May 2—ATLANTA — Republicans vying to represent Georgia's 14th Congressional District trained their fire on incumbent Marjorie Taylor Greene during a debate Sunday, with several asking the controversial congresswoman: "What have you accomplished?"
The deeply conservative and largely rural 14th District covers most of northwest Georgia. But, on Jan. 1, 2023, it will also include the cities of Powder Springs and Austell in Cobb's southwest corner.
"We're all here because we have concerns about the seat," said Seth Synstelien, a veteran and a member of the Marine Corps Reserve Association's board of directors. "No bill you've authored has passed, and you have no committee power to advocate for this district."
Shortly after taking office in 2021, Greene was stripped of her committee assignments for her past support of the QAnon and other conspiracy theories, severely limiting her ability to influence legislation.
At Sunday's debate, hosted by Georgia Public Broadcasting, Greene boasted of forcing roll-call votes in the House, rather than the voice votes that hide how individual House members voted on particular bills. Greene also claimed to have secured $6 million in federal money for the district.
As others attacked her for her theatrics, spending too much time out of district and her lack of clout within Congress, Greene, in turn, trained her fire on healthcare executive Jennifer Strahan.
Strahan is a distant second to Greene in fundraising among the Republican candidates. According to the most recent data on Opensecrets.org, which tracks candidate fundraising, Greene has raised almost $8.5 million; Strahan has raised less than $400,000.
"You received most of your donations from RINOs in Washington, lobbyists and Democrat donors," Greene said, using the acronym for Republicans In Name Only. "And then next week, you're having a fundraiser with Sen. Bill Cassidy, who was a (President Donald) Trump impeachment voter, which is very offensive to most of our voters in northwest Georgia."
Though she may have received donations from moderate Republicans, she was no RINO, Strahan said.
"The individuals who are supporting me aren't supporting me because they know me, they're supporting me because they know Representative Greene," Strahan said. "I have been very clear from the get-go: I support President Trump, I support his policies ... and we need to send someone to Washington who can promote and protect those policies."
The six candidates ran the gamut Sunday: On one hand, Greene, who repeatedly referred to Congressional Democrats as "communists" and criticized Republicans who have sought compromise with their colleagues across the aisle.
On the other hand was Dr. Charles Lutin, who said the main divisions in the Republican Party were, "No. 1, do we believe in reality?" and, "No. 2, are we going to get along with Democrats or are we going to have a war on the House floor?"
Lutin proclaimed himself a "reality Republican ... a moderate Republican," and said he wouldn't be found "calling Democrats 'communists,' or 'Bolsheviks,' or saying 'they're trying to destroy the country.'"
And there were the candidates somewhere in-between, like Eric Cunningham, an assistant vice president at Plastic Express. Cunningham said he would fight Democrats' "woke, transgender ... agenda." Like Greene, he would have voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election due to "voter fraud." Courts around the country have repeatedly tossed cases alleging voter fraud for lack of evidence.
But he also spoke of trying to broaden the party's appeal, of wooing swing voters and those on the left unhappy with the country's direction.
Synstelien, like Lutin, said it was clear Biden had won.
"The question is whether there's enough fraud to influence the outcome of the election," he said. "And the data isn't there. Trump appointed judges themselves said that the so-called evidence of overwhelming fraud wasn't there."
Strahan and James Haygood, an engineer at BNSF Railway, did not answer directly when asked whether Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Biden is now the president of the United States, they said, but said there were "issues" and "questions" surrounding that election.
Haygood did say, however, that "some Republicans" have veered too far to the right of the political spectrum. Voters in the 14th District just want to be able to buy a house, send a kid to college, and put food on the table.
"The Republicans have to come back to the middle," he said. "You don't have to give up your values. But at some point, you're going to have to agree with the Democrats to get something done."