Three years ago, Atlanta’s northern suburbs were considered comfortable ground for the GOP. But President’s Donald Trump’s election prompted a seismic political shift, particularly among the educated women who help form the core of the Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb-based 6th District.
The district played host to the most expensive House race in congressional history in 2017, when Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff faced off to succeed Tom Price.
Handel won that contest, but her surprise defeat at the hands of Democratic gun control activist Lucy McBath a year later solidified the 6th as key battleground territory. National groups are expected to pour millions into the district and the neighboring 7th this cycle.
Handel is seeking a rematch against McBath, but she must first get past three primary opponents, including a state senator who’s shown he’s capable of raising serious money and a self-funding businesswoman.
Here are the candidates:
Congresswoman Lucy McBath
McBath first got involved in politics after her teenage son was fatally shot in a racially-charged dispute in 2012. The flight attendant swiftly shifted her attention to the gun control debate, traveling the country as a surrogate for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. Still, McBath was a relative unknown in Georgia political circles when she announced last year that the Parkland, Fla., shootings had inspired her to run for Congress rather than the statehouse, as initially planned. Gun control and health care were the cornerstones of her initial congressional campaign, issues she discussed in deeply personal terms. McBath has continued to focus on those matters on Capitol Hill.
Former Congresswoman Karen Handel
Handel has been involved in Georgia politics for the better part of the last two decades, first as Fulton County Commission chairwoman. She went on to serve as secretary of state and ran unsuccessfully for governor and senator in 2010 and 2014. After arriving in Congress in summer 2017, Handel allied herself with GOP leaders, championing the party’s tax cuts and legislation tackling the opioid crisis and human trafficking. She campaigned with Trump but was critical of some of his trade policies. This time around, Handel has positioned herself closer to the president. She’s also tied McBath to more liberal members of the freshman class and raised questions about the Democrat’s residency in the 6th.
State Sen. Brandon Beach
The Alpharetta businessman has served in the Legislature since 2013, where he represents a north Fulton district. The former chief executive of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Beach has highlighted his support of job training initiatives and tax cuts on the campaign trail, as well as his work to expand mass transit as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He’s also taken more conservative stances in on measures to restrict abortion and support "religious liberty” in recent years while threading the needle on gun-related legislation. Handel has attracted much of the early attention from the GOP establishment, but Beach outraised her in the most recent fundraising period.
Former Merchant Marine Nicole Rodden
Rodden is a political newcomer who entered the contest in May with a pledge to be on the front lines of a new, more diverse Republican Party. Half Ecuadorian and half Greek, Rodden said she’ll “break the mold” for the GOP and help bring a “new face and a fresh perspective in Washington.” A former member of the Navy Reserves, Rodden has vowed to prioritize veterans care in Washington and protect the state's military bases from future rounds of consolidations and closures. The ex-Merchant Marine and Transocean employee has also called for cutting regulations, fighting human trafficking and the opioid crisis.
Businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene
Greene owns Taylor Commercial, a commercial construction company started by her father five decades ago. The Milton mother of three says Congress needs to right America’s fiscal course by slashing government spending and passing legislation to replace federal personal and corporate income taxes with a national retail sales tax. A prolific social media user, Greene’s posts have caught the eye of civil rights groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which flagged what they described as “anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim musings” and “hate-mongering stunts to gain attention.” Greene has signaled she’s willing to dig deep into her own pockets to fund her campaign: she loaned herself $500,000 in seed money earlier this year.
Motivational speaker Donnie Bolena
Bolena ran unsuccessfully for Sandy Springs mayor in 2009 and describes himself as "a true conservative, card-carrying Christian and tea party Republican.” His policy priorities include building a wall on the southern border, ending abortion and "supporting America as a Christian nation and protecting the teaching of creation and the Holy Trinity." In August 2019, Bolena was briefly persuaded to drop out of the race by state and local party officials after proclaiming himself a white nationalist in a Facebook video. He rejoined the contest days later as an independent, not a Republican.