7th Congressional District Candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux, who is running against U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga, speaks to supporters at her election night party at Farmhouse 17, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Norcross, Ga. Branden Camp/Special
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

Top Bourdeaux rival endorses her US House bid as she nears victory

A top rival of Democratic congressional candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux endorsed her campaign on Sunday as new election returns suggest she's poised to win the party's nomination for the suburban Atlanta district without a runoff.

Nabilah Islam, who trails in third place, conceded the race and said in an interview that she’s urging other Democrats to unify behind Bordeaux, a public policy professor who would face Republican Rich McCormick in November.

“We need to flip this district blue and keep it out of the hands of extremists,” Islam said. “Carolyn Bourdeaux will give us a voice that represents us all. It’s very important for all of us to get behind her. I want to make sure she has all the backing she needs in order to cross the finish line.” 

National outlets initially projected a runoff early Wednesday between Bourdeaux and state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, but they didn’t account for the tens of thousands of absentee ballots that were tallied in the days after the race. None had called the contest for Bourdeaux by Sunday morning.

The surge of mail-in ballots – which were still being counted Sunday – helped Bourdeaux surpass the majority-vote mark she needs to secure the party’s nod. She’s hovering around 52% of the vote, with thousands more yet to be tallied. 

“We need to come together to be unified,” Bourdeaux said in an interview. “It was important that there were a lot of different voices out there, but we’ve hit a turning point and it’s time to turn our eyes to November.” 

Her other rivals have yet to concede the race. Lopez Romero, who was narrowly leading Islam, said she is waiting until a certified result. An aide to another candidate, state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Bourdeaux is taking another shot at the 7th District, which stretches through parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, after she lost the 2018 race to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall by fewer than 500 votes.

It was the closest U.S. House race in the nation in 2018, and Democrats targeted it this year as a top pickup opportunity even before Woodall announced he wouldn't stand for another term.

She’s poised to face McCormick, who handily defeated state Sen. Renee Unterman and five other candidates to win the GOP nomination.

An emergency room physician and military veteran, McCormick is endorsed by the anti-regulation Club for Growth and has emphasized his support for President Donald Trump. 

“We’ve got to get moving and focus on November,” said Bourdeaux. “Over 100,000 people in this district don’t have health insurance, and we need quality and affordable healthcare. We need investment in education and infrastructure. And we need to restore moral authority and leadership in this country.”

Islam, an activist and first-time candidate, relentlessly appealed to liberal voters who make up an important bloc in the diverse district, and was branded Georgia's version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even before she won the congresswoman's support.

Islam said she'd help Bourdeaux win on the campaign trail and behind the scenes.

“It’s clear that Carolyn is the nominee,” she said, “and we need to get behind her as quickly as we can to make sure she has all the resources and support to flip this district blue.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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