“The district should have already flipped – it’s trended Democratic for years,” said Lopez Romero. “We didn’t do well in 2018 to reach out to those potential first-time voters. We need Democrats that have been disenchanted or haven’t been reached, and if we do we can flip the 7th.”
She becomes the first elected official to enter the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who is retiring after narrowly winning a fifth term last year. But she's far from the only prominent name in the field.
Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to Woodall by less than 500 votes, is running again. Other Democrats include attorney Marqus Cole, former Fulton Commission chair John Eaves and party organizer Nabilah Islam.
The Republican side is fast taking shape as well. Lynne Homrich, a former Home Depot executive who can partly self-finance her campaign, entered the race last week. Former NFL player Joe Profit is also running, and state Sen. Renee Unterman is likely to soon join.
A big field
The growing crowd is somewhat out of the norm. The last time Georgia’s 7th District seat was open in 2010, no fewer than eight Republicans jostled to represent the seat, which hasn’t elected a Democrat since the mid-1990s. Back then, Doug Heckman was the only Democrat to run.
Now, Democrats see the open seat as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. It was the tightest U.S. House race in the nation last year, and Democrats hope to squeeze even more votes from the district in 2020 with a presidential race on the ballot.
Lopez Romero, an attorney who was born in Mexico, defeated a well-connected party activist in 2016 to become the first Latina elected to the state Legislature. She emerged as a party go-to on immigration and voting rights issues, and a staunch opponent of GOP-backed restrictions on abortions and expansion of gun rights.
Her entrance to the race, long expected by party officials and local politicos, heightens the possibility of a contentious primary fight between well-funded adversaries.
Bourdeaux reported raising $370,000 in the seven weeks since announcing her comeback bid – a haul that exceeds just about every other congressional challenger in the nation. She also retains the endorsement of many of the leading Georgia Democrats who backed her campaign last year.
Lopez Romero has her own well of support that includes House Minority Leader Bob Trammell and state Rep. Pedro Marin, one of the first Latinos elected to the House. She also will rely on the network of activists who helped her underdog bid for the House three years ago.
“The thing that gives me the most comfort, despite the fact that I’m announcing later than most, is that I’ve been on the ground doing the advocacy work for a decade in Gwinnett County and I have an extensive network in Forsyth,” she said. “I won’t have to introduce myself to voters.”