Screenshot of candidates for the Democratic primary in Congressional District 13, except for incumbent U.S. Rep. David Scott, facing off in a debate hosted by The Atlanta Press Club on May 4, 2020.

Rep. David Scott skips debate with Democratic challengers in 13th District

There was one glaring absence from Monday’s debate featuring Democratic candidates for Georgia’s 13th Congressional District: incumbent U.S. Rep. David Scott.

The other three candidates, including a former mayor, a former county party chairman and a former state representative said Scott’s decision not to participate was just one more example of why the believe he should be replaced.

Michael Owens, who once served as chairman of the Democratic Party in Cobb County, said Scott had refused to host public town halls, never moved to the district and was too willing to support Republican initiatives in Washington.

“It’s unfortunate that he is not here today to answer these questions, but I think it’s important as an elected official to be accessible and accountable to people in your district,” Owens said.

In addition to their criticism of the incumbent, the candidates each spent time stating why they believe they are the best person to succeed him in Congress.

Owens said he had local, state and national political experience. Jannquell Peters cited her one term as mayor of East Point from 2013 to 2017.

Keisha Sean Waites pointed to her tenure in the General Assembly from 2012 to 2017. Waites resigned from the House to run for Fulton County Commission chairman, a post she lost in the run-off.

“I think it’s important that our next member or voice has the experience necessary to hit the ground running,” Waites said. “I have extensive relationships on both sides of the aisle, which I think will be critical.”

Owens is the only one among the three who lives within the District 13 boundary lines. Peters said the city of East Point is split between multiple districts, and she does not live in the portion that lies in the 13th. Waites also said she does not live in the district.

Scott has served in Congress since 2003, and he won his seat in 2018 with 76% of the vote against a Republican challenger. He was unopposed in 2014 and 2016.

The incumbent also faces a fundraising advantage. He had $281,877 in the bank at the end of the first quarter, compared to a -$3,685 balance logged by Peters, according to the Federal Elections Commission website.

The site shows no reports from Owens since the end of September when he had a $14,529 balance, and it lists no documents for Waites.

District 13 is considered a solidly Democratic seat, meaning whoever wins that June 9 primary is likely to also win in the November general election.

However, the race also has a Republican primary between mechanical engineer Caesar Gonzales and consultant Becky Hites.

They faced off against one another on Monday, too. Gonzales accused Hites of not having roots in the district, and Hites said his business failures made him unfit for the job. Both said they would be the better candidate to go up against a Democrat in the fall.

Visit AJC.com for more coverage of The Atlanta Press Club’s primary debates on May 3 and 4.

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About the Author

Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell is the AJC’s Washington correspondent.
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