HIRAM, Ga. (AP) — In her pitch to voters, Jennifer Strahan introduces herself as a mother, a Christian and a conservative. She usually skips over the fellow Republican she hopes to topple later this spring: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
That's because virtually everyone in this northwest Georgia congressional district already has an opinion about Greene, whose extreme rhetoric has left her stripped of committee assignments in Washington and her personal Twitter account permanently banned.
“You don’t always have to go around and tell people what she has done or said," Strahan, the 35-year-old founder of a suburban Atlanta health care advisory firm, said in an interview. "That’s known.”
In her first term in Congress, Greene has emerged as one of the most prominent voices of the GOP's far-right fringe, touting racist and antisemitic tropes, engaging in conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and vaccines and embracing former President Donald Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen. As she seeks reelection promising more of the same, Strahan is among a small group of challengers during Georgia's May 24 primary who argue they can deliver Republican values without the sideshow.
“I think people in this district are mostly tired of her crap,” Charles Lutin, 69, a retired physician and Air Force flight surgeon who is another Republican trying to unseat Greene, said in an interview. “It’s not anything like 95% are tired of her. But I think it’s a good strong majority.”
The race is unfolding in one of the nation's most significant political battlegrounds. In 2020, President Joe Biden was the first Democrat to carry Georgia since 1992. The state is now represented by two Democrats in the Senate. The fall campaign includes closely watched races for Senate and governor where Republicans are hoping to make up for lost ground.
But in some corners of Greene's territory, there's a sense of exhaustion from the nation's overheated politics.
David Harvey, an 85-year-old retiree in Rome, Georgia, voted for Trump in 2016, but he said the former president so divided the party that it led many Georgia conservatives to stay home rather than keep voting Republican. He said he wouldn’t vote for Greene, who he believes “rode Trump’s coattails” to notoriety for all the wrong reasons.
“You don’t want to be a national figure for having been stripped of your committee assignments,” Harvey said.
Greene declined to comment for this story. Her district, which stretches from the Atlanta exurbs to the outskirts of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is firmly Republican. And a massive fundraising advantage will help Greene fend off her opponents.
Her campaign raised nearly $7.5 million through the end of last year. That included $250 from Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson, who bought a raffle ticket as part of a Greene drawing for a 50-caliber rifle — which she promoted with a video using the weapon to blow up a Toyota Prius labeled “socialism.” The haul compared to the less than $120,000 Strahan and Lutin reported combining to raise as of Dec. 31.
Greene's strength can be found along the country roads pushing into the Appalachian foothills where her red, white and blue campaign signs are abundant. They urge supporters to “flood the polls” and “Save America from Communism." Bumper stickers proclaim “Trump: He will be back.”
The Republicans seeking to defeat Greene may benefit from new congressional maps approved by the GOP-controlled state Legislature that shift the district ever closer to the Atlanta region.
It already includes booming exurbs in Paulding County, such as Hiram, a once-quiet railroad town about 35 miles from the city that is now a thriving bedroom community. But it now picks up a slice of Cobb County, a core part of the metropolitan area and a onetime GOP stronghold that shifted steadily to the left during the Trump era.