Much is unclear about what happens next, but Jones offered some clues. He wrote in his ruling that a new map should include a new majority-Black congressional district in west metro Atlanta, along with seven new majority-Black legislative districts in the areas surrounding Atlanta and Macon.
That could affect the territory now held by a pair of Republicans: U.S. Reps. Barry Loudermilk and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who each represent slices of Atlanta’s western fringes. Another seat that stretches from Atlanta to the west is held by Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, who is Black.
Georgia attorneys are still likely to appeal the ruling, which set a Dec. 8 deadline for state lawmakers to remake the maps. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a special session to begin Nov. 29 to redraw the maps, but how lawmakers will respond is unclear. They could follow Jones’ guidance or press their own vision for political boundaries.
Eager Democrats aren’t waiting for the new boundaries. Some local leaders have already lined up endorsements, appealed to activists and formally launched campaigns — even though the political boundaries remain unsettled.
Among them is Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson, a Democrat who weeks ago announced her campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick in the 6th Congressional District.
“We appreciate the judge affirming the plaintiffs’ case,” Richardson said Thursday. “We will now watch to see what lines the Legislature will determine, but until that day, I’m still as committed as I was a month ago to flipping the 6th.”
‘One thing is certain’
Until now, much of the focus of the legal fight over redistricting had spotlighted the seats held by McCormick and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who each took their own twisting paths to represent swaths of Atlanta’s northern suburbs in Congress.
McBath, a Democrat, vaulted to office in 2018 by winning a district that then spanned from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County. A former flight attendant, her call for gun restrictions was spurred by the murder of her teenage son.
The Republican-controlled Legislature reshaped her district into a GOP stronghold in 2021 by adding white GOP voters, leading her to bolt to a neighboring district based in Gwinnett County. There, she defeated a fellow Democrat to keep a seat in Congress. McCormick, a Republican, went on to capture 62% of the vote in McBath’s former district.
Both have made clear they are girding for a reelection battle, even if it means running in new political territories. McBath’s advisers have even indicated she hasn’t ruled out running in another district — for a third time — to stay on the ballot.
“While the outcome of the process remains unclear, one thing is certain,” McBath spokesman Jake Orvis said. “Rep. McBath will not be letting Republicans in the state Legislature determine when her work serving Georgians is done.”
‘Open their ears’
While U.S. House candidates don’t have to live in the districts they hope to represent, contenders for state legislative seats are required to reside within their districts for at least a year. That complicates the decision-making for legislative candidates, though it hasn’t stopped some from launching bids.
State Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the Georgia House, lives in such a GOP stronghold that no Democrat even bothered to challenge her in 2022. But she has already drawn a challenge from Debra Shigley, a community activist who cited in her campaign launch a GOP effort to expand school vouchers.
And more could soon join the fray. State Rep. Michelle Au, state Sen. Josh McLaurin and Gwinnett County Commissioner Kirkland Carden are among the potential Democratic candidates for U.S. House seats.
In an interview, Carden had choice words for GOP lawmakers as they prepare to revisit the maps.
“If they took my advice,” he said, “I would tell them to open their ears, listen to what people say and try to win votes the right way.”