U.S. Rep. Karen Handel is the first Republican woman to serve in Congress from Georgia. She is also currently the woman in the state’s congressional delegation. She notes both those facts at the bottom of her press releases. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

House GOP looks to bolster Handel with last-minute ad buy

The National Republican Congressional Committee waded into the Roswell Republican’s reelection battle for the first time on Monday, reserving nearly $1.4 million in broadcast television ads designed to bolster the freshman lawmaker. 

The last-minute ad buy is a substantial one for the NRCC, which spent more than $6.8 million ahead of last year’s special election but had until now stayed out of Georgia’s congressional contests. It could be a sign that it’s worried about Handel holding onto her 6th District seat. 

NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said she could not speculate about what drove the group to invest in the race since its unit in charge of outside expenditures is legally barred from coordinating with the committee’s main branch. 

“We just want to make absolutely sure Karen Handel wins this race. And she’s going to,” Anderson said. 

Very little polling has been made public in the suburban Atlanta district, which includes portions of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Democrat Lucy McBath’s campaign released an internal poll last month that showed a tight race but few voters in the know about who McBath was. 

McBath has since released her first broadcast television ad and ramped up her fundraising efforts to help build name ID. Between July and October, the first-time candidate pulled in nearly $1 million, nearly double Handel’s haul from the same period. 

McBath’s former employer, Everytown for Gun Safety, has also gotten involved in the race on her behalf. (McBath is on leave until after the election.)The Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control group has spent more than $3.7 million on pro-McBath ads in the district, including more than $2 million this month alone. 

Mason Rainey, Handel’s campaign manager, said the Republican is “appreciative of the NRCC engaging in this race to counteract the $2.5 million of out of state special interest money put in by Michael Bloomberg and those that want to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker's Chair." 

Handel has hit McBath for denouncing so-called dark money from super PACs while also benefiting from Everytown’s expenditures. She’s also recently zeroed in on tax breaks McBath and her husband received on their homes, while expanding on efforts to sell her own work in Washington over the last 15 months. 

McBath has ignored most of Handel’s attacks and instead framed the Republican as a Trump lackey on issues from immigration to trade. She’s focused much of her recent messaging on health care, abortion and the GOP’s tax plan, as well as her own tragic family story.  

It’s unclear whether House Democrats will up their investment in the 6th District to counter the NRCC’s spending. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee short-listed the race back in August and upped its organizational support of McBath but has yet to spend big money on ads this year. 

The House GOP’s spot will run on Atlanta-area broadcast and cable stations tomorrow through the election. 

The ad buy is also notable for what it doesn’t cover: the nearby 7th Congressional District race. Many D.C. handicappers have put U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall’s Gwinnett and Forsyth-based reelection battle in the same category as the Handel-McBath contest, but Woodall’s team has emanated confidence about its prospects in recent weeks. 

Read more: 

Dem challengers show off massive fundraising tallies in Ga’s top House races

Gun control group’s spending prompts debate over dark money in politics

Do you really live here? Handel recycles Ossoff attack to ding Dem opponent

Handel opponent draws abortion contrast

Handel ad spotlights ‘right-to-try’ vote

House Dems ramp up investment in 6th District race

Why the House GOP’s campaign chief isn’t sweating Atlanta’s hottest suburban races

Handel, Woodall try to focus campaigns on themselves instead of Trump

Why Rob Woodall is feeling bullish about his House race

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...