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Impeachment divide grows between Georgia’s Dem candidates, incumbents

Roughly 60 House Democrats have called for Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, but so far none of their Georgia colleagues have publicly joined the push. 

It’s a different story among the gaggle of Democratic challengers seeking to establish a foothold in the state’s most competitive U.S. House and Senate primaries. A handful of those candidates have endorsed impeachment, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of Democratic congressional hopefuls. 

The Georgia divide showcases the pressures Democrats face as they reckon with one of their most sensitive and important political questions ahead of the 2020 elections. 

An increasing number of Democratic challengers in Georgia see impeachment as a sacred constitutional duty that the House must embark on to check a president who recently indicated he may accept foreign help during his re-election campaign. 

“Trump's disregard for Congressional subpoenas and committee investigations shows that a fair investigation process will not work,” said state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, one of five Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based 7th Congressional District. “Our country deserves an impeachment inquiry to begin and for Congress to continue seeking information of misconduct unbecoming of the President.”

The state’s five Democratic incumbents on Capitol Hill, however, are approaching the matter differently.

Four of them signaled last week that they’re sticking with the more incremental approach being spearheaded by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even as none have ruled out impeachment. (U.S. Rep. David Scott’s office did not respond to requests for comment.) 

“We need to get all the facts and expose the facts to the American people,” said U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. “At that point we’ll move on to the next stage if and when that’s merited.” 

Pelosi has urged her party’s members to double down on committee-level investigations and oversight work as court fights play out over previously-withheld White House documents.

Mindful of the 40-odd House seats the party is currently defending in Trump districts – including U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s in the Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb-based 6th District – Pelosi and her deputies say they want public opinion behind them before undertaking a bold action like impeachment. 

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that 61 percent of Americans oppose opening an impeachment inquiry, even as 62 percent of Democrats support doing so.

Despite a majority of Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment, now voicing support for opening proceedings, both of Georgia’s committee members have urged caution. That includes Hank Johnson of Lithonia, a senior Democrat on the panel and one of the Georgia delegation’s most liberal members. 

“The American people don’t support it, and until they do I think we should refrain from embarking upon an impeachment inquiry,” he said Wednesday. “I shudder to think what happens if Trump gets reelected, we have a Republican Senate and Democrats lose the House.” 

Even Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta, a prominent Trump critic who voted for a non-binding impeachment resolution in 2018, said last week that he was undecided. 

“I have not decided to do anything but continue to listen and to try to get all the information I can,” he told the AJC. “I support the position of the speaker. I could be persuaded in attending the meetings and being informed but have not arrived at a decision. But something must give.” 

There are plenty of political considerations for Democrats as they map out their 2020 game plans in Georgia. In addition to defending McBath’s seat in the north Atlanta suburbs, they’re seeking to win the nearby 7th District and flip David Perdue’s Senate seat during a noisy presidential year in which Trump is also on the ballot. 

The calculus is different for Democratic candidates seeking to win over more progressive members of the party’s base that tend to dominate primary voting and are increasingly pushing for impeachment. 

The AJC asked all of Georgia’s Democratic members of Congress and major metro Atlanta House and Senate candidates about where they stand on impeachment. Here’s what they said: 

Incumbents 

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, 2nd District 

Comments to the AJC on 6.12.19: “I am in agreement with the approach that the speaker has taken, that we need to get all the facts and expose the facts to the American people and at that point we’ll move on to the next stage if and when that’s merited.”

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, 4th District

Comments to the AJC on 6.12.19: “I think it’s not now time for impeachment. The American people don’t support it, and until they do I think we should refrain from embarking upon an impeachment inquiry.” 

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, 5th District

Comments to the AJC on 6.12.19: “I support the position of the speaker. I could be persuaded in attending the meetings and being informed but have not arrived at a decision. But something must give.”

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, 6th District

Town hall remarks on 6.8.19: “We need to hear from the witnesses who can give us the truth as to what actually happened. We need to make sure that no entity, and no one person, is above the law. … At the end of the day, the chips will fall where they may.”

U.S. Rep. David Scott, 13th District

Position unknown. He voted for a non-binding impeachment resolution in January 2018 – when Democrats were in the House minority – but against a similar measure a month earlier. 

Challengers 

Teresa Tomlinson, U.S. Senate 

Emailed statement on 4.23.19: “The actions in the Mueller report fall within the scope of high crimes and misdemeanors and warrant an impeachment inquiry…. Congress has the duty to investigate now. Deferring based on a perception of what might impact an election in a year or two is a dereliction of duty. If the hearings reveal grounds of impeachment, then Congress must proceed in a timely manner unimpeded by the election calendar.”

Carolyn Bourdeaux, 7th District 

Tweet on 4.19.19: “Yesterday’s release of the Mueller report lays bare that we have a president who rejects the basic ethics required to lead our country … We need members of Congress to now perform their constitutional oversight duties and investigate these matters further – and reaffirm that no one is above the law.” 

Marqus Cole, 7th District 

Emailed statement on 6.14.19: “…After the Mueller hearing/presser, it is clear that there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. I want to stress that this is a constitutional matter and not a political one. An impeachment inquiry should begin and each member of Congress should go on record to determine once and for all whether or not they choose their party over the Constitution and the rule of law. "

Nabilah Islam, 7th District 

Emailed statement on 5.30.19: “Robert Mueller’s statement coupled with the Trump Administration’s complete disregard for Congress, subpoenas and the rule of law make it clear - he has something to hide. It’s time for Congress to do its job and get to the bottom of it... I encourage the rest of candidates in the Democratic primary in GA-07 to join me in calling for impeachment proceedings to begin immediately.”

Brenda Lopez Romero, 7th District 

Emailed statement on 6.14.19: “... Trump's disregard for Congressional subpoenas and committee investigations shows that a fair investigation process will not work. Our country deserves an impeachment inquiry to begin and for Congress to continue seeking information of misconduct unbecoming of the President.” 

John Eaves, 7th District

Position unknown 

Michael Owens, 13th District 

Emailed statement on 6.15.19: “I don't believe that we should allow the president or anyone to escape the necessity of investigation of wrongdoing because it may be politically inconvenient. I'm not worried about rallying the president's base… It is Congress’ job to provide oversight and the Constitution gives them the power and responsibility to inquire if President Trump has engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

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