Georgia 7th: Barnes backs a new House candidate, flipping endorsement

State Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, spoke Wednesday against the Senate’s new sexual harassment rules. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
State Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, spoke Wednesday against the Senate’s new sexual harassment rules. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Former Gov. Roy Barnes flipped his endorsement Tuesday in Georgia’s 7th District to Democrat Zahra Karinshak, making him the second high-profile politician to back the state senator’s bid for the Gwinnett-based seat.

Barnes was an early supporter of Carolyn Bourdeaux, a public policy professor who was narrowly defeated in a 2018 bid for the seat. But he said he decided to back Karinshak because of her “conviction, fearlessness and fighting spirit” when she served as his deputy executive counsel.

“Zahra is a no-nonsense get-things-done kind of leader who can move our state and country forward,” he said in a statement.

The flip comes days after former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland had a similar change of heart, rescinding his endorsement in favor of Karinshak, who entered the race in August.

Bourdeaux quickly announced she would wage another campaign after losing in 2018 to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who is retiring after that close call, and she boasts a long list of high-profile supporters in her 2020 bid.

Karinshak hopes the defections of Barnes and Cleland help her win over more of the party establishment with a campaign that emphasizes her military background and legal experience.

They are among five top Democrats racing to represent a district that has transformed from a safely-Republican seat to a competitive free-for-all. State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, party organizer Nabilah Islam and ex-Fulton Commission chair John Eaves are also in the race.

The Republican race to replace Woodall is just as jumbled. The GOP candidates include state Sen. Renee Unterman, former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, military veteran Ben Bullock, real estate investor Mark Gonsalves and emergency room doctor Richard McCormick.

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