Georgia Redistricting Could Cost Gun Control Activist Her Seat In Congress

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Democrats are not only heading into the 2022 midterms saddled with Sleepy Joe Biden, his plunging approval ratings, and policies like banning AR-15s that are proving to be highly unpopular with voters; in many states they’re dealing with newly redrawn congressional districts that favor the GOP. Republicans in Georgia have come out with their redistricting plan, and it looks like one of the biggest losers is Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath. As POLITICO reports:

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature revealed a new congressional map on Wednesday that will claw back one of the two seats the party lost over the past three years, leaving only a single district for both of the delegation’s Democratic rising stars.

That marks the start of several weeks of uncomfortable tension and maneuvering for Rep. Lucy McBath, a gun-violence advocate who ousted then-GOP Rep. Karen Handel in 2018 a year after Handel won a blockbuster special election, and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, the only Democratic candidate to flip a swing seat in an otherwise disappointing 2020 election for her party.

In an attempt to contain the explosion of Democratic-leaning communities of color in the northern Atlanta suburbs, the GOP proposal transformed Bourdeaux’s turf into something heavily Democratic, while making McBath’s seat much more Republican-friendly. Their goal: Take two Democratic-trending swing seats, and instead create one red district and one blue district.

The most likely outcome in Georgia after the next election would be a one-seat gain for Republicans, who currently control eight of the state’s 14 seats. But in the immediate term, it could create a primary next spring between two incumbents angling for prominence in a state trending toward Democrats.

“Members being pitted against each other — It’s an unfortunate consequence of redistricting,” said Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who represents a majority-Black district southeast of Atlanta. “It could happen in Georgia.”

In fact, if McBath decides to run for re-election, that will definitely happen. One interesting twist, though, is that neither McBath nor the more centrist Bourdeaux actually live in within the borders of the proposed 7th District. Bourdeaux apparently lives just outside of the district boundary, but McBath might have to contact a realtor if she’s planning on running against Bourdeaux in the primary.

Bourdeaux made clear in a statement on Wednesday that she would be seeking reelection in the new 7th District, which the campaign estimates includes roughly 60 percent of her current turf.

“Over the past year, it has been an honor to represent Georgia’s 7th District in Washington,” she said. “The newly released congressional district map represents a majority of my current constituency. I look forward to being a voice for everyone in this new district as I continue serving our community.”

The 7th District also contains a slice of McBath’s current seat — but not her home in eastern Cobb County. In a statement Wednesday, her campaign slammed the “the NRA, and the Republican Party” who have made “eliminating Lucy McBath from Congress their top priority” in a “remarkably undemocratic process.”

McBath’s complaints about a partisan redistricting process aren’t entirely off-base, but we see this in states controlled by Democrats as well. Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, for example, was recently squeezed out by Democrats who redrew their congressional districts in a way that Kinzinger would have to compete against fellow Republican Darin LaHood.

So, McBath can complain about the process and blame the NRA for the new map, but she’s likely going to have to make a decision; try to compete in the new 7th District by challenging her fellow Democrat or run for re-election in the 6th District, which has become much more Republican-friendly as a result of redistricting.

McBath’s district has been transformed into one that former President Donald Trump would have carried by double-digits in 2020, stretching into the deep-red counties of Cherokee and Forsyth. If she wants to return to Congress in 2022, she will likely have to run against Bourdeaux in the new 7th District.

“I can’t comment on what she is going to do,” said Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who represents DeKalb County and is vice chair for constituency groups in the state party. “But what I will say is she is a well respected and well-liked congresswoman in Georgia. And when she won that 6th Congressional District, she made history, and she made herself a household name. So I see that she is going to continue to have a future in politics. It’s not going to be easy to get rid of her.”

I’m sure McBath will have a future in politics. She can always join Everytown for Gun Safety as a full-time staffer if nothing else. The question is whether she has a future in Congress, and at the moment that looks decidedly iffy. As POLITICO notes, Bourdeaux was one of the few Democratic challengers to actually flip a seat in 2020, in large part because she ran as a moderate, which would be helpful to Democrats in 2022. But McBath has a higher profile thanks to her gun control activism, and while both candidates were endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety in 2020, my guess is that if the pair square off in the 7th District’s Democratic primary next year, the gun control group will either pass on offering an endorsement altogether or will give the nod to McBath because of her longtime role as an anti-gun activist. Either way, the likely result is going to be one less gun control activist from Georgia in Congress starting in 2023.