Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democratic candidate who two years ago narrowly lost her bid to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, faced GOP candidate Rich McCormick for the first time in a debate Wednesday.
The race for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District is one of the most competitive in the country. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce hosted the virtual debate Wednesday evening and its leader tried without luck to steer the candidates in a bipartisan direction.
Woodall, who has represented the north Atlanta district since 2011, didn’t run for reelection this year. McCormick, who is an emergency room doctor and a Suwanee resident, easily emerged as the party’s new nominee in a seven-way GOP contest in June.
Likewise, Bourdeaux – who lost to Woodall by just 419 votes in 2018 – won her party’s nomination without a runoff. The Suwanee resident is a professor of public administration and policy at Georgia State University who spent a few years as the Georgia Senate’s budget director, which was a nonpartisan role.
McCormick is campaigning on promises of small government and a pledge to empower businesses through deregulation, vowing on his website to fight the “radical left” and stop socialism.
“We don’t need the things that have failed in New York and California,” he said, citing “failed leftist policies.” “We need to move back towards what made America successful, which is giving people an opportunity to succeed on their own terms.”
Bourdeaux has put health care at the forefront of her campaign. She backs a public option and has criticized Republicans in Washington for undermining the Affordable Care Act and GOP state leaders for not expanding Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“I got into this race because our elected officials have lost their line of sight to the people of this district, of this state and of this country,” Bourdeaux said. “We need affordable, quality health care. We need to invest in ourselves and education and transportation. We need to renew our democracy, having important conversations about racism, restoring voting rights and making sure we get the special interest money out of our politics.”
Nick Masino, who is the chamber’s president and CEO, interjected at one point to ask the candidates what they will do to foster bipartisanship in Washington in a time of hyper partisan divides.
“I know this has to keep you both up at night because the system is broken and everyone in America knows it,” Masino said.
Masino said the question goes to the heart of what the chamber’s members said they most wanted to hear from the two candidates battling to represent them in a fractured Washington. It was a question he asked twice during the one-hour virtual debate.
Bourdeaux said the challenge is “we have a president who won’t condemn white supremacists.” She also pointed to likely future north Georgia GOP congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been criticized for anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and racially insensitive comments.
McCormick pushed back on Bourdeaux’s comments and leaned on his background as a graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he noted he served as president of the student body. He also said he helped advocate for bipartisan state legislation addressing surprise medical billing.
“As soon as you make this about a party or a politician, you disenfranchise half of all Americans from the solution that we’re trying to get to,” McCormick said.