Democratic hopes to capture the 6th Congressional District for the first time since the 1970s produced the most expensive congressional election in U.S. history ($60 million) less than 11 months ago, but the result was the same as it had been in every election since Newt Gingrich won the seat in 1978: a Republican in office.
After surviving an 18-person primary in April and defeating novice Jewish candidate Jon Ossoff in June, Rep. Karen Handel, Georgia’s first congresswoman since Cynthia McKinney left office in 2007, has no opposition within her party as she seeks re-election. But four Democrats without a political campaign in their combined history are competing in the May 22 primary to challenge her in November.
Kevin Abel, Bobby Kaple, Steven Knight Griffin and Lucy McBath — all of whom, unlike Ossoff last year, live within the 6th District — each have stories that have compelled them to seek office in the second year of the Trump administration, and each has personal involvement in some aspect of the policy issues that are part of this campaign. All four sat down for interviews with the AJT.
Abel, a member of Temple Sinai, immigrated to the United States from South Africa in 1979 when he was 14. In addition to having what he called “an immigrant’s love for this country,” he has been active in refugee resettlement as a board member of New American Pathways and led Sinai’s efforts to sponsor a refugee family last year — until Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugees got in the way.
Abel would be Georgia’s first Jewish congressman in more than 30 years.
Abel also is a cancer survivor, and he said health care policy joins immigration as the issues he talks most about during campaign appearances.
Kaple emphasizes that health care was the motivating factor in his decision to quit his job as the morning news anchor on CBS 46 to run for Congress. His wife, Rebecca, a sports broadcaster for Fox Sports South, gave birth to premature twins weighing 3 pounds each 2½ years ago, and they spent 17 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Piedmont Hospital.
The resulting medical bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — “the kinds of bills that can bankrupt a family” — led him to switch from covering the news to making it after he watched President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress spend 2017 trying to undo the Affordable Care Act.
Griffin, who left “the most humbling and meaningful job I’ve held” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enter the race, said he couldn’t sit quietly while Trump caused new things to go wrong in the country every day.
After 2½ years in a committed gay relationship, he said, he wondered what kind of country he would have to raise a family. “I felt it was my duty, as someone who has essentially dedicated their life to public service and to the civil service, to shift that trajectory in a more positive direction.”
While Kaple might have the most familiar face locally, McBath is the only one of the four with a national profile — one she earned the most difficult way possible. Her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot at age 17 while sitting as a passenger in a car at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., when a man decided the music from the car was too loud.
McBath, a two-time breast cancer survivor who worked as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines for 30 years, became a crusader against gun violence and traveled the nation with Everytown for Gun Safety and, in support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, with Mothers of the Movement.
An initial plan to run for the Georgia General Assembly took a federal turn when she got off a plane in Colorado on Feb. 14 and learned about the school massacre in Parkland, Fla. The deaths of teenagers in Florida hit close to home for McBath.
“I was heartbroken, and I was angry at the same time because I felt like ‘What do our legislators not get? What do they not understand?’” she said.