GOP-weighted congressional district map threatens Rep. Lucy McBath’s hold on seat

By: - November 18, 2021 1:00 am

Democratic congresswoman Lucy McBath flipped a metro Atlanta district in 2018 and held it in 2020, but a new plan released by the state Legislature could flip it back to the GOP in 2022. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgians got their first chance to weigh in on a newly proposed Congressional map Wednesday at a pair of legislative committee meetings convened to discuss it a few hours after it was released.

If approved by both chambers of the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, the new maps will shape Georgia politics for the next ten years, imperiling one metro Atlanta Democratic lawmaker while strengthening another, kicking a north Georgia Republican out of his district and carving a little slice of the Atlanta suburbs for conservative Republican firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The map received a C from the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project, with the researchers flagging the proposal for having no competitive districts and giving an unfair advantage to Republicans. The map would create nine Republican and five Democratic districts, while the researchers found the current split of eight and six is reflective of the state’s political situation and distribution of voters.

Democrats criticizing the GOP-drawn maps argue that Georgia voters narrowly decided statewide elections in 2018 and 2020 and the congressional districts should be drawn to favor equal representation for each party.

Congresswoman Lucy McBath takes the most heat from the new map. Her district in suburban north Fulton and east Cobb counties is set to lose left-leaning voters around Chamblee and Sandy Springs and trade them for Republican voters in Forsyth, Cherokee and Dawson counties.

According to the City University of New York’s Redistricting and You website, McBath’s district is set to shift from voting 55.7% for Joe Biden in the last election to favoring Donald Trump by 57.8%.

If the plan moves forward and McBath is defeated, it won’t be the first time her seat has swapped parties recently. The 6th District was previously represented by stalwart Republican Tom Price, but Democrats set their eyes on flipping it in the past few years as a population boom brought thousands of younger, more diverse residents.

McBath accomplished the flip in 2018, narrowly edging out incumbent Republican Karen Handel, who had been elected to finish the remainder of Price’s term after he was named Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.

McBath won with 50.51% of the vote, but she proved her staying power in a 2020 rematch when she increased her margin of victory to 54.59%.

McBath and Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux in the neighboring district were both considered vulnerable to Republican redistricting, but the transfer of Bourdeaux’s conservative Forsyth precincts to McBath will likely paint Bourdeaux’s electorate a brighter shade of blue – her district is set to increase its share of Biden voters by nearly 10 percentage points to 63.1%.

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Bourdeaux seemed pleased with the arrangement in a statement she released Wednesday.

“The newly released congressional district map represents a majority of my current constituency,” she said. “I look forward to being a voice for everyone in this new district as I continue serving our community.”

McBath’s life story won her support from Democratic voters – she became a gun safety activist after her son Jordan Davis was murdered in what would come to be known as the loud music case. Democratic donors seem to like her as well – in 2020, her campaign raised more than $8 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings, landing her in the top 20 for U.S. House candidates.

McBath reacted to the news with defiance, requesting donors to pitch in more to keep up the fight.

“I’m still processing what this means for my future in Congress and this movement we’ve built together,” she said in an email to supporters. “All I know at this moment as our campaign team processes this latest news is that I’m not going anywhere, team. This movement we’re building in Congress to pass gun safety reform isn’t going anywhere. I need you right here by my side as we fight to stay in Congress.”

So far in the 2022 election cycle, only one Georgia candidate has outraised McBath, and that’s Greene, who has brought in $6.3 million, putting her in eighth place, just behind her congressional rival, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.

The partisan makeup of Greene’s district is designed to remain reliably conservative, dropping slightly from 74.4% Trump to 68.8% Trump.

It will, however, shift geographically, dropping two bright-red areas, Haralson County and the western half of Pickens County, in exchange for a slice of southwest Cobb County that is majority Black and Democratic.

Powder Springs Democratic state Rep. David Wilkerson, whose district would be represented by Greene under the plan, said he was speechless when he saw the map.

“It’s the oddest thing I can say I’ve seen this year,” he said. “I actually had an opportunity to attend the reapportionment meeting they had up in Dalton, and there were people who clearly wanted to keep their community together, they liked Marjorie Taylor Greene, they said she was doing what they wanted up there. You talk to folks in south Cobb, and I think they would have a slightly different opinion.”

Wilkerson said he would try to work with any member of Congress, but he called the move a slap in the face for his community.

“You bypass Bartow County, and you snake around the corner to come through Paulding into Cobb,” he said. “It’s almost like the Confederacy marching around the corner to attack the troops.”

Greene is beloved by her conservative constituents and loathed by liberals for flouting norms of civility and publicly butting heads with more established lawmakers. Most recently, she has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fines for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor.

Another Republican Georgia representative, congressman Andrew Clyde, also faces fines for going into the House with an uncovered face, but the new state map leaves him in a less certain position.

According to data from the nonpartisan Redistricting Data Hub, the map places Clyde outside of his northeast Georgia district and squarely in the one below it, most recently represented by Congressman Jody Hice, who is running for secretary of state rather than seeking re-election to Congress.

Georgia representatives are not required to live in the districts they represent, although most do. But Clyde could decide to run either in his old district or his new one. Either one would favor a Republican, with both districts giving more than 60% of the vote to Trump in 2020.

In southwest Georgia, Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop’s district will continue to favor a Democrat, but it is set to lose its status as a majority Black district. Under the new map, the district voting age population is drawn to be 48.9% Black, down from 50.7%. White people will make up 43.9% of the remainder, with Hispanics accounting for 5.3% and Asian-Americans comprising 1.4%. Voters in the newly drawn district preferred Biden by 55.2%, down from 56.1% in the current map.

At a pair of public hearings held by members of the Georgia House and Senate redistricting committees, speakers from McBath’s district asked lawmakers to keep them grouped together and criticized the haste with which the redistricting process is moving.

“The residents of north Fulton and specifically Johns Creek have not had an opportunity to weigh in on these maps,” said Johns Creek resident Maggie Goldman, who is running as a Democrat for Fulton County commissioner. “We need more time. Keeping north Fulton whole is greatly more important for local issues than adding Dawson and Forsyth to (district) 6. How does Dawson or even Forsyth have anything in common with Sandy Springs?”

The House Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday at noon to review the maps, and the Senate committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.

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