High-profile gun control advocate enters Georgia’s 6th District race

Lucy McBath is challenging U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.
Lucy McBath, the mother of slain teen Jordan Davis, is running for a U.S. House seat. David Tulis / AJC Special

Credit: David Tulis

Credit: David Tulis

Lucy McBath, the mother of slain teen Jordan Davis, is running for a U.S. House seat. David Tulis / AJC Special

A prominent gun control activist entered the race for Georgia's 6th District on Tuesday, deciding against a run for a lower-profile seat because she's outraged over gridlock in Congress after the latest mass shooting in Florida.

Lucy McBath raised more than $100,000 to challenge state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Marietta Republican in a competitive district. But she said watching congressional leaders meet with President Donald Trump after the murders in Parkland, Fla. led her to shift her focus to Congress.

“This is the time we need to capitalize on this,” said McBath. “Whether I win or lose, it still helps to push the needle on this. We have the eyes and the ears of the nation on Georgia right now, and if we can mobilize here, there will be a domino effect.”

McBath joins two other Democrats challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who won last year’s nationally-watched special election to represent the suburban Atlanta district. Businessman Kevin Abel and former newscaster Bobby Kaple, both first-time candidates, filed paperwork to run for the seat.

Handel became one of the highest-profile freshman members of Congress after she defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the costliest U.S. House contest ever. That race was viewed nationally as a barometer for Democratic success in conservative-leaning areas, and Ossoff lost by about 4 percentage points.

Ossoff said last month he would not make a second bid for district, which spans from north DeKalb to east Cobb, and other elected officials have also ducked a run. But McBath's plunge into the race adds another well-known candidate to the contest.

McBath became a nationally-known advocate for tougher gun restrictions after her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed while sitting in a car with friends in November 2012. The gunman, Michael Dunn, was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for opening fire following a dispute with the teens over the volume of their music.

Soon after his death, she became an early member of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots group that sprung up after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Her profile quickly grew: President Barack Obama invited her to the White House for an address on gun violence, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention and she traveled the nation to support Hillary Clinton's campaign. She testified in Congress on the dangers of "stand your ground" laws.

She also will be a major voice in another debate. She worked as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines for 30 years, and has slammed the state GOP’s decision to punish the Atlanta-based airline after it severed business ties with the National Rifle Association.

She was seen as a formidable challenger to Teasley, a conservative real estate agent with an “A” rating from the NRA, when she launched her bid a few months ago. His district is one of a string of suburban Atlanta territories where President Donald Trump struggled in 2016.

But she said the state GOP’s decision to punish Delta for cutting ties with the NRA helped cement her decision to aim for higher office, in part because she feels she could have greater influence in Washington.

“We need someone who can challenge Republicans,” McBath said. “We are mobilizing a whole generation of people. We have to out-think the GOP. That’s why they continue to win. The tides have changed and we have to move on this.”