None of their websites say they like baseball, hot dogs or apple pie, but the nine candidates for the Republican nomination for the United States House seat in Georgia's 14th congressional district claim to have nearly every other all-American attribute.
Several who want to represent the 12 Northwest Georgia counties (Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Polk, Walker, Whitfield, and a portion of Pickens counties) say they're small business owners, at least three are military veterans, two have North Georgia roots back to the 18th century and two say they've been Boy Scout leaders. Nearly all claim to be gun rights supporters and Christians, with one saying he's a Sunday school teachers and another a former gospel singer.
One grew up with a widowed mom who was a lunch lady, another was raised on a farm and a third met former President Ronald Reagan, patron saint to today's conservatives, while in high school.
Trumpeting the emblems of their conservative bona fides is not without reason. The district, created by redistricting following the 2010 census, was judged by the 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index to be the 10th most Republican seat in the country. Indeed, the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales and Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball, who all track national political races, rate it as a "solid Republican" or "safe Republican" district for November.
It also has no incumbent, which is why nine GOP candidates are in the June 9 primary (with a likely runoff Aug. 11). The winner will face Democratic Kevin Van Ausdal, an Indiana native who has lived in the district for eight years and says he works in the financial technology industry. The district's incumbent, Tom Graves, surprised his colleagues in December by saying he would not run for a sixth term.
The district gave GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney 73.2% of the vote in 2012 and Donald Trump 75% of the vote in 2016.
Trump is a shoo-in to win a large majority of the district votes in the fall, so most of the nine prominently mention the president in their advertising or on their website.
For instance, businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene says she "100% stands with President Trump and against the left-wing socialists who want to wreck our country." Meanwhile, former Georgia state superintendent of schools John Barge will "work alongside President Trump to drain the liberal swamp," Clayton Fuller points to himself as an actual Trump appointee as a White House fellow, neurosurgeon Dr. John Cowan declares he will "stand with President Trump," businessman Ben Bullock says he'll "support President Trump and his pledge America will never be a socialist country," former state Rep. Bill Hembree says he was "one of the first state lawmakers to actively campaign for Donald Trump" and businessman Matt Laughridge says he's "built hotels and condos like President Trump."
Through the first quarter of 2020, Greene had a more than 2-to-1 lead in fundraising over Cowan, her nearest opponent, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Greene touts the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the House Freedom Fund and Gun Owners of America, and Cowan points to his endorsement by four Georgia state representatives. Kevin Cooke and Hembree each say they are backed by a current Georgia congressman, and Bullock points to a former state senator and a former state representative in his corner.
Interestingly, two of the candidates dropped out of other races to enter the campaign. Bullock, then a resident of Gwinnett County, left the 7th District race in January and later moved to Paulding County, where he said his family has deep roots. Greene, then a resident of Alpharetta, left the 6th District race in December, was the first to declare for the 14th District after Graves' announcement, and later moved into the district in Rome.
The only Republican candidate who lives in the more rural northern half of the district, which extends along the Tennessee border to Murray County in the east and down the Alabama border on the west to Haralson County, is Fuller, who lives in Dade County on Lookout Mountain. Ironically, he also is the only candidate not allowed to personally campaign or raise funds because of his current status as a federally funded member of the Air National Guard.
However, the former White House fellow and former prosecutor in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit is one of at least three District 14 candidates who have made ad buys in the Chattanooga market. The other two who have been seen in frequent campaign ads are Greene and Cowan.
A tag line on one of Fuller's television ads says "On Duty For Us," shows him leaving behind his wife and family for National Guard duty, and explains how he's been called up to help "contain the coronavirus."
Whether he will be able to marshal enough support in the northern half of the district to outdo the vote split by the seven candidates in the more populous southern half remains to be seen. But one thing is clear. The candidate likely to represent the district in the end, according to their words, will be a rock-ribbed conservative and a loyal supporter of Trump.