It’s no secret that Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has a rocky relationship with her own party. In February, she earned the ire of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after she participated in a conference organized by a white nationalist, and in October, she drew criticism for announcing, on the House floor, that her moderate Republican colleague Rep. Liz Cheney was a “joke” for participating in an investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, which Greene has been accused of helping to incite.
But a growing number of Republican lawmakers and lobbyists are hoping that it’s payback time. In the weeks before Georgia’s May 24 primary, Federal Election Commission disclosures show an influx in Republican dollars to Greene’s primary challenger, Jennifer Strahan, a healthcare advisory firm executive with no political experience. That intra-party support might not be enough to unseat Greene in the ultra-conservative 14th district, experts say, as Greene has raised more than $8 million total, more than any other incumbent in the state. But the support is telling: a battle over the soul of the Republican Party is playing out in a slice of northwest Georgia.
Since launching her campaign in early July, Strahan has raised about $322,615—a haul that puts her on par with some incumbent lawmakers running for re-election in Georgia. “For a challenger, that’s a decent amount of money,” says Miles Coleman, the associate editor of the election forecaster ‘Sabato’s Crystal Ball’ at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “Anytime a non-incumbent raises more than five figures in a quarter, it catches my attention.”
Among Strahan’s contributions are a $5,000 donation from Continuing America’s Strength and Security PAC, the leadership PAC of Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, as well as donations from former Virginia GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock and former Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, according to FEC disclosures. Several PACs including Value in Electing Women (VIEW), Associated General Contractors of America and Business-Industry have also given to Strahan’s campaign. It was the first time the VIEW PAC has endorsed a candidate running against an incumbent.
Strahan’s campaign has also received contributions from a handful of Democrats, including lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes, as well as several Atlanta-based consultants and business leaders. From July to December 2021, a third of her donations were from outside of Georgia. “We believe Republicans are moving away from Marjorie Taylor Greene in droves,” says Jake Monssen, Strahan’s communications director. “We hear that from her former supporters everyday on the campaign trail. She’s an absolute, total embarrassment to Georgia and our Party.”
Political insiders aren’t so sure. The conservative rabble rouser known universally as MTG still has about $3 million in campaign funds left on hand, a staggering sum for a district of less than a million people. “It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene against herself,” says Jay Williams, a GOP strategist in Georgia. “She’s not going to lose unless she does something absolutely abhorrent.”
Other hopefuls lining up to challenge Greene in the May 24 primary include Eric Cunningham, James Haygood, Charles Lutin and Seth Synstelien, who have raised just over $32,000 combined in campaign contributions—about a tenth of Strahan’s haul.
While Georgia is becoming a battleground between Republicans and Democrats—with a Democrat winning the state’s Senate seat in 2021—the 14th district remains squarely in Republican hands. It’s considered one of the most Republican districts in the nation, according to a Cook Political Report analysis of election results. The population is overwhelmingly white and largely rural. Most residents have just a high school education and the median household income is about $10,000 less than the national average. For conservatives like Greene, this is home.
“Republicans don’t typically throw out their incumbents,” Williams says, “and this is not a place you can easily do that, especially as a moderate.” The district became slightly more moderate in late December when Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s new congressional map into law, adding a small suburb of Atlanta to its district lines.
Mainstream Republicans and lobbyists who back Strahan’s campaign say they believe she’ll be able to get more stuff done in Washington than Greene, whose two-year freshman term has been distinguished mostly by extracurricular affairs and incendiary comments. “What good is having a conservative representative if they’re not effective,” Coleman says. “If the GOP has all these members like MTG, they may take the majority but they may lose it if this is the face of the party.”
Greene is not known for pushing legislation or policy on the Hill, and she is not a central player in day-to-day congressional affairs. Last February, House Democrats stripped the AR-15 toting, QAnon-adjacent political novice of her committee assignments for pushing unfounded conspiracy theories and lies that included racist and antisemitic tropes. In March, Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, filed a challenge with the Georgia secretary of state’s office that alleges Greene helped facilitate the violent Capitol insurrection, spurring quiet debate among members of her own party that she may be disqualified from office for violating the 14th Amendment.
The lawsuit may be the only thing that could end her political career, Williams says. “It’s literally that—or finding a dead body in the back of her car,” he says. “But it’s not going to happen.”
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