House GOP health care plan divides Sixth District candidates

The growing conservative revolt over the House GOP's health care proposal has carved a dividing line for candidates for Georgia's 6th District seat struggling over whether to embrace a plan Donald Trump supports or oppose it amid a backlash from conservatives, Democrats and industry groups.

The debate over the measure, pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders, is an early test for the leading candidates in the April 18 election to represent the suburban Atlanta district, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb. The Trump White House's promise of a "full-court press" for the plan complicates their decisions.

Former Johns Creek Councilman Bob Gray, who vowed to be Trump's "willing partner" and most loyal ally, distanced himself from the plan. He said it was "not quite the 'repeal and replace' plan I was expecting," and his spokesman said he wanted a "more conservative option."

Ex-state Sen. Judson Hill said he doesn’t think the measure is “quite where it needs to be yet,” but said he was committed to repeal the “unaffordable Obamacare disaster.” The Marietta Republican added: “Any candidate who vows to oppose everything is, in reality, campaigning to keep Obamacare.”

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel struck a similar note. “I’m pleased the bill repeals the individual mandate and eliminates the medical device tax,” said the Roswell Republican, “but there is certainly a lot more work to be done.”

David Abroms, a GOP newcomer, said lawmakers were "moving too fast on an issue that is too important and too complex to simply ram through." Invoking Barack Obama's scramble to pass the Affordable Care Act, he said "that was the wrong approach in 2010 and it's the wrong approach now."

Dunwoody jeweler Bruce LeVell, who was Trump's diversity guru, was unequivocal in his support for the plan. "I stand by President Trump 100 percent," he said. "The Republican healthcare bill will open up competition and bring down costs via market efficiencies. Vitally, it also will allow us to cut drug prices."

Former state Sen. Dan Moody said he’s sure the measure “will get better before it’s voted on.” The Johns Creek Republican added: “If, however, Congress wounds rather than kills Obamacare, I will help finish the job when I get to Washington.”

Democrat Jon Ossoff staunchly opposes the plan, saying it will target Americans aged 50-64 "with huge cost increases and will leave millions of families without health insurance, sending them once again to the emergency room for care." The investigative filmmaker also said it could weaken the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, "leaving the country unprepared for Zika and Ebola outbreaks."

There are 11 Republicans, five Democrats and two independents in the race to replace former Rep. Tom Price, who is now in charge of implementing the healthcare plan.

The race is the most competitive contest since Trump's inauguration and an early test of his popularity, with Republican candidates ranging from staunch supporters to those who vow to be an independent check on his presidency. Democrats, meanwhile, hope to flip a seat that's been in Republican hands since Jimmy Carter's presidency.

More about the Sixth District:

Outside forces try to shape Georgia congressional race

The fight over Tom Price’s seat could be a referendum on Trump

Newcomer with war chest gives Democrats hope in Georgia's 6th

Dan Moody’s ad debut: ‘I’m going to need a bigger shovel’

Marco Rubio picks a side in Georgia’s Sixth District race

All about the Georgia 6th congressional district election

Republicans target Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s Sixth with ‘Han Solo’ ad