First Democrat To Represent A Suburban Atlanta District Prioritizes Gun Control

22 hours ago
Originally published on November 10, 2018 10:22 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Six years ago, Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African-American, was shot after an argument at a gas station over loud music. Now his mother, Lucy McBath, is going to Congress - the first Democrat to represent a suburban Atlanta district in 40 years. A special election for the same seat last year turned into the most expensive House race in U.S. history. From member station WABE, Lisa Hagen reports.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.

LISA HAGEN, BYLINE: Election night in Georgia came and went without a clear answer for the Lucy McBath campaign. On Tuesday, she reminded supporters of her roots as a gun safety activist.

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LUCY MCBATH: And on November 23, 2012, I got the call that no parent should ever, ever have to get. And I learned that my son had been murdered in Jacksonville, Fla.

HAGEN: McBath said the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February had pushed her to run for Congress. This week, it took two days for opponent Karen Handel to concede that the McBath campaign did finally flip the 6th.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Flip the 6th, flip the 6th, flip the 6th.

HAGEN: Less than a year earlier, it hadn't worked. The 2017 special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District was labeled an early test of whether that blue wave was going to rise up against President Donald Trump. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff had raised almost 30 million campaign dollars. The night he lost, Handel supporter Pamela Alayon summed up the Republican mood.

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PAMELA ALAYON: They did everything. They spent all that money and threw the kitchen sink in, and they still lost.

HAGEN: So this year, even though polling numbers showed a very tight race...

KERWIN SWINT: I think the natural inclination was just to say that Handel probably has this district pretty well taken care of.

HAGEN: Kerwin Swint teaches political science at Kennesaw State University. He says outgoing congress member Handel has had a fairly traditional Republican stance on gun rights. It's won her an A rating from the National Rifle Association.

SWINT: The problem is it's not the kind of district where gun rights, NRA-type issues is particularly prevalent. I mean, it's a suburban district, a lot of college-educated voters.

HAGEN: Swint thinks Ossoff's huge campaign last year helped lay the groundwork for McBath's network of volunteers. After Parkland, gun safety advocates rallied around her cause. And in the end, he says gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams gave her a huge push turnout-wise. In Congress, Lucy McBath has promised to fight for universal background checks and red flag laws. For NPR News, I'm Lisa Hagen in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.