Greene, Cowan set for runoff showdown in Georgia's 14th District

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Stickers sit on a table for voters as they leave the room after voting in the special election for the State House District 5 race at the Calhoun City Recreation Department Tuesday, January 8, 2019 in Calhoun, Georgia. The special election was held to fill the position, which was previously held by Rep. John Meadows, who died in November from cancer.

With one week left until the Aug. 11 runoff election, all eyes in Northwest Georgia are on the 14th Congressional District race between John Cowan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, two Republican candidates who have been at bitter odds since June's primary.

The winner of the GOP runoff will be a heavy favorite in November against the Democratic nominee in the reliably red pocket of the state.

In the primary, Greene - a construction company owner in Milton - received more than 40% of the vote and got nearly twice as many votes as Cowan. The primary field was one of the most crowded races in the state with nine candidates vying for Rep. Tom Graves' seat.

photo Marjorie Greene
photo John Cowan

Cowan, a neurosurgeon and toy company owner from Rome, has stumped for protecting private health care on the campaign trail and has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration.

Both candidates are in support of President Donald Trump and say they will be tough on immigration. They are campaigning as pro-life fiscal conservatives who want smaller government.

In December, Graves surprised the state and many in his own party when he announced he would not run for re-election. The Republican from Ranger will leave office as the most senior Republican in Georgia's House delegation.

With similar stances on issues, the runoff campaign has come down to who might be most effective in Washington.

Pro Trump

Both Greene and Cowan consider themselves pro-Trump. Trump congratulated Greene's primary victory in a tweet, saying she was "a big winner." Greene came out of the primary as the favorite but the race got significantly closer weeks after the primary as several GOP leaders started to distance themselves from the frontrunner.

Trump's tweet came as Greene was facing national backlash for comments she made on videos posted to her personal Facebook page.

In the videos, Greene said Black people "are held slaves to the Democratic Party," stoked fears of "an Islamic invasion of our government" after the first two Muslim women were elected to the U.S. House, and said she would feel "proud" to see a Confederate monument if she were Black because it would symbolize how much progress the country has made since the Civil War.

The videos, which were uncovered by Politico, are the reason many in the Republican party - at the federal, state and local levels - have distanced themselves from Greene.

Greene has also taken heat for promoting conspiracy theories from the group QAnon, spreading unfounded rumors about the mass shooting in Las Vegas and posing for a picture with a longtime and known white supremacist.

Cowan has regularly criticized Greene for originally running for the 6th Congressional seat earlier this campaign season but switching gears to run in the Republican-dominated 14th District when Graves bowed out. Cowan has called Greene an opportunist and has said the Democrats in Washington will take advantage of "all the crazy and ludicrous things" she says.


As a way to distance themselves from each other, both Cowan and Greene have launched personal and professional attacks on the other. After Greene's videos resurfaced, Cowan went on offense and boasted 80 local and state endorsements, claiming Greene had none.

Greene's campaign team told the Times Free Press Cowan's assertion was false.

"We received 43,845 endorsements in the district on Election Day," Greene's campaign manager said, referring to the number of votes Greene received. "Cowan campaigns to politicians. Marjorie campaigns to the people of Northwest Georgia."

In response, Greene called Cowan "soft on Antifa" and said he was not a true Second Amendment supporter.

Throughout the campaign, Greene has turned to Facebook to record long videos speaking to her supporters that focused on national stories of Confederate statues being torn down and when peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd's death became violent. She's also talked often of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other prominent Democratic figures in Washington.

In the weeks leading up to the runoff, Cowan accused Greene's business of failing to comply with mandates that Georgia companies verify if an employee is a U.S. citizen. Greene and her campaign quickly rebutted the accusation, saying her company has used the E-Verify program since 2010, three years before the state required companies to do so by law.

Greene accused Cowan of faking a reserve deputy position with the Floyd County Sheriff's Office. Floyd County Sheriff Tim Birkhaulter confirmed Cowan is a special reserve deputy, a program he joined in January before he announced his candidacy.

Greene also accused Cowan of sending American jobs to China by working with that country with his toy manufacturing company. Cowan said he only purchases from China materials that are only available there, and he said he has not sent a single job to China.

Final details

As of July 22, Greene has raised $1.59 million, which includes a $900,000 loan from herself, and has spent $1.44 million. She has about $143,500 on hand.

Cowan has raised $1.2 million, which includes a $200,000 loan from himself, and has spent $960,000. He has about $237,000 cash on hand.

Heading into the final week of early voting, about 253,000 votes have been cast in Georgia for the runoff. Of those votes, 68% have been absentee mail-in ballots. In the 14th District race, about 26,000 people have already voted.

The 14th District includes Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Polk, Walker, Whitfield and a portion of Pickens counties.

The winner of the Aug. 11 runoff will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in November.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.