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 more than 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.
But the region, and particularly Gwinnett, has changed dramatically over the years. The now majority-minority county voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Stacey Abrams for governor two years later.
That same cycle, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux came within 500 votes of defeating Woodall. She’s running again - but won’t have a clear path.
Meanwhile, a sprawling field of GOP contenders has emerged as the party looks to hold onto the seat in 2020.
The race, much like the one in the neighboring 6th, is expected to attract national attention.
Several candidates on both sides of the aisle have admitted they don’t live within district boundaries, although some have pledged to move soon.
Here’s who we’re watching:
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. She announced in February that she’d seek the seat again.
State Sen. Zahra Karinshak
Details: The LaFayette native attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as an intelligence officer during the Gulf War. She later graduated from Emory Law School and was legal counsel to Gov. Roy Barnes amid the fight to change the Georgia state flag. She flipped a Gwinnett-based Senate seat in 2018 and emerged as a leading opponent of anti-abortion legislation. She entered the race in August.
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. 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 and announced his candidacy earlier this year.
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. 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. Cole was the first person to formally announce his candidacy in January 2019.
Rashid Malik, who unsuccessfully challenged Woodall in 2016, recently filed paperwork to begin fundraising. He admitted to paying bribes in 2017 to boost enrollment and tuition income at his since-shuttered medical trade school in Chamblee. Malik has said he was blackmailed to pay the bribe.
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. She’s partially self-funding her campaign.
State Sen. Renee Unterman
Details: One of only two GOP 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, she’s been even more vocal in her frustration with GOP leadership. Still, that didn’t stop her from shepherding the anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” through the Georgia Senate earlier this year. She is considered one of the biggest names in the GOP race, which she entered in early June, and is partially self-funding.
Dr. Richard McCormick
Details: An emergency medicine physician at Gwinnett Medical Center, McCormick is a graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy who served in combat zones in Afghanistan, Africa and the Persian Gulf. Largely unknown in political circles, McCormick is partially self-funding his campaign and emphasizing his military service and his conservative stance on taxes and social issues.
Businessman Ben Bullock
Details: The Air Force veteran and political novice joined the race earlier this summer. Bullock worked in finance and founded a real estate investment firm, experience he said will "help tackle our national debt crisis, improve infrastructure, empower local businesses, and bring more jobs to Georgia’s Seventh District." He’s also warned about the threat of socialism in the U.S.
Mark Gonsalves, real estate investor
Details: A Johns Creek-based businessman and investor, Gonsalves says he’ll focus his campaign on fiscal responsibility and whittling down the national debt. “I don’t really see anybody standing up to take on these hard issues,” Gonsalves told The Gwinnett Daily Post. He said border security, health care and tackling the opioid crisis are other major priorites.
Other announced candidates:
Dr. Lerah Lee, an educator; Gwinnett GOP Secretary Jacqueline Tseng, former Falcons player Joe Profit, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson in the neighboring 4th District last year; Duluth teacher Lisa Noel Babbage.
Mulling a run:
State Rep. Todd Jones, a second-term legislator from Forsyth County.
Who is not running
State Rep. David Clark; State Rep. Pedro Marin; Marine Corps veteran Harrison Floyd.
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