Ahead of the primary election, a crowded group of Republicans in Georgia’s 6th District tries to make their mark

Jake Evans (left) and Rich McCormick are considered favorites in the Republican primary race for the 6th congressional district

Photograph by Rachel Garbus

Georgia’s Congressional District 6 has been one of the most discussed by political observers for several years. The former ultraconservative Newt Gingrich’s district, Democrats flipped this part of the Metro North in 2018, and current Rep. Lucy McBath has retained her seat through two election cycles. But in the 2021 redistricting, Georgia lawmakers redrawn the 6th District to include most Forsyth County conservatives, and analysts say the new map again favors Republicans. McBath chose to run in the friendlier, bluer 7th District (which before redistricting included Forsyth County but now mostly includes Gwinnett County), and Republicans in the 6th are confident they can beat a Democratic newcomer. The question for now is which Republican. On Sunday, nine GOP hopefuls flexed their conservative bona fides during a debate at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Midtown studio, hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

The packed field has two favorites: Rich McCormick, an ER doctor and former U.S. Marine, who narrowly lost to Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th District in 2020; and Jake Evans, attorney and former chair of the Georgia Ethics Commission. Each raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions.

Other competitive prospects include former state Rep. Meagan Hanson, an attorney who served one term at the Georgia House; Mallory Staples, a private school teacher who works on an ultra-conservative parent rights platform; and Suzi Voyles, a former returning officer who made unsubstantiated allegations that the Georgian elections were stolen. Rounding out the contenders are Blake Harbin, a business owner who came in third in the 2020 GOP primary for the same district; Byron Gatewood, an Army officer and business owner who says he is close to former District 6 Representative Tom Price; Paulette Smith, mother of former Atlanta Hawks player Joshua Smith and GOP district chairwoman; and Eugene Yu, a veteran, former firefighter and business owner.

As in other Republican debates this season, the candidates have largely eschewed political specifics to clash over the two main themes animating the party lately: the results of the 2020 election, and which of them is the ” true conservative” in the race.

Evans, who insisted without evidence that Georgia’s 2020 election was riddled with fraud, is positioning himself as the “America First” candidate, a Trump-style conservative who is part of a “new generation of war fighters.” audacious freedom”. He attacked McCormick, who courted support from moderate Republicans, for being a “RINO” – a “Republican in name only”. McCormick responded that he was backed by die-hard Trump supporters like U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and defended his supporting coalition. “Anyone who is ready to fight the left, to go against Biden and Pelosi. . . these people are all joining the cause to get something done in Congress,” McCormick retorted.

McCormick has accused Evans of being inconsistent in his statements and his support for the police: Several candidates lambasted Evans for a 2015 law review article on race and crime that Evans wrote as a student in third-grade right, which they say is evidence of Evans’ support for “defunding the police.” Hanson read aloud a quote from the article: “‘Government resources should be reallocated from the criminal justice system to the education system,'” then added, “AKA, defund the police.” Evans responded that he was a “staunch supporter of law enforcement” and encouraged voters to read the article for themselves.

Staples, meanwhile, challenged the two far-right favourites. A self-proclaimed “MAGA mom” with three children and a background in Christian ministry, Staples has been compared to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for her ultraconservative platform, foreign policy identity and deep loyalty to Trump. She positions herself as a parent concerned with protecting American values, criticizing the idea of ​​”critical race theory” and claiming that the federal government is “the worst idea in education.” She told voters: ‘It has never been more important for parents to take control.

Staples attacked Evans for her inconsistent support for the former president: “President Trump is all over your ads,” she told Evans. “But you called the 2016 election ‘the lesser of two evils’.” Evans countered that throughout this campaign he has “never wavered” in his support for Trump, and noted that he was endorsed by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the former representative of the District 6, Newt Gingrich, and Dave Bossie, Trump’s former campaign manager.

At one point, WSB-TV moderator and reporter Dave Huddleston asked all the candidates if they thought the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump. The range of responses illustrated the needle that Republican politicians are threading to attract both hardcore Trump supporters and conservatives less obsessed with the Big Lie. McCormick claimed there was rampant voter fraud in Georgia’s 2020 election – he never conceded defeat to Bourdeaux – but dodged the question of whether Trump was the rightful winner of the presidential election . Evans covered the same, citing his legal work challenging elections in several Georgia counties and alleging “widespread fraud” in 2020. But later when asked for a yes or no answer on whether the elections of 2020 had been stolen, Evans said: thinks we will never be able to fully know.

Staples unequivocally said Georgia’s 2020 election was stolen and accused election officials of failing the state’s voters. Voyles claimed the same, and Smith went further, saying that not only was the presidential race stolen, “but also our senators, our congressmen, even at the local level — it was stolen.”

Only one candidate, Hanson, flatly denied that the election was stolen: “I have not personally seen the evidence that would conclude the whole election was stolen.” But she added that several issues “gave her pause,” including mail-in ballots and allegations of ballot collection. She commended the Georgia State Legislature for passing SB 202, which placed many restrictions on the ballot box, and reminded District 6 residents that every vote counts: “Cast your ballot, because it’s important. (Investigators have never found evidence that the 2020-21 election was fraudulent.)

The primary election is May 24, but early voting begins today. The winner of the Republican primary will face one of two Democrats running in the primary: Bob Christian, a US Army veteran with a background in restaurant management, and Wayne White, a doctor of international affairs who works in the foreign aid and international resource management.

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