Hopefuls line up to challenge Marjorie Taylor Greene, but she’ll be hard to beat
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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene leaves the State Capitol after qualifying to run for office on the first day of qualifying Monday, March 7, 2022, at the Georgia State Capitol. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Marjorie Taylor Greene has been a congresswoman for 14 months, but every partisan seems to have an opinion about her and her ability to attract attention. They either love her or hate her.
But Greene’s success in this year’s election will depend on her ability to keep a majority of conservative voters in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District on her side.
Her controversies have been numerous. Most recently, they include speaking at a conference hosted by a white nationalist and heckling President Joe Biden during the State of the Union. Greene’s critics lament that her antics have rendered her powerless in Washington to bring resources and money to her district.
That frustration has led several candidates to challenge Greene, not just Democrats who expect to face her in the general election but also Republicans who hope to defeat her in the May primary.
But Greene doesn’t just have the benefit of incumbency. She has the power of being a Republican in a conservative district who has close ties to former President Donald Trump, national name recognition and more money in the bank than all the other candidates combined.
“The people in my district, they know who I am,” she said recently. “They know my heart.”
Of the efforts to unseat her, Greene said they are led by a vocal minority of Republicans who supported her opponent in 2020 and will oppose her no matter the circumstances.
“They were in the small percentage because I won big,” she said.
Still, because of how polarizing her first year in office has been, Greene may be vulnerable, said John Bailey, editor of the Rome News-Tribune newspaper.
“It’ll be an interesting night to find out,” he said of the May primary. “If I were a betting person, I would bet that we’re going to have Greene for another couple of years. But I don’t know, we’ll have to see.”
Her GOP challengers are all political newcomers who are far behind in the fundraising race. And in a district that leans heavily Republican, it is unlikely that any Democrat will prevail in November no matter how well-funded they are and how hard they campaign.
However, there are signs that the Republican establishment is tired of Greene’s behavior.
Conservative radio host Shelley Wynter invited three other candidates in the GOP primary onto his show Thursday night to expose his audience to the alternatives: logistics executive Eric Cunningham, physician Charles Lutin and health care consultant Jennifer Strahan.
Wynter, who lives in the district, said the final straw was Greene’s decision to speak at a conference hosted by far-right and white nationalist commentator Nick Fuentes.
“Enough is enough,” Wynter wrote in a Twitter post promoting his show with the candidates. “Tune in and see who you want to help out or vote for in May.”
A January poll of 450 potential Republican primary voters in the district conducted by the conservative firm TargetPoint and obtained by Jewish Insider found that Greene had the support of 60% of respondents, compared with 30% for Strahan. But support for Greene decreased while Strahan’s increased to the point of a tie at 41% when respondents were told of Greene’s problematic statements.
Jewish Insider quoted a consultant who said the poll was paid for by “a group of Georgia Republicans who want to show that there is a viable, conservative alternative to” Greene.
Greene’s campaign shared its own internal polling that showed her with a commanding lead and Strahan with only one supporter out of 388 polled.
Strahan held a fundraiser last month with a host committee that included three of the five Floyd County commissioners and former party officials.
Among the Republicans in the race, she is in second place behind Greene in fundraising. But the gap is huge. Strahan ended 2021 with $60,332 in cash on hand, compared with Greene’s $3.5 million.
The vast majority of Greene’s itemized donations last year, 91%, came from outside Georgia, showing she has a national fundraising base of conservative backers she can tap.
Strahan tells voters she represents the same conservative values as Greene but will be more productive for the district.
“I think it is so important to make sure that we have a representative who is there to serve and not just be a celebrity,” said Strahan, who lives near Dallas. “Someone who is making sure that we’re being heard in Congress that is acting as that liaison in a way that’s meaningful and bringing results back to the district.”
Democrats and 11 Republicans stripped Greene of her congressional committee assignments about a month after she was sworn into office based on news reports of her problematic behavior and comments. She was permanently banned from Twitter after repeatedly posting misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines.
Still, she maintains a loyal following among conservatives who view her as a truth teller whom the left tries to silence. She has also worked to remain visible in the district, holding eight in-person town hall meetings and four telephone town halls.
“The 14th District is very fortunate to have a strong congresswoman, Marjorie Greene,” Dalton resident Suzanne Baggett wrote in a Facebook post promoting the congresswoman’s appearances last month in Gordon and Murray counties. “She truly believes people over politicians. Refreshing, right?”
Bailey said it is clear there is a contingent of voters in the district who not only support Greene but cheer on her antics.
“How many of those people are going to turn out to vote?” he said. “That’s going to be the question.”
Democrats also have a competitive primary in the district featuring Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis against two newcomers who have garnered a national profile as potential general election opponents to Greene.
Holly McCormack is a small business owner in Ringgold, and Marcus Flowers is an Army veteran who quit his job working for the Department of Defense to run for Congress shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Flowers lives in Haralson County, which used to be in the district but is now just outside its boundaries in the new map approved by the state Legislature.
He also is the candidate most competitive with Greene moneywise. He raised $4.7 million last year and started 2022 with $1.5 million in the bank.
“I got in the race to remove the threat to our democracy,” Flowers said, “which is Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
14th Congressional District primary
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been a controversial figure in Congress. Known for making racist, anti-Semitic and otherwise offensive statements and spreading QAnon conspiracy theories, she was stripped of her committee assignments shortly after being sworn into office but has continued to build a national profile among conservatives.
That will make her tough to beat as she seeks a second term in the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia. But that hasn’t stopped a host of candidates from saying they will try, including several Republicans who are challenging Greene in the May primary.
Although the newly drawn lines for the district added voters from Cobb County, the district still is very conservative with nearly 70% of voters identified as Republicans. While there is also a Democratic primary in the race, it will be tough for a member of that party to win in the general election.
Tia Mitchell is the AJC’s Washington correspondent. In this role, she writes about Georgia’s congressional delegation, campaigns, elections and the impact that decisions made in D.C. have on residents of the Peach State.