U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath had been listening to constituents for an hour Saturday when Christine Rozman of Marietta rose to talk about immigration.
Rozman, a self-described conservative, said her heart went out to people fleeing trouble in other countries. But she said the United States in the past had limited immigration to allow newcomers to assimilate and to protect the “integrity of what America stood for.” She said immigrants were a financial drain, and she was “scared for our country.”
Each comment brought a few muttered retorts from a crowd packed with McBath supporters, prompting Rozman to respond, “I’m sorry if you guys listen to fake news all the time and you’re not educated.”
That drew loud groans from the crowd. And that’s when McBath piped up.
“This is an open forum for everyone in this district,” the Marietta Democrat told about 150 people at a Marietta church. “Please do not break down the good discourse we’ve had up until this point.”
The crowd burst into applause.
The exchange underscores the tightrope McBath walks as she seeks to consolidate support in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, where she eked out a victory five months ago. It’s a district long dominated by Republicans – and one the GOP is targeting as it tries to win back control of the House of Representatives.
On Saturday, McBath vowed to be a voice for bipartisanship in a polarized political climate.
“I represent Republicans. I represent Democrats. I represent independents,” she told the crowd at her first town hall meeting, drawing more applause. “I represent you all.”
Representing everyone in a polarized political climate is a tall order – especially in the 6th District. It includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, and in recent decades has been represented by such conservatives as Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson and Tom Price.
But suburban Atlanta has been evolving from a conservative bastion to a political battleground for years – a process accelerated in part by the rise of President Donald Trump and energized by last year’s nationally watched Stacey Abrams gubernatorial campaign.
Last November, McBath – a gun control advocate and former airline flight attendant – ousted Republican incumbent Karen Handel by fewer than 3,300 votes. Now Handel is seeking a rematch. State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, has also announced his candidacy.
On Saturday, McBath touted her accomplishments since she took office in January. The House passed a measure requiring federal background checks for gun sales – a priority for McBath, whose son was killed in a shooting. The U.S. House also passed an expansive elections and ethics overhaul. Neither bill is going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The crowd quizzed the representative on immigration, health care, gun control and other issues Saturday. McBath sought to distance herself from controversial proposals from some of her Democratic colleagues.
She said she supported incremental measures to shore up Obamacare, rather than jumping to a broader “Medicare for all” approach to health care. She said she does not favor abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
And when someone in the audience won applause for saying there is support in the district for impeaching Trump, McBath tamped down such talk – without ruling it out.
“Impeachment is a very, very serious process. It is not to be taken lightly,” she said. “We’re not running after the president (saying), ‘Impeach, impeach.’ ”
McBath pledged to work with the president where possible, but also to hold him accountable.
“My role is to make sure all the checks and balances are working,” she said, “to make sure that no one person, no one committee is above the rule of law.”
McBath’s performance won plaudits from her fans.
“She gives me hope, because she’s on the right side of the issues,” said Holly Simnel of Marietta.
She even won compliments from some conservatives. Rozman was glad McBath stuck up for her right to comment at the meeting, and she welcomed the representative’s pledge of bipartisanship.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Rozman said. “I hope she is sincere.”
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