Interest in the 7th District Congressional race was evident when 120 audience chairs were set up at the Peachtree Corners City Hall for a candidates’ forum and 300 people packed the room.
Candidates for the state legislature and county offices were on hand, but top billing went to the 7th District’s incumbent Republican congressman, Rob Woodall, and his Democratic challenger, Carolyn Bourdeaux.
Woodall was elected to represent the district in 2010 and has received no less than 60 percent of the vote in each of his four general elections.
The race between Woodall and Bourdeaux is rated as “leaning” or “likely” Republican by several political websites.
The last Democrat to represent the 7th District was George “Buddy” Darden, from 1983 to 1995.
President Donald Trump won 51 percent of the 7th District vote and Hillary Clinton, 45 percent in 2016, though Gwinnett County backed the Democrat for the first time in 40 years.
The 7th covers much of Gwinnett County and the southern half of Forsyth County – including the cities of Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Cumming, Lawrenceville, Duluth, Suwanee and Buford.
Gwinnett County, which forms the bulk of the 7th, has become a “minority-majority” district. The most recent population figures show the 7th to be 45.8 percent white, 21 percent African-American, 18.6 percent Hispanic, 14.3 percent Asian, and 0.1 percent Native American.
Based on 2010 Census data, there are roughly 10,000 Jews in the District, making up 1.45 percent of its population.
Bourdeaux reported slightly less than $98,000 in available campaign funds as of July 4, while Woodall reported nearly $529,000 on hand for the quarter that ended June 30.
U.S. House members are paid an annual salary of $174,000.
Candidate for 7th Congressional District:
Rob Woodall has won no less than 60 percent of the vote in four successful races to represent Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.
This time around may be closer, although his contest against Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux is rated as leaning Republican by various political websites.
Gwinnett County, which forms the bulk of the 7th District (the remainder is southern Forsyth County), has become a “minority-majority” county, and in 2016 voted Democratic in the presidential election for the first time in 40 years.
“This district looks today the way America is going to look in about 10 or 15 years,” Woodall told a September candidates forum in Peachtree Corners.
Woodall, 48, was chief of staff for his predecessor, Republican Rep. John Linder.
He holds seats on the House transportation and infrastructure, budget, and rules committees.
According to his Sept. 30 campaign finance report, Woodall had raised $1.01 million, spent $793,800, and had cash on hand of $548,200.
Woodall heralds the economic news coming from the Trump administration and cautions against changing directions.
“Elections have consequences. There are two methods that we can go forward in this country,” by tearing people down or building people up. “Don’t let it be said that the only way to win elections is to tear people down,” Woodall told the Peachtree Corners candidates’ forum.
Woodall warned about the long-term financial health of the Social Security and Medicare programs. At the candidates’ forum, he denied that House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to slice Social Security and Medicare to pay for recent tax cuts. “Tax receipts have never been higher,” Woodall said. “The problem is over-promising to generations like mine.”
When he and Boudeaux tangled over “dark money” contributions that do not require disclosing the donor, Woodall said, “There is no such thing as an unreported dollar in my campaign,” and reminded the audience that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that “The First Amendment protects campaign donations being shielded.”
Young people must take more responsibility when accumulating college debt, Woodall said. “Repaying [debt] is an important part of the American dream,” he said, adding that financial aid counselors should be permitted to talk students out of borrowing money.
Woodall has backed Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which, he said “has destroyed the American health care system.” The congressman said that GOP proposals would protect coverage of pre-existing conditions.
The government’s immigration policy should be “we want the best and brightest to locate in America,” Woodall said. The “Dreamers,” brought to the U.S. as children by parents who entered illegally, should be in that line, he said. But families that have breached the law should not come before those who have adhered to U.S. immigration laws.
In January 2017, Woodall and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a House resolution condemning Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens and reaffirming the friendship between Israel and the United States. The measure was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, but went no further in the legislative process.
Woodall supported President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear weapons deal), writing, “I believed then – as I believe now – that a bad deal is worse than no deal at all, and I’m eager to work with the current administration and our allies around the world to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to prevent a dangerous and untrustworthy Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons and neutralizing Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region.”
Candidate for 7th Congressional District:
Health care is at the heart of Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux’s campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Rob Woodall in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.
“This is personal,” she tweeted on Sept. 5. “My mother struggled to pay for my father’s insulin before he passed away. The cost of medicine ate up their retirement income. We have hit a point where regular working people cannot afford basic, cheap to make, life-saving medications.”
Two weeks later, in her opening remarks at a candidates’ forum in Peachtree Corners, Bourdeaux said, “I am running for office because I think our health care system is badly broken.”
In her closing, she said, “We have come to a time when certain truths have to be spoken. In this district, there are 110,000 people without health insurance,” as she criticized Woodall for Republican efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Bourdeaux, 48, finished first among six candidates in the May 22 Democratic primary and defeated runner-up David Kim in the July 24 runoff.
She is on leave from her position as associate professor of public management and policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, where she has been on the faculty since 2003. From 2007 to 2010, Bourdeaux was director of Georgia’s Senate Budget and Evaluation Office.
According to a Sept. 30 campaign finance report, Bourdeaux had raised $1.89 million, spent $1.07 million, and had $820,000 on hand.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was sufficiently hopeful of an upset to add Bourdeaux to its Red to Blue program, making available organizational and fundraising support.
Bourdeaux minces no words in discussing President Donald Trump and the influence of money on politics.
“We have a president that is corrupt and a Congress that is in hock to special interest and has been corrupted by them, as well,” she said at the Peachtree Corners forum. “I believe we desperately need campaign finance reform. We’ve got to end Citizens United,” she said, referring to the Supreme Court ruling that gave political spending by corporations and unions protection under the First Amendment.
When challenged by Woodall about PAC (political action committee) donations received by Democrats, Bourdeaux responded, “I understand that people on both sides of the aisle play that game, but it’s not the right game for us. … Our system is broken, and it absolutely must be fixed.”
Bourdeaux backs a “quick and clear path to citizenship” for the “Dreamers,” children brought to the United States by parents who entered the country illegally, of whom there are 3,000 in the 7th District. “Yes, we need to deal with the folks who have played by the rules and make sure that they have a quick path to citizenship,” she said.
She also supported expanded use of federal Pell Grants to alleviate the college loan debt crisis.
Bourdeaux’s position paper on Israel calls “for the U.S. to continue to bolster Israel’s security in a region of hostile neighbors, while also encouraging policies to move toward a peaceful resolution of conflict with its Palestinian neighbors.” She supports the two-state solution to be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.
She labels Trump’s order relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “needlessly provocative” action that “makes a peaceful resolution more difficult, ultimately undermining Israel’s long-term security.”
Bourdeaux supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear weapons deal), saying that while “Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons present an existential threat to Israel and undermine peace and stability in the region and in the world,” the agreement presents “the best opportunity” to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons.