The only Jewish member of the Georgia state Senate will seek a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican Renee Unterman, who has represented the 45th District in northern Gwinnett County since 2003, announced June 6 that she will seek the 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by retiring Republican Brad Woodall.
“Everything in my life – every struggle, every battle, every good time, every not so good time – has prepared me for this moment. “I’m here today to announce to you that I’m running to represent this community – our community – in Congress,” the Gwinnett Daily Post quoted Unterman as saying at an event in her hometown of Buford.
Unterman backed President Donald Trump’s signature policy initiative, saying that “We must build the wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border and accused Democrats of working toward “their ultimate goal of socialism.”
She said, “Hear me now, that will not happen on my watch. I will fight to protect our ideals.”
Unterman’s entry assures that abortion will be a front-burner issue in the 7th district race. She played a leading role in shepherding through the state legislature the measure known to supporters as the “heartbeat bill.” Unterman wore a “Pro Life” cap as she stood with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp when he signed the bill into law May 7.
The controversial law, set to take effect in January 2020 pending the outcome of anticipated court challenges, has prompted some in the entertainment industry to halt plans for productions in Georgia. Others have said they will continue production but pledge donations to organizations that support abortion rights.
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.
Woodall won a fifth term from the 7th district in 2018, defeating Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by a narrow 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent margin.
The most recent Census 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.
Unterman enters a Republican nomination race that already includes former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich; former professional football running back Joe Profit; emergency room physician Dr. Rich McCormick; U.S. Air Force veteran Ben Bullock; businessman Mark Gonsalves; Marine Corps veteran Harrison Floyd; and educator Lerah Lee.
Bourdeaux is again seeking the Democratic nomination in the 7th district, along with state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero; attorney Marqus Cole; former Fulton County Commission chairman John Eaves; and Democratic party organizer Nabilah Islam.
Eaves is Jewish.
In 2016, Unterman described herself as a Jew by choice, telling the AJT that she was raised Catholic, but converted to Judaism according to Orthodox tradition and law, including a year of study, testing by a panel of rabbis, and visits to a mikvah.
As she campaigned in 2018, Unterman said, “I feel like it’s unusual to be a Republican and Jewish. But because of my background, I can connect with certain social issues I may not have if I wasn’t Jewish.”
In announcing her candidacy for Congress, Unterman said, “Anyone who knows me will tell you that the Lord has instilled within me a beautiful ball of energy loaded with courage to do the right thing, not necessarily the politically correct and expedient or self-serving thing to do, but the right thing.”
As for campaign priorities, Unterman said, “Whether it’s cutting taxes, preventing crime, lowering health care costs, improving transportation or any of the other kitchen table issues, my goals are your goals.”
Unterman, a former mayor of Loganville, holds degrees in nursing from Georgia State University and social work from the University of Georgia.