Credit: Courtesy of http://gov.georgia.gov/
(WOMENSENEWS)--When the Georgia legislature approved the nation's most permissive gun law in the country on March 21, Donna Sheldon--one of 13 GOP women tapped by the party's Project GROW for support in key congressional races--saw her hopes fulfilled.
"I not only want to protect gun rights for hunters, but I also want to expand gun rights for personal protection," notes Sheldon on her website. "The only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun."
In 2009, Sheldon led the GOP caucus in the Georgia House, which had initiated the measure to permit guns in schools, churches, airports and governmental buildings.
In August, Sheldon resigned from the Georgia House to run for Congress so she did not vote on the measure, which had stalled after the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
At a meeting of the Athens County Clarke Republican County Party in October, Sheldon urged passage of the law, according to an article in the Athens Banner Herald. "After Newtown, states across the country were passing legislation to restrict Second Amendment rights," she is quoted as saying. "But I was leading the charge in the General Assembly to expand them, and it was an honor to do so."
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign the law, which also extends the stand-your-ground statue that permits armed citizens to defend themselves with deadly force if they believe they are faced with serious physical harm.
A-Plus Rating from NRA
Sheldon, who has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, has vowed to continue the fight in Congress, where she hopes to bring her staunch anti-abortion, pro-gun credentials if she wins her bid to represent the 10th district.
Hunting is popular in the 25-county district, which is a mix of suburban Atlanta and parts of rural East Central Georgia west of Augusta and northeast of Mason.
In late March, Sheldon got other good news. She became the second Georgia congressional candidate in the 2014 race to be endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, the Washington-based PAC, founded in 1992 to back anti-abortion female candidates for Congress.
The other candidate was Karen Handel, the former Georgia secretary of state, a Republican who is running for the seat of Saxby Chambliss, a U.S. Senate Republican who is retiring after the November elections.
"Sheldon is exactly the type of courageous and resolute pro-life candidate that the SBA List Candidate Fund exists to support," said SBA List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a March 24 press statement praising Sheldon for being a lead sponsor of a 2012 measure that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Thanks to Sheldon's support, Dannenfelser said, Georgia became one of a dozen states to pass such historic legislation.
Sheldon's website said she backed the measure because "as the grandmother of three children who weighed 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, I know that a baby the size of your hand is a person that feels pain and recognizes their mother's voice."
Plenty of Competition
But she faces plenty of competition because the retirement of Chambliss stirs up the May 20 open primary for the U.S. House of Representatives as some incumbents vacate their seats to make Senate bids.
Georgia is a Republican stronghold in the South. In addition to holding nine of the 14 congressional districts, the GOP holds all statewide offices and a majority of seats in the legislature.
Sheldon received a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union in August, and she hopes to replace Rep. Paul Broun, a general medicine physician who is one of seven Republicans running for the Chambliss seat. Four Democrats are running for the open Senate seat.
Unlike Broun who easily won in 2012 because he was unopposed in the general election, Sheldon faces an uphill battle. Her six male GOP opponents in the primary include a Tea Party activist, the former Columbia County GOP chair and a minister who is also a talk show host.
Like Broun, whose first act in Congress was to introduce a bill to outlaw abortion, Sheldon has an A rating from Georgia Right to Life and opposes funds for Planned Parenthood and the sale of over-the-counter morning-after pills.
So far, three of Sheldon's opponents have cited their support for what they describe as pro-life legislation. Others may do so to encourage a large turnout by social conservatives who often cast the decisive votes in hotly contested primary races in Georgia.
Although Georgia has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the nation--1-in-5 individuals lacks coverage--Sheldon has made repealing the Affordable Care Act a centerpiece of her campaign.
"It was a terrible idea from the beginning," she noted in her blog. "The cost is making us long for the days when it would have cost only $900 billion."
Slashing the Deficit
Proposals to slash the federal deficit have dominated early debates by the GOP candidates. Sheldon's male opponents have cited examples of how their experiences as attorneys, entrepreneurs and military officers have prepared them to end government waste.
Sheldon contends that she is the best qualified for the task because--in addition to owning a small business for 12 years--she is the only one who has held public office and instituted such cuts. She led the fight in the Georgia House to implement the Governmental Accountability Act that requires the state legislature to review each agency to determine if it could be eliminated because its services are unnecessary or duplicates those of other agencies.
Sheldon was the top fundraiser in the crowded field with $384,056 as of Jan. 31, unlike many female congressional candidates in other states who have lagged behind their male opponents in raising campaign funds.
Mike Collins, a trucking executive who is the son of the former congressman who represented the old 8th district, was second with $324,607, federal election commission records show. Jody Hise, a minister who has been endorsed by Citizens United Political Victory Fund and the Walton County Tea Party, was third with $182,567.
A lone Democrat, Ken Dious, has also filed for the May 20 open primary to represent the congressional district. The first African American attorney to practice in Northeast Georgia, Dious was an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Twenty-five percent of the 691,976 residents of the 10th district are African American and 4.7 percent are Hispanic, notes the U.S. Census.
Sharon Johnson is a New York-based freelance writer.
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