“I’m Nicole Rodden and I’m running for Congress.”

With that opening line, a former Merchant Marine and Navy reservist entered the Republican race for the 6th District. Rodden became the third candidate in the GOP primary, joining two well-known politicos, former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel — who lost the seat to Democrat Lucy McBath last year — and state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta. Winning back the seat is a top priority for Republicans ambushed by the district’s changing demographics in 2018.

Political novice Rodden brings an interesting new profile to the contest. She was born in Manhattan to an Ecuadorian mother and Greek father, first-generation Americans. In her late teens, the family moved to Georgia. She graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy in 2002 as a Coast Guard third mate and served 10 years in the Navy Reserve, leaving with the rank of lieutenant and then working for offshore drilling contractor Transocean in the private sector. She has worked in more than 25 countries with a wide range of military and civilian experience. She and her husband, Robert, live in Johns Creek.

Rodden may be new to political campaigns but she is politically aware. Witness this comment: “In 2018, Republicans lost U.S. House seats across our country, including Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. This should serve as a wakeup call. Our party can’t keep doing the same thing and running the same people while expecting different results. We need a new face and a fresh perspective in Washington. Republicans must have a candidate who can break the mold in order to take back District 6, and I’m ready to serve.”

She takes on the liberals in a district that had been a Republican stronghold but went for Democrat McBath in an extremely close election in 2018. Rodden says, “For too long, liberals have tried to sell the lie that if you are a minority, a female or a young person, then you must be a Democrat. I am here to show voters that is simply not true. ... I’m so glad that I’ve broken the mold.”

Rodden says she spends time “volunteering in support of various anti-human trafficking efforts, including Princess Night with the Atlanta Dream Center, The Passport events and Drop Dead Gorgeous,” plus participating in Tim Tebow’s annual Night to Shine — and she teaches English as a second language to people studying to become American citizens.

This newcomer is going up against two seasoned politicians in the GOP primary. Karen Handel should be the front-runner with $325,000 raised in the first quarter after announcing her bid to regain the seat. She has been endorsed by the U.S. House Republican Conference, six of the nine Republican members of Congress from Georgia and Tom Price, who held the seat for 12 years before resigning to become U.S. secretary of Health & Human Services but stepped down after eight months under fire for taking flights on charter and military aircraft. Brandon Beach has been described as “an establishment-friendly politician with a host of votes on conservative issues.” But how well will his push in the Legislature for legalizing casino gambling and expanding mass transit play in the 6th District? And will he and Handel bloody each other with attack ads? Other Republicans could still enter this race before the qualifying deadline next spring.

Meanwhile, the contest has been enlivened by the entry of Nicole Rodden promising “a new face and a fresh perspective” needed for her party to win. The odds are against the newcomer but from all appearances she has been bitten by the political bug and desires a future in Republican politics. In any event, she has already made the 6th District race a lot more interesting.

Don McKee is a Cobb County resident. He can be reached at dmckee9613@aol.com.

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