The first television spot commissioned by the campaign of U.S. Rep. Karen Handel this election cycle isn't necessarily what you'd expect from the battle-hardened Roswell Republican.
It doesn't talk about Nancy Pelosi or the GOP tax cuts. There's no mention of Democratic opponent Lucy McBath or even President Donald Trump.
Handel’s return to the Atlanta airwaves focuses exclusively on her efforts to combat human trafficking in Washington.
“I left a troubled home when I was 17, but for the grace of God I was able to stay safe,” Handel says in the 30-second spot, which begins airing on Atlanta-area TV stations and digital on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case for so many young people.”
The ad's tone and subject matter are a departure for Handel, who emerged the winner from last summer's rough-and-tumble special election in the 6th Congressional District, which includes portions of Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties. She and Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff flooded the airwaves with ads attacking each other on everything from the other's work history – or alleged lack of it – to their closeness to a certain congresswoman from California.
Handel's new spot is far softer, both in lighting and the delicate nature of the subject matter. Georgia's first Republican congresswoman positions herself as above the political fray, highlighting her support of a bipartisan bill that passed the House, 388-25, and helped pave the way for the shutdown of the trafficking website Backpage.com.
“I am determined to end human trafficking,” she states.
Handel is looking to defend her seat against an energized Democratic Party that's set its sights on well-educated suburban districts like Georgia-06, where Trump is relatively unpopular compared to other GOP presidents. Her team says this week's spot is the first in a series that will emphasize her "record of results for the citizens of Georgia's sixth district."
In social media and in early campaign stops, Handel has emphasized the benefits of her party's tax law and opioid legislation, and she's carefully carved out some daylight between herself and the president on tariffs. But she also hasn't abandoned tried-and-true strategies from last year's special election. Handel evoked the names of Pelosi and Ossoff at her campaign kickoff event last weekend, as well as the out-of-state support her Democratic opponent has garnered in recent months.
This year's contest against McBath, a gun control advocate and former flight attendant, has not attracted the same money and attention as last year's record-breaking special election. But Washington Democrats still think they have a shot in the district, and they upped their support of McBath earlier this month.
It's unusual for congressional incumbents to release television ads so far ahead of Election Day, particularly in Atlanta's pricey TV market, but Handel built a hefty financial cushion for her campaign earlier this summer.
Here’s a transcript of Handel’s ad:
"Metro Atlanta is a real hub for human trafficking.
In Congress, the very first bill that I co-sponsored was a bill to help combat human trafficking.
I left a troubled home when I was 17, but for the grace of God I was able to stay safe. Unfortunately, that's not the case for so many young people.
I am determined to end human trafficking."