May 3, 2022 - Politics

Georgia's Democratic Congressional showdown

Illustration of a donkey torn in half.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Congresswomen Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) heralded a seismic shift in Georgia politics when they flipped neighboring Republican suburban Atlanta districts in 2018 and 2020.

  • Now, they're facing one another in the final stretch of a primary battle over the redrawn 7th Congressional District.

Catch up quick: The showdown comes after Republicans who control once-a-decade redistricting in the state shifted McBath’s 6th District to lean right, cutting off her prospects for re-election there. Bourdeaux represents the existing 7th District — about two-thirds of which remains in the new lines.

  • McBath tells Axios she switched districts because she won't let Republicans “dictate who represents our communities in Congress.”
  • "I got into this to run against Republicans and to try to defend the country against Trump,” Bourdeaux tells Axios. “I would prefer not to be doing this particular type of race.”

Context: Georgia's 7th is one of five congressional incumbent 2022 matchups. State Rep. Donna McLeod is also in the primary — the only candidate to live within its new boundaries.

The intrigue: Some characterize this race as emblematic of the battle between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. McBath targeted Bourdeaux for voting in past Republican primaries in a recent debate.

  • Bourdeaux joined a group of centrist members who pressured Democratic leadership to pass the infrastructure package before voting on a budget resolution last year.
  • McBath tells Axios she's proud of her “unwavering support of President Biden's agenda. I've never wavered. I've never tried to oppose it or obstruct it.”

Yes, but: Emory political scientist Andra Gillespie said their voting records aren't that far apart, despite their different brands. "Nobody is going to characterize Lucy McBath as being a member of the 'Squad.'"

  • According to a Pro Publica review, the two Democrats have voted on party lines at roughly the same rate. FiveThirtyEight labels both as voting 100% with Biden.

What they’re saying: Bourdeaux cites the grassroots support she has built over five years of campaigning. “I am very pragmatic, and I'm very grounded in this community,” she tells Axios. (Bourdeaux won the seat in 2020 after narrowly losing in 2018.)

  • McBath countered that the issues in the new 7th “are no different than the issues that people are concerned about in the existing 6th. The problems that people have, the concerns that they have, the things that keep them up at night, is no different.”

Of note: The new 7th District is majority minority, which could give McBath an edge, Gillespie said. “Bourdeaux brings an incumbency advantage to the table…but at the same time, demographically the district looks more like McBath than it does like Bourdeaux."

The bottom line: Given Bourdeaux’s ties to the community and McBath’s name ID, this is a difficult choice for Democratic voters. There’s been no independent polling on the race, and neither camp has released internal numbers.

  • Troy Ciers, who attended a Bourdeaux fundraiser, tells Axios he’s undecided after learning about McBath’s challenge: “I like them both. I’m caught. I hate to think we would have to lose one of them.”
  • Georgia state Rep. Sam Park isn’t endorsing in the race. As he tells Axios: “I certainly share the sentiment of voters in the 7th Congressional District, myself being one of them, that this is a very difficult choice to make.”
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