Georgia 7th: Air Force veteran drops out of one House race and enters another

News and analysis from the AJC's political team
7th District congressional candidate Ben Bullock.

7th District congressional candidate Ben Bullock.

Republican Ben Bullock dropped out of the crowded race for Georgia’s suburban 7th District race, one of the most competitive in the nation, and instead joined a wide-open contest for a solidly conservative seat in northwest Georgia.

The U.S. Air Force veteran told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that he made his decision after U.S. Rep. Tom Graves announced he wouldn’t stand for another term. Though he lives in Gwinnett County, Bullock’s family has deep roots in Paulding County – part of Graves’ sprawling district.

“For over 200 years, my family has lived, served in both the military and elected office, farmed and operated small businesses in the 14th District,” he said. “To continue that legacy is a dream come true, and moving in that direction is where I truly believe that God is leading this campaign team.”

He said he plans to base his campaign out of his family’s store in Dallas, the seat of Paulding County, which would make him the fifth generation of his family to use the building for business.

Bullock was one of a dozen candidates in the Gwinnett-based 7th District contest competing to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who announced he’s retiring shortly after he won the tightest U.S. House race in the nation.

The founder of a real estate investment firm, Bullock announced his congressional bid last year with the hope that his military and business background will elevate him above other rivals in the GOP primary. But he struggled to gain traction against better-known contenders with deeper pockets.

Financial records show he’s raised roughly $250,000 through September, though he’s yet to disclose his latest fundraising haul.

His decision leaves the GOP race to several other Republican rivals including state Sen. Renee Unterman, former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, businessman Mark Gonsalves and emergency room doctor Richard McCormick.

Bullock joins a growing field running to replace Graves, the senior-most Republican in Georgia's House delegation, whose unexpected decision to retire triggered a battle to represent a district he won with roughly three-quarters of the vote in 2018.

Other candidates in the race include John Cowan, a Rome neurosurgeon; Clayton Fuller, a former prosecutor; and Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ex-Sixth District candidate who also switched races once Graves announced his retirement.

At least three other Republicans are also considering a bid: Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin, state Rep. Kevin Cooke of Carrollton and Matt Laughridge, an auto dealer and former state Senate candidate.