McBath switching to challenge Bourdeaux after lawmakers OK new GOP-friendly map

By: - November 22, 2021 5:51 pm

Congresswoman Lucy McBath, left, will seek re-election in the district of fellow Democrat Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux, McBath announced Monday.

Gov. Brian Kemp has yet to sign off on the maps that will govern Georgia’s political future for the next decade, but 2022 is already heating up as Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath announced she will take her 2022 campaign on the road and seek re-election not in her current district, now drawn to favor a Republican next year, but in the neighboring district now represented by fellow Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux.

McBath announced her intentions just as the Georgia House was passing the new district map on a party line vote Monday before noon, the final act of the special session that began Nov. 2.

“I refuse to stand down,” McBath said in a statement. “We must fight Republicans every step of the way, and now is not the time to lose a mother on a mission in Congress.”

McBath became a gun safety advocate after her son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012 after an argument over music volume at a Florida gas station. She was elected to the suburban Atlanta district in 2018 after largely campaigning on gun legislation.

“I made a promise to Jordan after he died,” McBath’s statement continues. “I promised that I would do everything in my power to prevent the tragedy that happened to my family from reaching any other. Today, I intend to keep that promise. I am announcing my run for the newly created Democratic district in Georgia. I need you to stand with me because I cannot do this alone.”

Congresswoman Lucy McBath has advocated for gun reform after losing her son Jordan Davis in a shooting. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (2019 photo)

“Simply put, I will not let Brian Kemp, the NRA, and the Republican party decide when my work in Congress on behalf of my son is done,” she added. “Black women are often expected to stand down and step aside, and those are two things I simply refuse to do.”

Bourdeaux indicated she has no plans to stand down either, arguing that her ties to the district make her the best candidate for the job.

“Georgia’s 7th Congressional District is the Gwinnett County District and my home,” she said in a statement Monday. “I’ve run five elections here, and I have deep connections with the diverse communities in our district. Local leaders have my cell phone number, and I have worked with them to expand Medicaid, lower healthcare costs, create universal pre-K and address our unique transit needs. I have also fought to secure emergency SBA loans for our small businesses and establish vaccination clinics, food drives, and jobs fairs. I am deeply vested in the vision of Gwinnett, which is a truly diverse community representing people and cultures from around our country and the world.

“Georgia’s 7th district deserves a representative that understands their issues,” she added. “I am the Gwinnett representative in the race for a predominantly Gwinnett district. The people of the 7th deserve a representative that understands and cares about their needs and has a record of fighting for them in Washington. It’s my hard-fought honor to serve the people of Gwinnett and Georgia’s 7th District, and I look forward to continuing to do so.”

Georgia’s members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent, though most do, and neither McBath nor Bourdeaux live in the newly-drawn 7th District, with Bourdeaux drawn just over the border into the district of Republican Andrew Clyde.

McBath’s district was at the crux of the congressional mapping debate in the Legislature’s special redistricting session. With Kemp’s signature, her current district will stretch north from the left-leaning suburbs of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties into more rural and conservative parts of Cherokee, Forsyth and Dawson Counties, switching from a district that gave President Joe Biden 55.7% of the vote in 2020 to one that favored Donald Trump with 57.8% of the vote.

House Democrats Monday continued to bash the map before the vote to approve it. Brookhaven Rep. Matthew Wilson said its intent is to “legislatively draw and quarter Congresswoman Lucy McBath and scatter to the four winds the Black and brown voters that put her in.

“The truth is, these maps are continuing the same experiment Georgia has been on for most of its history, the one that we continued in March by passing Senate Bill 202: dilute and suppress the voices of Black and brown Georgians to keep white people in power,” he said. “It’s egregious, and it’s shameful, and we all know it.”

Republicans largely painted statements like Wilson’s as political posturing.

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones said changes to McBath’s district were necessary to keep districts even because population numbers increased greatly in metro areas while shrinking elsewhere in the state.

