The 6th Congressional District race between incumbent Republican Rep. Karen Handel and Democrat Lucy McBath offers a sharp contrast in political views, experience and personalities. Voters have a clear choice in this contest.
Handel won the seat against Democrat newcomer Jon Ossoff in last year’s special election — the most expensive U.S. House race in history, with outside groups pumping about $55 million into what became a national battleground between the parties. Although Handel won 52 percent to 48 percent, Ossoff led in the polls until the closing days of the campaign, a sign of changing attitudes and demographics.
Again this year, look for heavy spending from both sides in the race between experienced conservative Handel and McBath, the liberal newcomer. Handel, 56, who lives in Roswell, served as Fulton County Commission chair in the early 2000s and as Georgia secretary of state for one term before running for governor and losing to Nathan Deal in the GOP primary runoff. McBath, 58, a Marietta resident and retired Delta Air Lines flight attendant, a self-described “activist for social jus-tice,” has no experience in public office, although she has been very ac-tive in politics, lobbying for tighter gun laws, campaigning for Hillary Clinton and speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
The issues that will determine the winner in this race are taking shape. Handel aired her first television ad this week highlighting her efforts to combat human trafficking. In the ad, she points out that the first bill she cosponsored was legislation to help combat this scourge. On Facebook, she says sex trafficking “is a problem right here in OUR community” and links to an MDJ article this week reporting the arrest of four people charged with running a human sex trafficking operation out of a Marietta hotel, forcing a 15-year-old runaway girl to have sex with multiple men for money turned over to the perpetrators.
Handel, endorsed by the National Rifle Association, is strong on gun rights in stark contrast to McBath, who wants stricter controls. She says her “passion for public service was awakened” by the 2012 murder of her only son, shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, by a man objecting to music the youth was playing in his car. Then last Feb-ruary, after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 staff and students dead, McBath said she “could no longer sit on the sidelines while the politicians in the pocket of the gun manufacturing lobby de-cide the future of our gun laws.” She wants “background checks for all firearms purchases, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21,” and legislation “to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other criminals.”
McBath is strongly opposed to President Trump’s tax cuts, while Handel voted for them. Speaking at the Cobb Democratic Party’s annual gala, she said: “The Trump-Handel tax scam, as I call it, is bad for busi-ness and bad for middle-class families. … The Trump-Handel tax scam adds $2 trillion dollars to our national debt, and that is debt that our children and our grandchildren are definitely going to be responsible for.”
On the issue of abortion, McBath opposes “the Trump-Handel plan to defund Planned Parenthood,” while pro-life Handel, as head of the Komen Breast Cancer charity in 2012, oversaw its defunding of Planned Parenthood and resigned when Komen reversed the decision. Handel is backed by the Georgia Life Alliance and the anti-abortion Susan B. An-thony List.
The battle lines are drawn. Clearly, McBath is on the attack already, while in this early stage, Handel is accentuating her positives in fighting human trafficking, supporting tax cuts and immigration reform among other issues.
Handel should be expected to win against newcomer McBath, but in politics, nothing can be taken for granted because the unexpected can happen — and sometimes does.