Georgia’s 9th Congressional District is considered one of the most conservative districts in the state, and nine Republican candidates aim to keep it that way.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has represented the northeast Georgia district since 2012, but instead of seeking re-election this year, he’s mounting a challenge against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
His decision spurred a wide field of conservative hopefuls to enter the June 9 GOP primary, including state Rep. Matt Gurtler.
Gurtler is known for casting the most dissenting votes in the state House, including 40% of the time during his first term. Those stances haven't always been popular, especially with the state House's Republican leadership. During his successful bid for re-election in 2018, he drew the opposition of state House Speaker David Ralston and former Gov. Nathan Deal.
Gurtler’s big endorsement in the 9th District race came from Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Deal, who represented the 9th District from 1993 to 2010, is backing state Rep. Kevin Tanner, who has the most cash on hand.
State Rep. John Wilkinson was the first candidate to enter the race, announcing his candidacy just minutes after Collins announced his U.S. Senate bid.
Another candidate in the race is former U.S. Rep Paul Broun. He gained internet fame when he released a campaign video in April touting an AR-15 and promising to give the rifle as a prize to encourage people to sign up for his email list.
The district is considered a Republican stronghold, but three Democrats are also running to represent the 9th: Devin Pandy, Brooke Siskin and Dan Wilson.
Many voters in the district would like to see a candidate who is transparent and communicates with voters well.
Charles Guffey, a 71-year-old Gainesville resident, said he prioritizes “willingness to talk, instead of hiding things behind the counter, which has been prevalent for a long, long time.”
“I’d like to see more openness in government,” Guffey said, pointing to President Donald Trump as an example of such transparency.
He said he wants a representative who will stand alongside Trump no matter what.
Although Guffey has not made up his mind completely, he said he plans to vote for Andrew Clyde, the owner of a gun store in Athens.
Roy Beavers, a 73-year-old from Gainesville, said he would like to see a candidate with a deep connection to the district.
“I’m a little more leery of career politicians, that they’re not really in touch with what’s going on,” he said.
Beavers said his choice for the job would be a businessman who supports Trump.
John Sheppard, a 77-year-old from Gainesville, agrees with Beavers that he would rather not have a “career politician” representing the district. He hopes someone wins who will be able to put politics and personal interest aside.
“I want things that will create an environment where we are enhancing business and personal opportunities as opposed to things that are just done for politics,” Sheppard said. “Most people in Washington do things for political reasons. They don’t care what is best for the country. They want what’s best for them.”
Just under 26% of Gainesville’s residents were born outside the United States, and 13.3% of the district’s population is Hispanic. So immigration, particularly across the southern border, is a hot issue.
Speaking about immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, radio political analyst Chandelle Summer said she is “interested in seeing that the immigrant Dreamers are allowed to have consideration of their circumstances moving forward.”
Guffey is more concerned about limiting immigration over the southern border and cracking down on drug traffickers entering the country.
“We’ve got to control the border,” Guffey said. “I mean, you can’t just have everybody coming in. They don’t know what’s going on.”
Nine Republicans announced their candidacies in northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District after U.S. Rep. Doug Collins decided not to seek re-election, opting instead to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler. The district is considered a stronghold for Republicans, who have filled the seat ever since 1995, when then-U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal switched to the GOP.