It didn’t take long after five-term U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall announced he wouldn’t seek re-election for a sprawling field of roughly a dozen would-be candidates to come into focus.
The last time Georgia’s 7th District seat was open in 2010, no fewer than eight Republicans jostled to represent the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based seat, which hasn’t elected a Democrat since the mid-1990s.
A similar number of GOP contenders, including several well-known state legislators, could emerge in the months ahead as the party looks to hold onto the seat in 2020.
Another fierce battle could come on the Democratic side of the ticket. The party for years struggled to recruit formidable candidates in the north Atlanta suburbs, but changing demographics have helped put the district within reach.
Georgia State University Professor Carolyn Bourdeaux emerged from a six-person Democratic primary last year as a fundraising juggernaut and nearly toppled Woodall, coming up 433 votes short following a recount.
Bourdeaux has already announced she’ll run again in 2020, but her path to the Democratic nomination won’t be a clear one as other well-connected elected officials eye the seat.
The contest is already attracting outside national attention to a degree the 7th District has never experienced before.
Here’s a look at some of the candidates the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be watching in the months ahead:
Former 7th District candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux
Details: The public policy professor and former state budget official was a political neophyte when she announced her bid to challenge Woodall in 2017. After emerging from a testy Democratic primary runoff, Bourdeaux proved to be a formidable fundraiser as she campaigned on a health care-focused platform and came within a hair of defeating Woodall.
Status: She’s in.
State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero
Details:Lopez Romero made history in 2016 when she became the first Latina elected to the Georgia General Assembly. A native of Mexico who came to the U.S. at age 5, she’s an attorney who helps immigrants become U.S. citizens. Lopez Romero represents a Norcross-area district and is seen as a rising star within the state party.
Status: She joined the contest in May 2019.
John Eaves, former Fulton County Commission chairman
Details: First elected to the Fulton board in 2006, Eaves earned praise during his 11 years as the county’s top official for his collaborative style and his work professionalizing the county’s management. He was a late entry in the packed field for Atlanta mayor in 2017 and finished with just 1,200 votes. Eaves recently moved from Fulton to Gwinnett.
Status: He filed paperwork to run in March and began fundraising but has yet to formally launch his campaign.
Nabilah Islam, political activist
Details: The Lawrenceville native has been involved in political activism around the nation since getting her start on Andre Dickens’ run for Atlanta City Council and Jason Carter’s 2014 bid for governor. She raised cash for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, and later worked for the Democratic National Committee.
Status: She announced her intent to run for the seat in February.
Lawyer Marqus Cole
Details: A political newbie, Cole co-founded his own law office, which focuses on civil, criminal and family law. Woodall’s retirement, the Snellville resident said, is a sign the community needs a “fresh voice” to represent it.
Status: Cole was the first person to formally announce his candidacy in January 2019.
State Rep. Sam Park
Details: Park, who represents a Lawrenceville House district, is also a history-making public official. In 2016, he became the first openly gay man to be elected to the Georgia Legislature. He’s also one of the only Asian-Americans serving in the body.
Status: He plans to wait until after the legislative session to make a decision.
Lynne Homrich, business executive
Details: A former Home Depot executive and founder of a nonprofit organization, Homrich entered the race in April with a pledge to bring the perspective of an “outsider, a businesswoman and a mom” to Congress. She launched her campaign with an ad that featured a string of clips of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who each have fast become the favorite targets of Republicans.
Status: She’s running.
State Sen. Renee Unterman
Details: One of only two Republican women in the state Senate, Unterman is a former nurse who was the longtime leader of the Senate Health Committee – until her ouster earlier this year. Since then, Unterman has been even more vocal in her frustration with GOP leadership. She would become one of the biggest names, if not the outright favorite, should she get in.
Status: She’s seriously interested.
Marine Corps veteran Harrison Floyd
Details: The 34-year-old served three deployments overseas as a machine gunner in the Marines. A graduate of George Washington University, he’s a former vice president of the Black Conservative Federation and worked with several veterans-related groups. In his introductory ad, he vowed to “protect the 7th District from a runaway government and its overreach."
Status: Floyd entered the race in early May.
Former Falcons player Joe Profit
Details: The former Atlanta Falcons running back and restaurant franchise owner quietly announced his candidacy with a website in early 2019, a year after he was trounced by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson in the neighboring 4th District.
Status: He’s in.
Mike Royal, ex-Gwinnett GOP chairman
Details: Royal is a longtime Gwinnett politico who was chair of the county GOP and a veteran member of the state school board. He has deep roots in Gwinnett – he graduated from Brookwood High – and now owns an insurance firm.
Status: He’s contemplating a run.
Ex-state Rep. Scott Hilton
Details: Hilton started his career as a newspaper analyst in Philadelphia before moving to Atlanta to become a banking executive – and launch a political career. He was considered a rising star in the Georgia Legislature before he was defeated in the blue wave that swept the suburbs. He recently got a job with the Kemp administration.
Status: He’s weighing a bid.
Shane Hazel, Marine Corps veteran
Details: The Marine Corps veteran unsuccessfully challenged Woodall in last year’s GOP primary, casting himself as the true conservative who would limit himself to four terms if elected. He now hosts a political podcast.
Status: He’s considering it.
Businessman Rick Desai
Details: Desai is a Gwinnett County businessman and former chair of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. He served on the transition team for Kemp and was appointed to state commissions by both Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal.
Status: He said he’s been approached by community leaders to run but he’s undecided.
Who is not running
State Rep. David Clark. State Rep. Pedro Marin.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.