In the 13th District, challengers to Rep. David Scott say voters need a fresh voice

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, is seeking an 11th term in Congress, but he faces three challengers in the 13th Congressional District primary. AJC file

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U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, is seeking an 11th term in Congress, but he faces three challengers in the 13th Congressional District primary. AJC file

U.S. Rep. David Scott is seeking an 11th term in Congress by running on a message that he has delivered for his constituents over the past two decades while rising to a powerful committee position that newcomers would find hard to match.

But his challengers, including three fellow Democrats who Scott will face in the May primary, say fresh blood is needed in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District representing south metro Atlanta.

Those opponents, who include former state Sen. Vincent Fort and former South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker, said voters would be better served by a representative who is willing to push a more liberal agenda.

Scott said he will campaign by making sure voters know his accomplishments, including becoming the first Black lawmaker to chair the House Agriculture Committee, where he oversees programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Scott also said he was proud to back funding for programs to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and increase resources flowing to historically Black colleges and universities.

“I’m just praying and hopeful that folks will come up and say, ‘This man David Scott is doing a great job,’ ” he said. “And let my work speak for me.”

Fort, who ran unsuccessfully for Atlanta mayor in 2017, said he decided to enter the congressional race because he felt the 13th District had been neglected.

“One of the most consistent things that I’ve heard from people that I talked to in the 13th District is that the person that represents them is absent,” Fort said. “He’s not around, and this is before the pandemic. This is for many, many years.”

Fort has promised to champion a liberal agenda, including providing universal health care by opening Medicare to people of all ages, making community college free and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Baker says his time on the South Fulton City Council allowed him to hone his skills as an activist turned politician, and he helped pass a ban on no-knock warrants and decriminalize marijuana.

“I’ve always kept my feet close to the ground and my ear close to the pavement when it comes to the needs of our constituents,” he said. “And they want more from the federal government.”

The fourth Democrat in the race is political newcomer Shastity Driscoll, an educator who grew up in the 13th District. She recently moved back to the Atlanta area after spending time on the West Coast and said she decided to run for the seat because she didn’t feel that the needs of the 13th District and its residents were being addressed.

Of the four Democrats in the race, only Baker says he lives within the new 13th District boundaries, which includes south Fulton County, most of Clayton County and parts of Cobb, Douglas, Fayette and Henry counties. The law does not require members of Congress to reside within their districts.

There are also three Republicans running for the seat: Caesar Gonzales, Dominika Hawkins and Calina Plotky. But the district is a Democratic stronghold, which means it is unlikely a Republican can win in the general election.

All of Scott’s Democratic challengers entered the race relatively recently, and fundraising numbers for the first three months of the year don’t have to be reported for several more weeks. But it will be tough for them to match Scott, who ended 2021 with $1.1 million in cash on hand.

He has used the money for yard signs and billboards. His congressional office also hosts two signature events each year, a job fair and a health fair, that further boost his name recognition.

Clayton State University professor Joshua Meddaugh, who is the coordinator of the school’s political science program, said he believes Scott could be pushed into a runoff by one of his challengers. But Meddaugh still believes it is likely Scott will win another term in office.

Still, these challengers may force Scott to campaign more heavily than he has in previous years, whether in person or virtually, and to consider how his positions align with voters in the district.

“Younger people want to see the candidates,” Meddaugh said. “They want to know, ‘What have you done for me lately? And are you in the area?’ So he might have to become a little bit more comfortable with getting back to the district more than he has in the past to get that kind of ground support and groundswell.”


13th Congressional District primary

Its boundaries may have shifted slightly in the new maps approved by the General Assembly, but the 13th District remains a Democratic stronghold.

That means the race is likely to be decided during the May primary. And this race largely serves as a referendum on U.S. Rep. David Scott, the incumbent seeking an 11th term in office. His three Democratic challengers say fresh blood and a fresh voice are needed in the south metro Atlanta district.

The 13th District includes south Fulton County, most of Clayton County and parts of Cobb, Douglas, Fayette and Henry counties.

Learn about the candidates

DEMOCRATS

Mark Baker https://www.baker4congress.com/

Shastity Driscoll https://driscollforga13.com/

Vincent Fort https://fortforcongress.com/

David Scott (incumbent) http://votedavidscott.com/

REPUBLICANS

Caesar Gonzales https://caesargonzalesforcongress.us/

Dominika Hawkins https://www.hawkinsforuscongress.com/

Calina Plotky https://www.calinaforcongress.com/

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