First proposed Georgia congressional map could help GOP pick up a seat

Republicans who hold a majority in the Georgia Senate released the first draft map for new congressional districts Monday, a proposal that shifts political borders and would help the GOP gain a seat if approved.

The map threatens Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s reelection chances by drawing more Republicans into the 6th District she has represented since 2019.

Democrats have picked up two congressional seats in Atlanta’s northern suburbs in the past two elections, and the Republican majority in the General Assembly was expected to try to win one back in redistricting by drawing more GOP areas into one of the districts.

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That is not an easy task because the 2020 census showed Georgia’s suburbs had exploded in population and increased in diversity. These areas are therefore becoming more Democratic-leaning.

If the proposed map were approved by the Georgia General Assembly during a redistricting session in November, the 6th District would be reshaped to include a more conservative area: Forsyth County. The district would also include north Fulton and east Cobb counties, which McBath currently represents.

However, the draft map makes a neighboring swing seat a solidly Democratic-controlled district. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s 7th District was drawn in a way that makes it harder for a GOP challenger to unseat her because the boundaries would be contained within Democratic-leaning Gwinnett County.

Georgia’s congressional delegation currently has eight Republicans and six Democrats after Bourdeaux won election last year.

The maps are just proposals, and Senate leaders said they were releasing them now to give members of the public time to review and comment. The General Assembly’s redistricting special session will begin Nov. 3 and will last about three weeks.

“It is clear that this map not only meets principles of redistricting, but we are proud to present a map that regardless of political party, Georgians can be proud of,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a news release. “Ensuring that any maps we produce are fair, compact and keep communities of interest together will continue to be of most importance.”

The map is a first attempt to redraw the boundary lines for congressional districts, and the state House will have its own ideas. Each district must have approximately 765,000 residents, and many seats have to be adjusted because the state’s population continues to shift from rural areas to cities.

State Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat from Atlanta, said the Republican-drawn map is an attempt to grab more political power in a new, more conservative 6th District.

”It’s a gerrymander to try to get back a congressional seat they lost in defiance of the votes of Georgia voters and in the interest of partisan gain,” Parent said. “But given how fast population trends are changing around metro Atlanta, this particular 6th might still be competitive.”

Though Parent said she opposes the draft, she said she’s grateful it was released well in advance of the state’s November redistricting session, allowing the public time to review it before legislators consider it.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat who represents Cobb County, said Republicans will be in a strong position to retake the 6th District, though the area’s changing demographics could help Democrats’ chances in the long run.

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“Just eyeballing it, it’s a tough district for Democrats,” Jordan said. “It’s pretty clear what they were trying to do. This may be a one-cycle or two-cycle win for Republicans, but they’re not going to be able to hold it for long.”

Several Republicans are already lined up to run against McBath, including Jake Evans, the former chairman of the Georgia ethics commission; Meagan Hanson, an attorney and former state legislator; and Harold Earls, a former Army captain.

Bourdeaux has just a single GOP challenger thus far, physician Richard McCormick, who lost to her in the 2020 general election.

In South Georgia and Middle Georgia, the map shifts counties between several rural seats to adjust for the population shifts.

It also protects longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s seat in southwest Georgia, which has a large Black population.

Senate Redistricting Chairman John Kennedy said legislators listened to public comments before making their first map.

“Looking at this map, it is obvious that Georgians have been heard and will continue to be heard,” said Kennedy, a Republican from Macon.