6th District: McBath Finds a Mission
Georgia Politics6th Congressional District

6th District: McBath Finds a Mission

Lucy McBath's crusade against gun violence is only the start of her entry into politics.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Lucy McBath (Photo by Michael A. Schwarz)
Lucy McBath (Photo by Michael A. Schwarz)

This is one of four profiles of Democrats running in the May 22 primary to win a chance to challenge Rep. Karen Handel for her 6th District congressional seat in November. See links to a campaign overview and the other three profiles below.

Lucy McBath’s knowledge of gun issues after her son’s death led Rep. Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur) to recruit her as a legislative candidate last year.

After campaigning for Hillary Clinton for a year and experiencing her shocking loss, McBath retreated to her Marietta home for a hip replacement and a long-planned three months of self-care. During that time, the Trinity Chapel member said she prayed for guidance on what to do next: “What do I do? Where do I go from here? How do I expand the message? How do I do the work? … “Whatever door You open, I’ll go.”

She didn’t have any desire to run for office, but people kept urging her to run, and groups such as Emily’s List and the Georgia Democratic Party honored her and pushed her toward that path, preparing her for Shannon’s pitch.

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“I’m not a politician. I am not,” McBath said. “But my reality is everything I’ve been talking about to people around the country and specifically my district, I’ve lived that reality.”

She said people around the 6th are afraid “because they don’t know from day to day what’s coming out of Washington. They’re concerned that there’s no consistency. They’re concerned with, you know, how are we going to make ends meet? … They’re concerned about education. They’re concerned about health care.”

And they want and deserve representatives who will work across the aisle to find solutions to this country’s problems, including gun violence, rather than play brinksmanship with threats such as government shutdowns, she said. “When it’s all or nothing, then our people get nothing — nothing.”

Her priority is to apply common sense to reduce gun violence “because we’ve got to do something.” But she insisted that she has no desire to infringe on the Second Amendment.

“I’m absolutely for making sure that we’re keeping people’s ability to own guns,” McBath said. “But, with that, you’ve got to have some responsibility about how you use your guns and where you use your guns.”

She opposes concealed-carry reciprocity, which she called the National Rifle Association’s No. 1 priority, because it would undermine state and local gun controls.

She said Congress can take actions that should be nonpartisan, such as applying background checks to all gun sales and instituting red-flag laws, enabling loved ones to get temporary restraining orders against gun owners at risk of hurting themselves or others.

“When we put in those common-sense solutions, justifiable-homicide and murder rates drop,” she said. “Research and data back it up.”

But McBath is not just the gun control candidate.

She has strong, biblically based feelings for Israel, which is why she named her son Jordan after many years of trying to become pregnant.

“I also understand the importance of the close U.S. alliance with Israel to our national security, as well as peace in the Middle East and around the world,” McBath said. “We also must remember the critical role Israel plays as the Middle East’s only true democracy and as a refuge for people fleeing anti-Semitism around the world.”

She noted her opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and said she hopes to visit Israel for the first time after the election (she had to cancel a planned trip in 2015 when she started working for Everytown for Gun Safety).

She backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with assurances that Israel is secure and Jewish, and worries that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem now threatens the peace process.

On health care, she said it’s important to build on the Affordable Care Act to ensure access to care for all, not dismantle the law and start over.

“That’s not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; that’s a human rights issue. That’s an infringement upon their civil and human rights to be able to live freely and be able to live as long as they can live a good life and be healthy,” McBath said.

The solutions should include a public option and possibly a lower eligibility age for Medicare.

“The only reason I’m here is because I had access to health care” as a Delta employee, the two-time breast cancer survivor said.

It was during one of her battles with cancer that her son moved from his native Cobb County to Florida to live with McBath’s ex-husband while she got healthy. She said Jordan told her that his new classmates in Jacksonville were smart but were off the radar for Ivy League recruiters and rarely had hopes beyond community college.

She found that to be true when she was invited to the high school graduation after Jordan’s death in 2012. “I could count on my hands how many were going outside Florida for school.”

Years earlier, she had homeschooled Jordan in Douglas County to escape a failing school. Her son’s experiences convinced her of the need to improve funding for public education, which she said is vital in each community.

She started the Champion in the Making Legacy Foundation to help kids go to college in the 6th District. It has supported students at Kennesaw State and Georgia State and last year gave out almost $5,000 in academic scholarships. It includes a mentorship program with an emphasis on STEM skills.

“These are some of the things that I’m concerned for Georgia. Jordan was born and raised here. I live here,” McBath said.

She said young people are the key to the country and her campaign.

“They’re the demographic we’ve needed to stand up and go to the polls. This is their civil rights movement,” McBath said. “I am so grateful and so thankful that they are being engaged for their futures. We’ve needed them to stand up.”

The national debt, projected to grow by an additional $1.5 trillion under the tax law enacted late in 2017, gives her another reason to fear for the future of those young people.

“Middle-income families and small businesses are basically the backbone of the United States, and I would love to be able to make sure that they are getting the tax incentives and the tax relief that they need,” McBath said. “So I’m very, very concerned about all of the benefits and the freebies and the tax benefits that are being given to the multinational corporations. I just don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right.”

Her thoughts on some other issues:

  • She opposes President Donald Trump’s planned border wall and his executive orders on immigration and supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for people in this country illegally. “If we have the ability to make sure that people can live a better way because we are a nation of immigrants, then we should afford them that opportunity.”
  • The current Iranian regime is a threat to the rest of the Middle East, but the 2015 nuclear deal should remain in effect.
  • The minimum wage should be raised to a livable level. The resulting reduced financial stress would help families stay together.
  • The federal government should use law enforcement agencies and existing laws, including the hate-crimes statute, to combat rising anti-Semitism, while national leaders speak out against hate and the Education Department develops and funds anti-bias programs in schools.

A decade ago, McBath thought she’d still be flying three days a week and moving toward retirement at age 62. “But this matters because I have had these experiences,” she said. “This has been my reality. … That’s why I feel it’s so important for me to step up.”

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