Jun 9, 2022 - Politics

National GOP leaders target southwest Georgia race

Jeremy Hunt and Chris West on a debate stage
Jeremy Hunt, left, and Chris West at the Atlanta Press Club's primary runoff debate Monday. Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP

A Republican runoff in southwest Georgia is gaining national attention.

What’s happening: Jeremy Hunt and Chris West are vying for the chance to unseat Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) — a nearly 30-year veteran of the House.

  • Hunt has pulled in money and endorsements from GOP party leaders hoping to flip the seat, including from the likes of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who headlined a Columbus rally Wednesday for Hunt.

Why it matters: After redistricting, Georgia’s 2nd district — which stretches from Columbus down to the Florida border — is considered the only competitive Congressional race in the state in November.

The big picture: Hunt, an Army veteran and law school student, is also gaining attention as one of an unprecedented number of Republican candidates of color running this year. Hunt, who is Black, tells Axios he was not recruited.

  • In Columbus, Haley told reporters she’s backing Hunt because, “it’s not just about winning races, it’s about getting the right types of people in these races.”
  • Haley said she’s been focused on "trying to expand the tent" of Republican politics and promised increased representation for the GOP will happen this year "in droves."

The other side: West, an attorney from Thomasville and officer in the state Air National Guard, argues he’s the “homegrown” candidate. He has attacked Hunt’s recent move to the district and pulled in endorsements from state lawmakers and former primary opponents. But his fundraising has lagged.

By the numbers: Hunt has out-spent West roughly 10 to 1, by not only raising nearly double the amount of money, but also by pulling in more than $700,000 from national outside groups including the American Patriots PAC.

What they’re saying: West tells Axios: “We want to send somebody to Washington to represent us, not Washington sending somebody to us, to represent us in Washington.”

  • Hunt, on the other hand, points to his family history in the district and tells Axios he’s “thankful” he’s been able to raise money. “That's the reason we haven't been able to beat Sanford Bishop,” he said.

Zoom in: Hunt argues that he’s offering Black conservatives in the district a new option and that he’s “the only candidate who can defeat Sanford Bishop.”

  • “We've been bringing our message to places where it hasn't been before, and we're really excited about that.” He tells Axios he’s visited Black churches which have never had Republicans speak from their pulpits.

What’s next: The runoff is June 21. Rep. Bishop has nearly $800,000 in his campaign account.

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