A former Atlanta TV anchor on Monday entered the race to represent Georgia’s 6th District, placing a calculated bet that he can succeed where Jon Ossoff failed in flipping the suburban Atlanta district.
Bobby Kaple, who resigned recently from the local CBS affiliate to run for office, said he's focusing his Democratic campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel on a pledge for “affordable, accessible healthcare” and a vow to work across party lines.
“I can’t sit behind the anchor desk to report on this mess,” said Kaple. “I’ve got to do what I can to try to fix it.”
Whether Kaple faces stiff Democratic competition is still unknown. Ossoff still hasn’t said whether he’s running again next year, though he’s dropped hints that he might run and has recently met with state legislative candidates and party officials about how he can help with other races.
The race to represent the 6th district, which stretches from north DeKalb to east Cobb, became one of the nation’s premier political contests when longtime Rep. Tom Price resigned to join Donald Trump’s cabinet.
The contest wound up being the most expensive U.S. House race ever, a roughly $60 million fight fueled by powerful outside groups and out-of-state donations from contributors who saw it as an early test of Trump’s popularity in conservative-tilting suburbs.
Ossoff became a household name in Atlanta by raising $30 million – shattering fundraising records – only to lose the June runoff to Handel by 4 points. At an event last week, he played up the drama.
“They’re feeling a little nervous, don’t want another big showdown in the Sixth,” he said of antsy Republicans at the Cobb County Democratic fundraiser. “So I say we let them sweat a little longer.”
Ossoff’s deliberation has also frozen the Democratic field – until Monday. Kaple said he told Ossoff last week about his candidacy, and said he’s not turning back even if Ossoff jumps in the race.
“I voted for Jon Ossoff. I was proud to see him step up and run. But this is a different election and I’m a different candidate,” said Kaple, adding: “I’m in no matter what.”
In a statement, Handel signaled she was unfazed by the competition.
"My total focus right now is on the constituents of the Sixth District and the issues that are important to them, such as tax reform," she said.
Kaple, 34, graduated from the University of Miami and worked for TV markets in Iowa, south Florida and Los Angeles before moving to Atlanta in 2015. He lives in Milton with his wife Rebecca, a television sports reporter, and twin children.
It was his twins’ medical plight that helped inspire his run. Born prematurely, the two racked up hundreds of thousands of medical bills that could have bankrupted his family if not for their health insurance coverage.
He said he would work to “fix soaring premiums” afflicting the Affordable Care Act, but said he vociferously objected to Handel’s call to repeal the law and replace it with a GOP version that he said could threaten coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“I’m going to make this campaign about me and what I can do positively in this district, but it’s also going to be a referendum on Karen Handel as well,” said Kaple, adding that her healthcare stance is “not looking out for families like mine.”
“Every chance she gets, she stands with the special interests and the lobbyists,” said Kaple.
It’s unclear whether he plans to self-finance his own campaign – he declined to comment about his financial strategy – but he called the $60 million pricetag of this year’s special election “outrageous.”
“I’ll have enough money to compete with Handel – and I’ll leave it at that for now,” he said.
He’s at least the second news anchor to run for office this cycle. Chris Hurst quit his job months after his girlfriend was fatally shot during a live news broadcast and announced his bid for the Virginia House of Delegates.
Kaple co-hosted the CBS46 early morning and noon shows until he stepped down in mid-September to prepare for his bid. He said his journalism background gives him a window into the struggles and ambitions of suburban Atlanta voters – and what he calls a “front row seat to the dysfunction in Washington.”
“I’ve been able to spend my entire career digging into local communities across the country, and in Atlanta” he said, adding: “It’s given me a lot more compassion – and it makes me want to represent them in Congress.”
More recent AJC coverage of the 6th District race