GEORGIA 7TH: A LOOK AT WHO COULD RUN

It didn’t take long after five-term U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall announced he wouldn’t seek re-election for a sprawling field of roughly a dozen would-be candidates to come into focus. 

The last time Georgia’s 7th District seat was open in 2010, no fewer than eight Republicans jostled to represent the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based seat, which hasn’t elected a Democrat since the mid-1990s. 

A similar number of GOP contenders, including several well-known state legislators, could emerge in the months ahead as the party looks to hold onto the seat in 2020. 

Another fierce battle could come on the Democratic side of the ticket. The party for years struggled to recruit formidable candidates in the north Atlanta suburbs, but changing demographics have helped put the district within reach. 

Georgia State University Professor Carolyn Bourdeaux emerged from a six-person Democratic primary last year and nearly toppled Woodall, coming up 433 votes short following a recount

Bourdeaux has already announced she’ll run again in 2020, but her path to the Democratic nomination may not be a clear one as other well-connected elected officials eye the seat. 

One thing is already evident heading into 2020: the contest is likely to attract outside national attention to a degree the 7th District has never experienced before. 

Here’s a look at some of the candidates the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be watching in the months ahead: 

Democrats 

Carolyn Bourdeaux

The public policy professor and former state budget official was a political neophyte when she announced her bid to challenge Woodall in 2017. After emerging from a testy Democratic primary runoff, Bourdeaux proved to be a formidable fundraiser as she campaigned on a health care-focused platform. She came within a hair of defeating Woodall and announced in February she’ll run again in 2020. 

State Rep. Brenda Lopez

Lopez made history in 2016 when she became the first Latina elected to the Georgia General Assembly. A native of Mexico who came to the U.S. at age 5, Lopez is an attorney who helps immigrants become U.S. citizens. She represents a Norcross-area district and is seen as a rising star within the state party, and is set to decide in the spring.  

State Rep. Sam Park

Park, who represents a Lawrenceville House district, is also a history-making public official. In 2016, he became the first openly gay man to be elected to the Georgia Legislature. He’s also one of the only Asian-Americans serving in the body. He plans to wait until after the legislative session to make a decision. 

Marqus Cole

Cole was the first person to formally announce his candidacy for the 2020 race. The Snellville resident co-founded his own law office, which focuses on civil, criminal and family law. Woodall’s retirement, he said,is a sign the community needs a “fresh voice” to represent it.

Nabilah Islam

The Lawrenceville native has been involved in political activism around the nation since getting her start on Andre Dickens’ run for Atlanta City Council and Jason Carter’s 2014 bid for governor. She raised cash for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, and later worked for the Democratic National Committee. She announced her intent to run for the seat in February. 

Republicans

Lynne Homrich

A former Home Depot executive and founder of a nonprofit organization, Homrich entered the race in April with a pledge to bring the perspective of an “outsider, a businesswoman and a mom” to Congress. She launched her campaign with an ad that featured a string of clips of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who each have fast become the favorite targets of Republicans. 

State Sen. Renee Unterman

One of only two Republican women in the state Senate, Unterman is a former nurse who was the longtime leader of the Senate Health Committee – until her ouster earlier this year. Since then, Unterman has been even more vocal in her frustration with GOP leadership and has expressed interest in the U.S. House seat.

Joe Profit

The former Atlanta Falcons running back quietly announced his candidacy with a website in early 2019, a year after he was trounced by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson in the neighboring 4th District.

Mike Royal

Royal is a longtime Gwinnett politico who was chair of the county GOP and a veteran member of the state school board. He has deep roots in Gwinnett – he graduated from Brookwood High – and now owns an insurance firm. He’s contemplating a run. 

Ex-state Rep. Scott Hilton

Hilton started his career as a newspaper analyst in Philadelphia before moving to Atlanta to become a banking executive – and launch a political career. He was considered a rising star in the Georgia Legislature before he was defeated in the blue wave that swept the suburbs. He recently got a job with the Kemp administration. He’s weighing a bid.

Shane Hazel

The Marine Corps veteran unsuccessfully challenged Woodall in last year’s GOP primary, casting himself as the true conservative who would limit himself to four terms if elected. 

Rick Desai

Desai is a Gwinnett County businessman and former chair of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. He served on the transition team for Kemp and was appointed to state commissions by both Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal. He said he’s been approached by community leaders to run but he’s undecided. 

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