in Georgia's 14th Congressional District, the home base of fifth-term Republican Congressman Tom Graves.

The company has commissioned billboards in Graves' 14th District -- which stretches from the Tennessee state line south to the I-20 corridor -- and metro Atlanta, along with a spate of web ads noting that Graves has not recently faced opponents on the general election ballot.

Crowdpac's spokesman said the company is not looking to pick on Graves personally, but highlight the broader point that incumbents are frequently getting reelected without any opposition. He said they are looking to attract first-time candidates of all political stripes in districts across the country.

Five of the state's 14 House members, including Graves, did not face a general election opponent last year, which by Crowdpac's count makes it one of the most politically noncompetitive states in the country.

“Most citizens aren’t aware they won’t have a choice at the ballot box until it’s too late; we hope this new campaign will raise awareness and encourage citizens to take action,” said Irene Shin, the site's political director.

Graves has not faced a general election opponent since 2012. But he has faced primary opponents in all but one of his last seven races, in many ways a bigger battle since the 14th District is rated among the most heavily Republican in the country. Graves has not made a formal announcement about 2018 but has given every indication he plans to run again next year.

This isn't Crowdpac's first foray into Georgia. The left-leaning Atlanta super PAC My Ride to Vote used the site to crowdfund more than $75,000 to give free rides to the polls to "traditionally underrepresented" voters during the 6th Congressional District special election earlier this year.

The site lets users mulling a run for office post their policy pitches and solicit pledges from potential donors. The candidates see the money only if they formally jump into the race.