Where U.S. House District 6 candidates stand on the issues
It's a rematch for Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and former Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.
In 2018, McBath defeated Handel by 1 percentage point. That came a year after, Handel narrowly beat Jon Ossoff for the 6th District office.
The suburban Atlanta seat includes parts of east Cobb and northern Fulton and DeKalb counties. Demographics have shifted favorably toward Democrats in the district, and election outcome predictors give McBath a slight edge.
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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent questions to the candidates about seven key issues. The questions were generated in part via input from AJC readers. Here are the candidates and their responses:
A business consultant, Handel has served as Fulton County Commission chairwoman, secretary of state and a congresswoman.
U.S. representative and retired flight attendant, McBath first got involved in politics after her teenage son was fatally shot in a racially-charged dispute in 2012.
1. Democrats in Congress recently pushed for a $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill while Republicans backed a scaled-down proposal of $500 billion to $700 billion. Which approach would you have preferred and why?
Handel: The Democrats continue to block much-needed relief for Americans, refusing to even negotiate. They would rather hurt President Trump than help the American people. We need a workable solution that helps hurting families, supports small businesses, and boosts our economy, including: A “re-employment” bonus to get people back to work and businesses reopened; an additional direct payment, rental / mortgage assistance, and child care assistance for lower-income Americans; clarifying that PPP loans are NOT taxable and cracking down on the PPP fraud; liability protections; funding for education options so that all parents can choose the best education for their children as schools remain closed; resources for schools for safety upgrades; forbearance on student loans until the end of the year; and added flexibility for states to spend leftover relief dollars from previous relief bills. Importantly, I support negotiating and achieving a compromise – something Democrats refuse to do.
McBath: While so many in our community are hurting from COVID-19, my number one priority has been to get families and small businesses the assistance they need during the crisis. As soon as COVID-19 began to impact our country, I hosted numerous virtual town halls so that my constituents – from small businessowners and concerned parents to caregivers – could ask questions directly to health experts, business leaders and local officials.
In Washington, I voted for legislation to fund vaccine development, provide free COVID testing, expand protections for those who lost their job, help our teachers, and protect our seniors. I voted for the HEROES Act to lower taxes to support our families, while also providing support to our police, firemen, and other first responders risking their lives every day to keep us safe.
2. The severity of recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters has been tied to climate change. What, if anything, should Congress do to reverse the impact of human activity on the climate?
Handel: Our country has made significant progress in finding consensus, leveraging technology, and advancing balanced environmental policies that have produced water and air quality that is the best it’s been in decades. In Congress, I supported the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Bill that provided enhanced performance-based tax credits to power plants and industrial facilities that capture and store CO2. Looking ahead, we should make this tax credit permanent and lower the captured-carbon qualifying threshold to provide certainty and further incentivize participation. We must also accelerate R&D and deployment of carbon capture technology for natural gas plants; develop a global “innovation sharing” platform to assist other nations in reducing their GHG emissions; and modernize the nation’s water infrastructure. Additionally, we must implement sound forest management policies and strengthen hurricane and fire “resilience” in communities most at risk.
McBath: I believe we must protect our environment and take science seriously. In Congress, I voted for legislation to protect our national parks and ensure the United States is working with other nations to keep our environment healthy and safe for our families. We must increase our investments in renewable energy while taking proactive steps to protect our environment, preserve clean water and clean air, and create new jobs. I also support all efforts to keep the many green spaces, lakes, and rivers in our district free of pollution. I believe we must take measures to protect all of our communities impacted by climate change.
3. What legislation would you back to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and those with chronic diseases?
Handel: The high cost of prescription drugs is crushing, especially for our seniors and those with chronic conditions. We need to find ways to lower costs while not hampering medical and drug innovation. Rep. Walden (R-Ore.) introduced HR 19 – which represents a good first step in reforming the drug pricing system to lower costs. HR19 emphasizes price transparency, requiring manufacturers to disclose and explain price increases that exceed 10% in a year or 25% in three years. The bill restructures Medicare Part D benefits to cap out-of-pocket costs at $3,100, exempts insulin out-of-pocket costs from the overall cap, and allows cost-sharing obligations to be spread out over a year. Additionally, we should explore linking price concessions to policies that incentivize innovation and safely streamline the drug approval process; shortening the timelines for drug monopolies; and removing barriers for generic drugs.
McBath: As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I know personally the toll that high costs of prescription drugs and healthcare can have on families. In the House, I have co-sponsored and passed legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and ensure everyone with pre-existing conditions like myself are able to receive quality and affordable healthcare. There are thousands of children in our district alone with pre-existing conditions and they should not be unfairly penalized by our healthcare system.
4. What is your biggest concern about ensuring elections are fair, secure and accurate, and what would you do to address it?
