A year after winning the most expensive U.S. House race in history, Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, is back on the ballot.
Last year, Handel defeated Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in a race whose price tag for candidates and outside groups combined was nearly $60 million.
That race was an all-out slugfest, with 18 candidates from both parties jumping in the ring to battle it out to replace former Rep. Tom Price, who left his seat for a short-lived stint as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Handel was the last person standing with a victory margin of about 4 percent, but that narrow gap in a traditionally conservative district left Democrats hungry for a win.
This time, they have bet on Lucy McBath, a gun control activist and former flight attendant from Marietta. She was the top vote-getter out of four would-be candidates in May’s Democratic primary and went on to defeat businessman Kevin Abel in a July runoff.
McBath became an activist after her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot to death outside a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station in 2012 following an argument about loud music at the gas pumps. The shooter, Michael David Dunn, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
McBath has made gun control a cornerstone of her campaign, calling for measures such as universal background checks on gun purchases and raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 years.
According to the candidates’ disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, McBath entered the final stretch of the race with just under $565,000 on hand. Handel’s war chest contained just over $402,000 for the same filing period, which ended Sept. 30.
In another callback to the Handel-Ossoff race, Handel has challenged her opponent’s residency in the district.
Handel’s campaign says McBath’s husband Curtis has two vehicles registered in Tennessee, where he is also a registered voter, but the couple has maintained a homestead exemption in Cobb County. That’s a tax exemption only available for a primary residence.
Cobb Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson confirmed her office received a complaint about Curtis McBath.
“At that point, our office did what we would do for anybody in that situation, we did some investigating,” she said. “Based on that, we sent him a letter, basically a homestead audit letter.”
According to a copy of the Oct. 10 letter obtained by the MDJ, the office determined the Marietta home no longer qualified for the homestead exemption because of Curtis McBath’s Tennessee motor vehicle registrations, driver’s license and voter information.
If the McBaths do not appeal the findings by Nov. 9 — 30 days after the letter was sent — their Cobb homestead exemption will be removed. Jackson said as of Monday morning, the department had not received a response to the letter.
Jackson said the McBaths may be issued tax bills for up to three prior years, and if fraud is determined, the property could be billed double the tax amount due for up to seven prior years.
The McBath campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the topic.
The 6th Congressional District includes portions of east Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties. The MDJ asked both candidates for their thoughts on major topics facing the nation.
The federal budget deficit was $895 billion for the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. What is a concrete proposal you would support to lower the deficit?
HANDEL: One important aspect of dealing with this issue is economic growth, and thanks to the tax cuts bill, the economy is finally growing again. The non-partisan CBO has already increased its 10-year revenue estimates as a result. Still, we must fix our broken budget process and reduce wasteful spending. I support: two-year budget process, an annual rescission package to prioritize spending and root out waste, a balanced budget amendment and zero-based budgeting for every agency.
MCBATH: The recent tax bill is a giveaway to the top 1% and corporations. It adds trillions of dollars to our national debt, and I plan to enact responsible legislation that makes our economy work for everyone. We need to expand the earned income tax credit while making sure corporations are paying their fair share.
Unemployment is low, the stock market is hitting record highs and corporations are reporting strong gains, but wages continue growing at a stagnant rate. What can Congress do to address slow wage growth?
HANDEL: With unemployment at its lowest since 1969, wages are finally increasing. The U.S. Labor Department recently reported average hourly wage growth increased the most since 2009. Thanks to lower taxes, employers are investing, expanding and hiring. Hardworking families are benefitting too. The tax cut for the average family in CD6 is over $4,400 per year. Unlike my opponent, who will raise taxes and slow the economy, I will continue to drive pro-family, pro-growth policies.
MCBATH: Congress can pass policies that are proven to help the middle class. We should make sure the minimum wage is a livable wage — and this looks different depending on where you live in this country. The people of the Sixth District also cannot work if they do not have access to affordable and quality care. It is imperative that we fix our broken healthcare system so that our communities are healthy enough to work.
What changes to the U.S. immigration system would you support?
HANDEL: I have been a leader in developing comprehensive immigration reform, including: funding for border security (including the wall) to stop lawlessness at our borders; a workable, compassionate solution for DACA permit holders; and a streamlined visa program that aligns with workforce needs and fosters legal immigration. I will continue to work for commonsense solutions that respect the rule of law and secure our borders, while also embracing our nation’s rich history of legal immigration.
MCBATH: Our immigration system is broken. I support reforms that allow our government to look at requests for asylum on a case by case basis, while treating everyone with basic human dignity. I support bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to strengthen our economy and community.