The four Democrats vying in the May 22 primary for the right to challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Karen Handel have dozens of policy positions. But each of them also cites a political issue that affects them personally as among their inspirations for running, from immigration to LGBT rights, healthcare to gun violence.

The following is a roundup of those personal political positions from Democrats Kevin Abel, Steven Knight Griffin, Bobby Kaple and Lucy McBath, one of whom will battle Handel in the Nov. 7 general election for the 6th Congressional District seat, which includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Charlie Harper, a spokesperson for Handel’s campaign, declined to respond to the Democrats’ specific criticisms or offer her policy positions on the same issues.

“Congresswoman Handel recognizes that the Democrats are going to attack, since they have no agenda beyond ‘resist.’ Still, she wishes them well in their primary,” Harper said. “Meanwhile, Congresswoman Handel will continue to work hard for the district and looks forward to earning the vote of the people of the district based on her record and accomplishments.”

Kevin Abel: immigration

Kevin Abel

Abel is an immigrant from South Africa. “I’m an immigrant to this country and I have been so fortunate to live the American dream,” he said in a recent written statement to the Reporter, “but I’m afraid that dream is unavailable to so many, and will be even less accessible for future generations.”

President Trump’s immigration policies, such as a proposed Mexican border wall and restrictions on refugee resettlement from certain countries, are among the issues that concern Abel, who is also vice-chair at New American Pathways, a Tucker-based refugee assistance nonprofit.

Abel previously told the Reporter that Trump’s election was an “absolute disaster for refugee resettlement from Day One,” Abel said. At an April 9 forum in Sandy Springs, Abel said Trump “stokes fear and dredges up hate… He soils the idea of what it means to be American,” and criticized Handel as a Trump-backer.

Steven Knight Griffin: LGBT rights

Steven Knight Griffin

Griffin is gay and says LGBT rights are among the factors that led him to run. He said he hopes to marry his current partner and sees his campaign “as much a fight for our future as it is one for the larger LGBTQ community.” LGBT rights are mentioned in his campaign materials, but he elaborated on their personal significance, and a call for “dignity, justice and legal equality” for LGBT people, in an email to the Reporter.

“Despite Karen’s previous ties to the [pro-LGBT] Log Cabin Republicans, she has proven to be an enemy of LGBTQ rights,” Griffin wrote, “and where she has not been actively opposed to our rights, she has been silent in our defense.”

“She claims to base her viewpoint on her religious beliefs, but she has never specifically articulated what part of the New Testament command to ‘love thy neighbor’ she finds objectionable,” Griffin continued. “When she talks about having ‘compassion’ for our community, she really means she has pity, because she believes we’re broken. She is wrong. We are not broken – we are people – people with hopes and dreams, people with love in our hearts who aspire to become pillars of our communities and people who seek to create and raise loving families. LGBTQ people deserve better.”

Bobby Kaple: healthcare

Bobby Kaple.

Kaple, a former TV news anchor, has based his campaign on affordable healthcare, partly because his twin children were born prematurely at Buckhead’s Piedmont Hospital and needed extra care to survive. He said their care could have bankrupted a less affluent family, and that the children could have quickly lifetime insurance caps allowed before current healthcare laws.

“I’m running for Congress because my kids, my mom, my family, and countless friends and neighbors, through no fault of their own, have pre-existing conditions,” Kaple said a campaign announcement last fall. “In Congress, I’ll fight passionately to make sure every American has access to affordable healthcare. I will not sit by and let Washington politicians take us back to the days of denying coverage to those who are sick and placing lifetime caps on people’s care. That’s wrong and people here know better.”

At the April 9 forum in Sandy Springs, he said healthcare is a right and that the Affordable Care Act should be reformed, not rejected, but that Republicans have failed to do so.

Lucy McBath: gun violence

Lucy McBath

McBath’s 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was murdered at a Florida gas station in 2012 by a gunman infuriated that he and his friends were playing music loudly, an infamous crime that drew national media coverage and raised issues of gun control and racism.

“The bullet that killed my son also tore a hole in my heart,” McBath says on her campaign website. “But while I grieve Jordan every day, his death also gave my life a new purpose: advocating for gun violence prevention.”

She became Faith and Outreach Leader at Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and a leader in the Everytown for Gun Safety Survivor Network. She also spoke about her son’s death at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

McBath also cites the Feb. 14 school shooting massacre in Florida as another reason to call for tougher gun control laws. She calls for background checks for all gun purchases; raising the minimum gun-buying age to 21; defeating laws that allow governments to accept concealed-carry permits from other jurisdictions; and tougher laws against domestic abusers and other criminals owning guns.

“After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, I knew that I could no longer sit on the sidelines while the politicians in the pocket of the gun manufacturing lobby decide the future of our gun laws,” she says on the campaign website. “While I support the Second Amendment rights of Georgians, we can still advocate for common-sense gun violence prevention to make our communities safer.”

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