Handel: As Secretary of State, I implemented photo ID, and in-person voting with your photo ID remains the best way to ensure a fair, secure, accurate election. Two issues have emerged as we head into November: 1) an efficient process for absentee ballots by mail and 2) the Democrats’ efforts to influence the ballot box from the courtroom. County elections officials MUST be held accountable for conducting the required, triple-signature match for absentee ballots, and the state must be aggressive in stopping illegal “ballot harvesting.” Democrats are attempting to “litigate” the election outcome and won a court decision recently to allow absentee ballots to be received up to 3 days AFTER the election – in direct conflict with state law. Democrats seeking election law changes should pursue them in the legislature – not seek to influence the ballot box in the courts.
McBath: I firmly believe in the words of the late Congressman John Lewis – “the right to vote is sacred.” I have co-sponsored legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act so eligible voters do not face obstacles in exercising their right to vote. Additionally, I have co-sponsored legislation to limit the influence of money in our politics, strengthen our election protections, and guarantee our government truly works for the people. I am proud to have refused to take a single dime of corporate PAC money, because the only people I am beholden to are the constituents I live and work among every single day in Georgia’s 6th.
5. Do you believe the federal government has done enough to support unemployed workers and their families? What is your long-term strategy to keep these workers and their families from plunging into financial desperation?
Handel: Our economy was the strongest it’s been in decades – with historic low unemployment across every demographic, 7 million new jobs, wages on the rise, record numbers of new businesses, and a significant decline in poverty. Then, COVID-19 hit. Relief has included the PPP loans, $600 per week in enhanced unemployment, and a $1,200 per person direct payment, eviction protection and other provisions that provided much needed assistance to families and businesses. However, with annual unemployment benefits now reaching nearly $50,000 per year, an unintended consequence has emerged. Businesses ready to reopen are now unable to find workers. We need a “return to work” bonus to bring people back into the workforce. And, for those individuals whose jobs have been permanently eliminated, we need to invest in new training programs to assist in career transitions.
McBath: I believe the federal government must continue working to help our families and small businesses facing hard times. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, I worked across the aisle to expand the support for those who lost their jobs, ensure free testing is available to all who need it, and build on the protections for seniors and others most vulnerable to COVID-19.
I urge the Senate to support the legislation I supported in the House which cuts taxes for the middle class and includes funding to support our state and local governments, police, firefighters, and first responders.
6. COVID-19 looks like it will continue to be a part of our lives well into next year. How will you balance scientific guidance with the economic needs of Georgia?
Handel: An important part of leadership is weighing competing risks, and that’s what policymakers must do in the face of this crisis. COVID-19 obviously has significant health risks. At the same time, a prolonged economic shutdown brings its own set of serious risks. We must keep people as safe and healthy as possible while ensuring that our economy continues to rebound. That means, continuing the aggressive pursuit of a safe, effective vaccine while also continuing with testing. Meanwhile, all of us should take personal responsibility for our health. If you feel sick or have a fever, stay home. Further, Americans count on policymakers and health experts to be transparent, honest and consistent with data and guidelines, and the media must be more responsible and evenhanded in reporting on this issue.
McBath: Months before the pandemic hit the United States, I sponsored legislation to introduce a bill to modernize our public health data systems and increase the CDC’s pandemic response preparedness. I am proud to say that funding was included in the nation’s response to Coronavirus – the CARES Act. I believe moving forward, we must listen to the scientists and health experts. We should follow the CDC guidelines to protect our neighbors while also providing the necessary help to small businesses in a time of crisis. In Washington, I am fighting for continued measures to lessen the financial burden our small businesses and families are facing.
7. Do you think the killing of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks were isolated incidents or a sign of broader problems in the treatment of Black Americans by police? If you believe the incidents reflect a broader problem, what should Congress do to address it?
Handel: Americans were horrified by Floyd’s murder, while Brooks’ death involved different circumstances. Still, these incidents revealed that we have more to do to ensure “justice for all,” despite the progress we’ve made. Justice cannot and will not be achieved through riots, looting, violence, vilifying our police officers, or the “defund the police” movement. We need to strengthen policing by lifting up law enforcement; creating more community connections; adding body cameras; conducting ongoing de-escalation training; and limiting the unions’ ability to shield truly bad officers. This requires more resources – not fewer. And, we must continue our efforts for economic prosperity for everyone by ensuring a good education and the opportunity for a good job. The economic boom prior to COVID-19 lifted more people out of poverty than in decades. That’s why I support low taxes, less regulation, opportunity zones, and school choice.
McBath: Unfortunately, we have seen repeated instances of discrimination and violence over the last few months, and they are not isolated. I believe the next steps are in the legislation I have supported to enhance transparency and data collection across police departments, as well as supporting multiple bills to secure more funding and training for our police departments. In our district, I have focused on bringing people together. I have attended unity events to stand with local police, community leaders, and our neighbors.