While Lerah Lee was in Washington, D.C., for a program that trains Christians to run for political office, she attended a meeting at a club for Republicans. The Duluth resident had been getting a comprehensive background on U.S. political history and the Constitution, and the trip was aimed at giving her a firsthand view of life on Capitol Hill to better equip her for a potential run for office. She just didn’t know what that office would be.
Then a person told Lee that her local congressman had announced he was not running for re-election in 2020.
“I said, ‘I’ve got to go for it,’” Lee told the Forsyth County News.
That brought Lee, a former education executive, into the field of Republicans trying to replace Rep. Rob Woodall in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.
Lee is the first in a crowded group of candidates to seize the “Christian conservative” label. She supports HB 481, the controversial “heartbeat bill” that Gov. Brian Kemp signed on May 7 that prohibits abortion once a heartbeat can be detected by a doctor, and is concerned that some Christian organizations are being erroneously targeted as hate groups, she said.
Lee said she also believes in border security, smaller government, more tax breaks for small business owners and creative solutions for better transportation options.
But Lee said health care is the most important issue to voters in District 7, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties.
“As I’ve talked to residents, they’ve talked about high premiums, like they have to get $1,000 to talk to a specialist,” Lee said. “It’s just heartbreaking … they sit home instead of going to the doctor.
“Everybody has to have access to effective health care through the free market. It’s a moral imperative.”
Born in Charleston, S.C., Lee also lived in Texas and Virginia growing up. Lee moved back to South Carolina after graduating high school and entered the education field after college. First a teacher, Lee gradually advanced, going from assistant principal to principal to director of early childhood education of the Charleston County school district.
Lee moved to Duluth in 2016, and she’s now in arguably the most competitive U.S. House race in the country after Woodall edged Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux by just 419 votes in 2018. Democratic Party leaders now view the traditionally-conservative seat as theirs for the taking.
But a contingent of Republican candidates has emerged, including longtime State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, former Atlanta Falcons player Joe Profit, Air Force veteran Ben Bullock and physician Rich McCormick.
The Democratic field is just as crowded, led by Bourdeaux again, along with state lawmaker Brenda Lopez Romero, activities Nabilah Islam, attorney Marqus Cole and former Fulton County Commission chairman John Eaves.