U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, at a town hall meeting in Marietta in April. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: The NRA ensures that guns will remain a hot topic in Sixth District contest

Turmoil within the National Rifle Association has all but guaranteed that guns and gun violence will be a focus of the 2020 race for the Sixth District congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta.

Upon the ouster of Oliver North as president of the NRA last week, longtime NRA booster Carolyn Meadows of east Cobb County was named to replace him.

In this AJC piece, Meadows immediately placed McBath’s defeat at the top of her priority list. Over the weekend, the Marietta Daily Journal also published an interview with Meadows. Two quotes stood out. First, this:

“I believe in arming teachers. Absolutely. In my church, I’m armed. My pastor is a shooter, a hunter, he knows I am, people in the congregation do,” she says. “This is not NRA position, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d love to have a sign out front: ‘We have gun-toting teachers and security.’ (Mass shooters) go where the people are weak.”

But Meadows also implied that McBath’s 2018 defeat of Republican incumbent Karen Handel was more about race than guns:

“There will be more than one person in the race, but we'll get that seat back,” Meadows said. “But it is wrong to say, like McBath said, that the reason she won was because of her anti-gun stance. That didn't have anything to do with it — it had to do with being a minority female. And the Democrats really turned out, and that's the problem we have with conservatives — we don't turn out as well.”

McBath has already incorporated Meadows and the NRA into her fundraising effort. From a Friday email solicitation: “They just elected a new President -- Carolyn Meadows -- and she LIVES in Georgia's 6th District. Coincidence?

Actually, Meadows, 80, is a long-time NRA insider, so her appointment as NRA president in a kind of break-glass kind of emergency makes sense. The fact that she lives in the Sixth was probably just gravy. In any case, the situation could be a boon to McBath, keeping the focus on guns rather than race or, as the National Republican Campaign Committee would have it, McBath’s residency.

On Saturday, McBath spoke at the 2019 Human Rights Campaign dinner in Atlanta. Video can be had here. Two Republicans, former incumbent Karen Handel and state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, have announced Sixth District campaigns. McBath mentioned only Handel, noting “her extreme and dangerous views” on guns. Said McBath:

“They are coming after me. I already have two opponents, and national Republicans are actually harassing my family. They sent an unsolicited package to my mother-in-law, and one of them even got so mad that he said on a radio show he wanted to ‘knock me back into the kitchen. To which I laugh, because cooking is something I hardly ever do – or know how to do.”

***

On a related topic: These paragraphs stood out in a Washington Post article on Joe Biden’s strong start out of the gate as a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, in large part because of his support among African-Americans:

“I think there is a lot of excitement about him simply because he has served under President Obama,” said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), who represents a swing district in the suburbs of Atlanta and has not made an endorsement. “People kind of believe, you know, he’s probably one of the more experienced presidential candidates.”

That sentiment so far is echoed by many voters. While they acknowledge he is not a perfect candidate, voters say he seems authentic and represents what they crave: a return to normalcy.

***

Even the dustiest corners of academia have been sucked into the current political vortex. Over the weekend, the New York Times examined white nationalist appropriation of medieval European symbols, and repercussions among scholars of the period. Two paragraphs:

In the middle are the broad mass of medievalists, who may sympathize with one camp or the other, but mostly want to stay out of the fray.

“People don’t become medievalists because they want to be political,” said Richard Utz, a literary scholar at Georgia Tech and president of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism. “Most are monkish creatures who just want to live in their cells and write their manuscripts.”

***

It’s probably not a good idea to offer Stacey Abrams a job in your administration before she even decides whether to run for the White House herself.

But that’s what former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke did over the weekend. He said he’d put the Georgia Democrat in charge of fighting voter suppression if he’s elected president. 

O’Rourke told supporters in Texas on Friday that he spoke with her by phone about how both Texas and Georgia “have drawn people out of their ability to participate in this democracy." 

He didn’t offer specifics about the role, but CBS News reports that he told the audience that Abrams would play a part in a “new voting rights act” that he would spearhead. 

Abrams’ aides didn’t seem overly impressed by the offer. A spokesman told CBS News that she’s “taken the time to speak with numerous Democrats who are already running about the need to combat voter suppression and about the importance of Georgia's 16 electoral votes."

***

Some new and recycled developments:

-- Gov. Brian Kemp is set to sign the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill into law on Tuesday, a move that will set in motion a drawn-out legal battle that the Republican and other supporters hope lands in the U.S. Supreme Court

-- This morning, former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens launched a long-expected primary challenge against U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta with a pledge to be a more visible voice on income inequality, climate change and cybersecurity.

A Marine Corps veteran, Owens unsuccessfully challenged Scott for the 13th District seat in 2014. He’s likely to focus on Scott’s efforts at working with Republicans.

“Those relationships aren’t bringing home the bacon,” said Owens, who lives in Mableton. “What those Republican relationships are doing is making it harder for us to flip seats here in Georgia. It sows discord among those of us who are fighting the most.”

-- Another Democratic presidential hopeful trekked to Plains to visit with former President Jimmy Carter. Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten attended Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church on Sunday. The South Bend, Ind., mayor is the third 2020 presidential candidate to visit the 94-year-old’s South Georgia stomping grounds. U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar have made pilgrimages of their own this year.

--Our AJC colleague Tyler Estep reports that Saturday's more-crowded-than-usual Gwinnett GOP meeting drew a number of candidates, including those vying for the Seventh District congressional seat.

Lynne Homrich, the former Home Depot executive who recently moved into the district, didn’t address questions about her residency – but did run down the list of standard conservative talking points.

Democrats want to take away everybody's guns, life starts at conception, and Nancy Pelosi is bad, she said. "That's the reason I decided to run, because I couldn't sit there and scream at the TV anymore," Homrich said.

Fellow Seventh District candidate Joe Profit, a former NFL football player who ran for the Fourth District in 2018, also spoke at Saturday's meeting and addressed questions about his own residency. Sort of.

"I've been asked before, 'Joe, why are you running in the 7th? Do you live here?' Yes. My business has me in places where I have homes in several places," Profit said. "So I just want to let you know that I've been in this community since 1982."

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who is expected to announce her candidacy in the coming weeks, addressed the crowd early in the meeting but didn't exactly give a stump speech. She did, however, sign off by saying she would see folks "on the campaign trail."

***

In Washington, U.S. Sen. David Perdue is urging Democratic colleagues from states hit by recent natural disasters to help get to a deal on a long-stalled relief measure needed by south Georgia farmers.

In a new letter to California and Hawaii’s senators, Perdue and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., are asking for their “help to get this done.”

“We should take action now to help those who need immediate assistance. Together, we should demonstrate to the American people that in times of natural disasters, Washington can still work,” the duo wrote to Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California, and Hawaii’s Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. The four Democrats have stood with Democratic leaders during the protracted fight as they’ve held out for more funding for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory ravaged by two hurricanes in 2017.

Deal or not in the Senate, House Democrats are planning to advance a $17 billion plan of their own later this week.

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