President Donald Trump’s decision to tap U.S. Rep. Tom Price as his health and human services secretary has triggered a scramble to represent his solidly-conservative suburban Atlanta district.
A former statewide officeholder, several current and former lawmakers and a handful of wealthy political newcomers are among the candidates running to replace the six-term Roswell Republican.
Some analysts are predicting the race to represent the 6th District, an affluent swath of the metro Atlanta suburbs that stretches from north DeKalb and Fulton counties to east Cobb, to be one of the most crowded and expensive special election contests in Georgia history.
It’s a challenging district for the dozen or so potential Republican candidates eyeing the race. Although Price won his six terms with relative ease, many of the Republicans in the establishment-friendly north Atlanta suburbs spurned Trump. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the district in the GOP presidential primary in March and Trump eked out a razor-thin victory there in November.
Republicans are favored to hold the seat, but at least three well-known Democrats have stepped forward.
The clock is ticking: The election will be held on April 18, and a runoff is set for June 20. A three-day qualifying period for the seat begins on Monday.
Mohammad Ali Bhuiyan: A Cobb County economist who led an aborted effort to hold a Nobel peace summit in Atlanta, Bhuiyan is advertising himself as potentially the first Republican Muslim member of the U.S. House — and an enemy to “out of control” government spending.
Johns Creek Councilman Bob Gray: The business executive is running as a “willing partner” with Trump and has hired several of the president’s one-time Georgia field operatives to run his campaign.
Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel: As a former chair of the Fulton County commission, she has deep roots in north Fulton County and remains a powerbroker in the area. She also enjoys high name recognition throughout the district, thanks in part to her 2010 campaign for governor and 2014 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Although she hasn’t formally announced a bid yet, she’s filed preliminary paperwork to launch her campaign.
State Sen. Judson Hill: The first Republican to announce a bid, Hill jumped in shortly after Price was nominated. Almost all of Hill’s Senate territory – which stretches from Cobb County to Sandy Springs – is in Price’s district. And as the only high-profile Cobb candidate, he hopes to unite the county’s voters behind him. He’s already scheduled two fundraisers, including one co-hosted by GOP uber-lobbyist Brad Alexander.
Bruce LeVell. As the head of Trump’s diversity coalition, the Dunwoody jeweler might have the biggest claim of any potential candidates to family’s endorsement. LeVell once led the Gwinnett GOP and served on MARTA’s board for five years, and the Sandy Springs resident would likely wage a Trump-inspired campaign. He’s said he wouldn’t accept money from “special interests” and would commit to serving only four terms – as long as Trump was in office.
Former state Sen. Dan Moody: The one-time Roswell politician is also a U.S. Army veteran who served on the state Department of Transportation board. If he jumps in the race – he has already filled out preliminary paperwork – he is likely to focus on a support for term limits. He’s also expected to dig deep in his wallet to finance his own campaign.
State Rep. Betty Price: Tom Price’s wife would have tremendous name recognition in the district, and in November she won another term as a state legislator representing a Roswell-based stretch of his district. She had earlier said it was “premature” to comment.
Kelly Stewart: The former Johns Creek councilwoman would also likely try to position herself as an outsider who can fund her own campaign.
Kurt Wilson: A Roswell small business owner who appears ready to challenge his rivals to sign a term-limit pledge that includes a promise that he and his family members will never lobby Congress for the rest of their lives.
Former state Rep. Sally Harrell: The former lawmaker – she represented a DeKalb district from 1999-2005 – has the support of several local legislators, including state Sen. Elena Parent and state Rep. Scott Holcomb.
Jon Ossoff: The 29-year-old small business owner – he runs a firm specializing in anti-corruption investigations – once worked as a congressional aide and has the endorsements of Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson as well as some other party leaders. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he’s lined up more than $250,000 in financial commitments from supporters.
Former state Sen. Ron Slotin: A former publisher of Atlanta Jewish Life, Slotin represented a north Atlanta Senate district until 1996, when he lost a bid to oust Rep. Cynthia McKinney. He is running as a “progressive” who can fight Trump’s policies.