Congress

NRCC digs for opposition research on Rep. Lucy McBath with unsolicited package

Her Republican challenger portrays McBath as an outsider by tying her to other diverse first-term lawmakers

Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., leaves the House Democrats' caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Party operatives sent a package to an address in Tennessee they said they believed to be the home of Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath. But the congresswoman said the package was accepted by a relative and described the opposition research gambit as harassment.

McBath said she expects more packages.

“Involving my family in false partisan attacks is precisely what people hate about politics. I did not run to play these games – I ran to fight for Georgia families. And that is what I have been doing since day one,” McBath said in a statement Thursday.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, sent a package of quintessentially Tennessee items — including Memphis-style barbecue sauce and a University of Tennessee cap — to an address in Rockford, Tennessee, then claimed proof McBath signed for the package in subsequent tweets and news releases.

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Fox News amplified the opposition research, publishing an image of a signature that the site reported belonged to the congresswoman. McBath refuted the story, saying the package was accepted by her elderly mother-in-law, Margaret McBath.

The congresswoman made a speech to the National Action Network in New York on April 5. The package was signed for on April 5, according to the image posted with a story on Fox News’ website.

Former Republican Rep. Karen Handel, who McBath unseated, questioned her ties to Tennessee during the 2018 contest. McBath raised her son, who was shot and killed when he was a teenager, in Marietta, Georgia, but her husband lives in Tennessee. McBath lived with her husband as he took care of his sick father in 2017, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dinging opponents on questions of residency is common in congressional races. 

The tactic was effective in the 2017 special election when Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Members of Congress are not constitutionally mandated to live in their district but it can be politically damaging when lawmakers live outside the jurisdiction they are elected to represent.

But the line of attack also dovetails with Handel’s first ad of the 2020 cycle. Handel launched her rematch in the closely competitive 6th District in March after losing to McBath by one point in 2018.

Handel, who was elected to the House in a 2017 special election to replace Rep. Tom Price,  paints McBath as an outsider by linking her to other diverse first-term members of Congress — Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“Imagine if we had leaders in Washington who worked for us ... Imagine if those leaders actually lived in our communities and understood us,” Handel says in the ad.

The ad also features clips of California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

McBath hit back on Twitter by criticizing Handel as a perennial candidate, citing the Republican's eight runs for public office since 2002.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out the Fox News article about the NRCC’s opposition research effort described McBath, who took up advocacy against gun violence after the killing of her son Jordan Davis, as a “racial justice activist.” 

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