“The map you have before you is a fair, legal map, and one that clearly reflects changes in population,” she said. “I’m also willing to call it out as it is on the minority party for plucking out one congressional district, whether it’s the 6th, the 7th, 14th, what have you, as though it represents a complete puzzle. It’s misleading and disingenuous.”

McBath was seen as the poster child of the political power of Georgia’s younger, more diverse suburban voters, eking out a win against Republican Karen Handel in 2018 before cementing her victory in a decisive 2020 rematch.

That was the same year Bourdeaux flipped the neighboring district, which includes parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, with a similarly tight win against Republican Rich McCormick, two years after she lost to incumbent Rob Woodall by fewer than 500 votes.

She has positioned herself as a moderate, at times frustrating those on her left flank, but her now blueish-purple district is set to greatly increase its share of Biden voters, from 53.3% to 63.1%, by handing its Forsyth precincts to McBath and expanding into part of north Fulton.

Bourdeaux would enter the race with an incumbency advantage, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bulloch.

“It does go a little bit into Fulton County, but in terms of who has represented them, a large chunk of that has been represented by Bourdeaux over the last 9, 10 months, while McBath really hasn’t represented much of it, so she needs to get over there, introduce herself, take speaking engagements, do whatever she can to be present there in the district that is largely the southern half of Gwinnett County,” he said.

But McBath is far from a political nobody, and a battle between the two would bring in copious amounts of attention, not to mention cash. McBath’s campaign has brought in more than $2.4 million this year, and Bourdeaux is not far behind with more than $1.9 million raised.

With two big names and two big war chests, TV viewers should expect to become familiar with both womens’ faces by the time they cast their ballot.

“You have three quarters of a million people living in the district, so there’s no way you can go knock on everybody’s door,” Bullock said. “So this will be the kind of campaign that’s going to be spending a lot of money on Atlanta area television, which is expensive, so they’ll be doing that. (McBath) has an advantage, I think, in the sense that she is a leading spokesperson for gun regulations, and that will help her raise money, not just in Georgia, but nationwide.”

The chance to represent a safe, metro Atlanta district may draw in other candidates, especially from McBath and Bourdeaux’ left, Bullock said. State Rep. Donna McLeod announced her candidacy via Twitter shortly after the maps were approved.

McLeod, a Lawrenceville Democrat, is a chemical engineer who was born in Jamaica and moved to Georgia in 1998. She was first elected in 2018.

An expensive, high profile fight between Democrats would be just fine by the Georgia GOP, especially when no matter who wins in the 7th District, the 6th is likely to go to a Republican, increasing the party’s lead in Congress from an 8 to 6 tilt to 9 to 5.

“Georgians have been suffering at the hands of Lucy McBath’s failed representation and unrelenting support of Joe Biden’s disastrous economic agenda,” said the Republican National Committee’s Georgia press secretary Garrison Douglas. “Lucy McBath’s decision to run against Carolyn Bourdeaux shows just how desperate she and the Democrats are to hold onto power, and Republicans stand ready to defeat whoever comes out on top.”

It remains to be seen to what extent Georgia Republicans will deal with in-party fighting in 2022 — former President Donald Trump has castigated Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for perceived disloyalty following Trump’s 2020 loss in Georgia, which could set the stage for heated GOP primaries as well.

McBath’s announcement put an exclamation point on the final sequence of a contentious special session, but Democrats could be working on a sequel in the form of a lawsuit over the Congressional map as well as legislative maps of the state House and Senate, which they alleged violate the Voting Rights Act.

House Speaker Dave Ralston seemed unperturbed by the prospect Monday after adjournment.

“I think ultimately, it’s up to the courts to (evaluate whether the maps are fair), and I guess they will tell us eventually,” he said. “I’m assuming there will be lawsuits filed galore, quickly, and that’s fine. There were last time, and they were all dismissed, and I think that’s going to be the ultimate test.”

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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. 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.