Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel watched a pair of her fellow Republicans drop out of the race for her former seat in Congress, and she picked up some big endorsements, too. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Capitol Recap: Georgia’s 6th Congressional District starts to shake out

Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel had a good week in her bid to return to Congress.

Actually, it started the week before when state Sen. Brandon Beach, the best-known of her competitors in the GOP primary for the 6th Congressional District, bowed out.

That brought the field of candidates down from four to three.

Days later, it dropped to two.

Nicole Rodden halted her bid. The former Merchant Marine said her campaign was running out of cash after raising only $9,000 during the last quarter.

Now, Handel faces only businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for the GOP nomination and a chance to avenge her 2018 loss to Lucy McBath, a Marietta Democrat.

Greene, who has made gun rights her No. 1 cause, has drawn attention from civil rights groups for her provocative campaign stunts.

While Handel watched her competition narrow, she also saw an increase in support.

First, she nabbed an endorsement from Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a big get because he once represented the 6th District in the U.S. House.

A day later, Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue also threw his support behind Handel’s campaign. Shortly after that, Handel reported that Gov. Brian Kemp is also backing her candidacy.

A rematch between Handel and McBath, in an odd way, would bring a little stability to the 6th District, which stretches from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County. The stretch of surburbia was once a Republican stronghold that had elected Newt Gingrich, Isakson and Tom Price to represent it in the U.S. House.

Price gave up the seat in 2017 to become President Donald Trump’s first secretary of health and human services, setting up a special election that Handel narrowly won in a runoff. A year later, she lost to McBath in another tight race.

Republicans have made recapturing their former turf a top priority in 2020.

Stashing cash: Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux reports that her campaign in the 7th Congressional District has now topped the $1 million mark in fundraising.

Bourdeaux, who lost by less than 500 votes in 2018 when she ran against U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, raised the cash without taking any corporate PAC money.

Donations came from more than 3,700 individuals, her campaign said.

Bourdeaux is one of a half-dozen Democrats seeking to represent the 7th District, which covers parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. Others in the contest are former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, activist Nabilah Islam, state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero and entrepreneur Rashid Malik.

Republicans also have a large field of candidates to replace the retiring Woodall. Eight hopefuls — Duluth teacher Lisa Babbage, real estate investor Mark Gonsalves, former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, educator Lerah Lee, emergency room physician Rich McCormick, former Atlanta Falcons running back Joe Profit, Gwinnett GOP Secretary Jacqueline Tseng and state Sen. Renee Untermanrecently attended a forum.

Lee appeared to speak for all of them when she said Republicans must maintain their hold on the 7th.

“We cannot lose this seat. It is a moral imperative,” Lee said. “We are living in the twilight zone, and we are going to a place where, if we don’t keep this seat red, we will not go back.”

Toughening up: Democrat Teresa Tomlinson waited to see what Stacey Abrams would do before committing herself to a race for U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s seat.

But committed she is.

She’s done the work, lining up many of the bigger names in Georgia Democratic circles to endorse her bid, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland and Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor.

Now, she’s toughening her image, especially against Perdue’s scattershot attempts to label Democrats as socialists. Most recently, he did it when Democratic presidential candidates came to Atlanta to debate, writing in The Washington Examiner:

“Wednesday night, the country’s most liberal Democrats will descend on my home state of Georgia and flood the airwaves with their radical, socialist ideas.

“Do not be fooled by catchy names like the ‘Green New Deal,’ ‘Medicare For All,’ and the ‘Freedom Dividend.’ These are disguises for socialist policies that would fundamentally change the country as we know it.”

Tomlinson told a group of reporters that her campaign will “take David Perdue head on with this stuff about socialism.”

Bolstering her defense while also highlighting her credentials, she said, “There’s no way the people of Columbus, Georgia, twice elected a socialist mayor.”

Branding his opponents as socialists appears to be the only club in Perdue’s bag, Tomlinson said.

“He can’t run on his record. He can run on his close affiliation with (President Donald) Trump, but we’ve seen how that polls,” she said. “They’ve decided to run on how all Democrats are socialists. We’re going to take him on. Undercutting what he means by socialism, that it’s a scare tactic.”

Those polls include the recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey that showed Trump’s approval rating among Georgia registered voters at 44%, with 54% disapproving of the president’s job performance.

Another question in the poll caught Tomlinson’s attention: A plurality of voters, 41%, said they were waiting to see whom Democrats nominate before they make their choice in the race for Perdue’s seat.

Tomlinson said it takes two things for a Democrat to win the Senate race: “You need a candidate that’s progressive enough in Atlanta and pragmatic enough to carry those who live outside metro Atlanta.”

So far, the glaring weakness in Tomlinson’s campaign has been fundraising — Democratic rival Jon Ossoff has outpaced her even though she entered the race months ahead of him.

Tomlinson said she was not alarmed, and she doesn’t think Ossoff will possess the same type of appeal to Democrats that he did when he narrowly lost the 2017 special election in the 6th Congressional District after raising $30 million.

The Democratic race — which also includes Sarah Riggs Amico, last year’s Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry — won’t be a “celebrity election,” Tomlinson said.

“This is going to be a methodical, plod-along election,” she said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a rock star like there has been in the past, because there’s not a special election when all the nation’s eyes are on one race. … There’s just too much action and interest going on.”

Question of judgment: The liberal group People for the American Way is targeting GOP senators in swing states over their votes to confirm the nomination of Steven Menashi to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. And Perdue is one of them.

All but one GOP senator backed Menashi’s appointment to the appellate court, who during the confirmation process refused to answer questions about his work at the White House and the U.S. Department of Education and his previous writings.

Initially, senators from both parties were critical of Menashi, but most Republicans eventually backed him in a 51-41 vote.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said Menashi’s refusal to respond to questioning “showed a breathtaking contempt for senators on both sides of the aisle.”

Also targeted by People for the American Way are senators in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.

The Democratic Party of Georgia also criticized Perdue’s support of Menashi.

“Menashi may be the latest reckless nominee that Perdue has voted to approve, but he is not the first — and likely won’t be the last,” it said in a statement. “Perdue hasn’t voted against a single judicial nominee under (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell’s and Trump’s leadership, including five who were rated ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Association.”

Dispute disputed: The numerous fights over voting issues during Georgia’s 2018 race for governor — registration purges, long lines at polling stations and rejected absentee ballots, to name a few — were expected to spur discussion at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, and they did.

But Politifact repeated its finding that there’s no way to prove “any election law or policy in Georgia” caused Abrams’ loss of less than 1.4 percentage points to Kemp.

University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said the election drew record turnout, and black voters came out in slightly larger numbers than in 2016.

“The claim is a good talking point,” Bullock said, “but the evidence is missing.”

Daniel P. Tokaji, who teaches election law at Ohio State University, told Politifact that Kemp, who oversaw the election as Georgia’s secretary of state, made some controversial decisions that probably hurt Democrats overall, but it’s difficult to determine exactly how many people were prevented from voting.

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