Gun control advocate joins race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District

A prominent gun control activist entered the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, deciding against a run for a lower-profile legislative seat because she’s outraged over gridlock in Washington after the latest mass shooting in Florida.

Lucy McBath raised more than $100,000 to challenge state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Marietta Republican in a competitive district. But she said watching congressional leaders meet with President Donald Trump after the massacre in Parkland, Fla., led her to shift her focus to Congress.

“This is the time we need to capitalize on this,” McBath said. “Whether I win or lose, it still helps to push the needle on this. We have the eyes and the ears of the nation on Georgia right now, and if we can mobilize here, there will be a domino effect.”

McBath joins two other Democrats challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who won last year’s nationally watched special election to represent the suburban Atlanta district. Businessman Kevin Abel and former newscaster Bobby Kaple, both first-time candidates, filed paperwork to run for the seat.

Handel became one of the highest-profile freshman members of Congress after she defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the costliest U.S. House contest ever. That race was viewed nationally as a barometer for Democratic success in conservative-leaning areas, and Ossoff lost by about 4 percentage points.

Ossoff said last month that he would not make a second bid this year for the district, which spans from north DeKalb County to east Cobb County, and other elected officials have also ducked a run. But McBath's plunge into the race adds another well-known candidate to the contest.

‘Tear that down’

Her announcement came as droves of other candidates filed paperwork to run for office during the weeklong qualifying period, which sets a Friday deadline for hopefuls seeking state office to make a pilgrimage to the Gold Dome.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the GOP front-runner for governor, gathered about 100 supporters for a celebratory press conference shortly after he qualified. He’s hoping his vow to “kill” a tax break for Delta Air Lines after it cut ties with the National Rifle Association boosts his conservative credentials.

Cagle said he’s not going to reverse a record of “building industries” with tax cuts and other initiatives. But he also said he’s not going to “run away from our conservative values.”

The two Democratic candidates for governor also qualified, launching their race for the party’s nomination into a new phase.

Former state Rep. Stacey Evans showed up for a quiet ceremony surrounded by her closest relatives and a few campaign aides. She and her mother shared a tearful embrace on the steps of the Capitol.

Stacey Abrams was met with a roar of applause as soon as she walked into the Gold Dome as dozens of supporters chanted her name. She, too, had an emotional reunion with her parents — who surprised her by driving in from Hattiesburg, Miss., for the occasion.

‘Tides have changed’

McBath, the 6th District candidate, is among a wave of office-seekers plunging into politics for the first time.

But she also has a national profile as an advocate for tougher gun restrictions after her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed while sitting in a car with friends in November 2012. The gunman, Michael Dunn, was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for opening fire following a dispute with the teens over the volume of their music.

Soon after her son's death, McBath became an early member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grass-roots group that sprung up after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012.

Her profile quickly grew: President Barack Obama invited her to the White House for a speech on gun violence; she spoke at the Democratic National Convention; and she traveled across the nation to support Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. She testified in Congress on the dangers of "stand your ground" laws.

She also will be a major voice in another debate. She worked as a flight attendant for Delta for 30 years, and she has slammed the state GOP’s decision to punish the Atlanta-based airline after it severed business ties with the NRA.

She was seen as a formidable challenger to Teasley, a conservative real estate agent with an “A” rating from the NRA, when she launched her bid a few months ago. His district is one of a string of suburban Atlanta territories where Trump struggled in 2016.

But she said the state GOP’s decision to punish Delta for cutting ties with the NRA helped cement her decision to aim for higher office, in part because she said she could have wider influence in Washington.

“We need someone who can challenge Republicans,” she said. “We are mobilizing a whole generation of people. We have to outthink the GOP. That’s why they continue to win. The tides have changed, and we have to move on this.”

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