Democratic women have been winning primaries across the country this year, and two more female candidates have a chance Tuesday of becoming their party’s nominees in Republican-held districts.
Female candidates finished first in the May 22 primaries in both districts, but neither received more than 50 percent of the vote, triggering Tuesday’s runoff. Activist Lucy McBath took 36 percent of the vote in a four-way primary in the 6th District, while professor Carolyn Bourdeaux took 27 percent in a six-way race in the 7th.
EMILY’s List has backed both women and has bundled money for their campaigns, but the pro-abortion rights group hasn’t made any independent expenditures for either candidate.
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McBath has received the most national attention of any of the four Democrats running in either district Tuesday, in large part because of her profile as the national spokesperson for advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety and her personal story as a mother who lost her son to gun violence.
The only woman and African-American in the May primary, McBath started the year running for a state House seat but switched to the congressional race after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Her son was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida in 2012 by a man who complained his music was too loud.
McBath is currently on an unpaid leave of absence from the organization, but Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has spent $1 million backing her in this race. BlackPAC has also made some small direct mail buys for McBath. Her campaign went up with a TV ad on Thursday.
She’s also backed by Giffords PAC, the organization co-founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, End Citizens United and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. She’s received financial support from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, California Sen. Kamala Harris and billionaire Tom Steyer, among others.
McBath is facing businessman Kevin Abel, who finished second in the primary with 31 percent of the vote. He emigrated from South Africa when he was 14 years old and runs a technology consulting company.
In a recent debate, Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy asked Abel whether he felt there should be more women in Congress, and he answered yes, saying that “Congress should reflect the demography of the United States.”
“I believe that in this particular 6th District, I am the right candidate to not only defeat Karen Handel in the fall, but to represent the demography and the make-up of this district,” he added.
Abel’s campaign is stressing his local connections, arguing that voters know him because of his deep ties to the community. His campaign pointed out that he doesn’t disagree with McBath on gun control policy, but he’s been critical of her focus on the issue, calling her a “single-issue” candidate.
“We saw what happened last year when you nationalize an election,” Abel campaign manager Charlie Blaettler said in a phone interview Wednesday, alluding to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s loss to Handel in a high-profile special election.
McBath’s team, however, stresses that as a woman and a two-time breast cancer survivor, she’s uniquely positioned to take on Handel, citing the congresswoman’s support for repealing the 2010 health care law and her role in defunding Planned Parenthood when she was a top official at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
McBath is expected to have a slight edge against Abel, especially because of the outside funding from Everytown.
But either candidate will face a tough race against Handel, who ended the second quarter with $1 million in the bank. McBath and Abel had $151,000 and $130,000, respectively, at July 4, the end of the pre-runoff period.
The 7th District Democratic runoff is known in the state for being nastier than the 6th, with more attacks flying between the two candidates.
Bourdeaux, a Georgia State University professor, has hit opponent David Kim, the founder of a tutoring business, in debates for not voting in the 2016 election.
One of Kim’s recent ads touts his record as a CEO but also goes on the attack against Bourdeaux. The spot accuses her of helping craft GOP budgets that cut public education and health care funding.
Bourdeaux was the director of the Georgia Senate’s Budget and Evaluation Office. She’s defended her record, arguing that she held the position during an economic downtown and later supported efforts to restore funding.
She launched her first TV ad Thursday, keeping the 30-second spot focused on congressional Republicans and their efforts to repeal the health care law. “When Trump was elected, that was the last straw,” she says in the ad.
Besides EMILY’s List, Bourdeaux has the backing of End Citizens United, as well as Georgia Democratic luminaries such as Rep. Hank Johnson, former Sen. Max Cleland and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, who also represented the Peach State in the House.
The race is expected to be close.
“Bourdeaux is the small favorite there, if for no other reason because of what we’ve seen elsewhere in Democratic primaries,” said one Democratic strategist following the race, alluding to the trend of women winning.
Kim has poured his own money into the race (he’s loaned himself $736,000) and is expected to be able to turn out Asian-American voters. He’s trying to run on his business record as a “progressive job creator,” while some observers say it could be easier to tie Bourdeaux, as a professor who worked for the government, to the Democratic Party establishment.
“We’re not running away from the fact that she’s been super involved,” Bourdeaux communications director Jake Best said, touting her experience but also noting that she’s never been an elected official.
Bourdeaux had $98,000 in the bank to Kim’s $86,000 at July 4. Democrats are hoping Woodall could be a ripe target if a wave develops, especially because he’s never faced a real race before. He ended the second quarter with $529,000.