Incumbents Bourdeaux, McBath compete for same metro Atlanta seat in Congress

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, left, and Lucy McBath are running against each other in the May 24 Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District.

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U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, left, and Lucy McBath are running against each other in the May 24 Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District.

Democratic voters in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District will have a primary decision to make between two incumbent U.S. House members and a member of the state House, all of whom say they are the better candidate to serve the people of a diversifying metro Atlanta seat.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux currently represents most of the voters who live in what will become the redrawn 7th District. And she has spent the past several years campaigning in the area, learning the needs of its residents and now, she says, working in Congress on their behalf.

“I have fought very hard for this district over and over again and for this community, which I deeply love and am very invested in,” she said.

But her challenger, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, has two additional years of experience in the House and a national profile as a gun control activist. McBath currently represents just a sliver of voters who live in what will be the 7th District, but her campaign said her reputation spreads much further and she has already gained more traction in the race than Bourdeaux.

“Voters are overwhelmingly choosing Lucy McBath in the new GA-07 because of her proven track record of standing with President (Joe) Biden, leading on voting rights, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and fighting to keep our families safe from gun violence,” campaign manager Jake Orvis said.

State Rep. Donna McLeod, the first Jamaican-born person to serve in the Georgia Legislature, is also a candidate, but the Lawrenceville resident is considered a long shot to win the primary.

The victor is likely to win the general election in November because the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the district in November to lean heavily Democratic. Still, several Republicans have expressed interest in pursuing the seat.

McBath was originally running for reelection in her 6th District but decided to jump to the 7th after the new map made her seat conservative-leaning and nearly impossible for a Democrat to win.

The candidates, who represent neighboring suburban swing districts, mostly agree on policy issues. Each flipped her seat from Republican control: McBath in 2018 and Bourdeaux in 2020.

Many Georgia Democrats are lamenting the fact that now one of the party’s two rising stars will be out of office at the end of the year.

“It’s very unfortunate that two outstanding members of Congress were forced to make a decision to run against each other based on a political redistricting map proposed by the Republicans,” strategist Tharon Johnson said. “As a Democrat, I’ve been extremely impressed by both of these women for their service in the Congress and how they represented their constituents.”

Neither incumbent lives within the district’s new boundaries. Bourdeaux plans to continue residing in Suwanee, right outside its borders. McBath, who lives in Marietta, said she will move to the 7th District if she wins.

McBath has an edge in fundraising. She collected $3.2 million in campaign contributions during 2021 and started this year with $2.5 million left to spend. Bourdeaux raised $2.4 million, and she entered 2022 with $2 million in cash on hand. McLeod, who entered the race in early December, raised $22,775 in the final three weeks of the year.

Bourdeaux and McBath have competed for endorsements from local officials. McBath has the support of Everton Blair, the former chairman of Gwinnett County’s school board. Bourdeaux is endorsed by Nicole Love Hendrickson, the first Black person to chair the Gwinnett County Commission.

Bourdeaux’s highest-profile endorsement is from former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, who was known for striking bipartisan deals during his 24 years in Congress.

But McBath has the backing of outside groups that can spend unlimited amounts in support of her or to criticize her opponent, as long as they don’t coordinate with the campaign.

Two years ago, Everytown for Gun Safety supported McBath and Bourdeaux in their respective races. In this new contested primary, the group has chosen McBath, citing its long-standing relationship with her that began when she became one of the group’s most prominent activists following the death of her son. Everytown has spent millions helping McBath win her races over the past two campaign cycles.

“Just as we’ve counted on Representative McBath to lead the charge for gun safety on Capitol Hill, she can count on Everytown’s support as she runs for re-election,” the group’s president, John Feinblatt, said in a statement.

McBath also has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus’ political committee and a new super PAC backed by a cryptocurrency billionaire that said it will spend $2 million promoting her in the primary.

A spokeswoman for Protect Our Future PAC said the group decided to back McBath because of her voting history and policy agenda, particularly when it came to pushing for more funding for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the pandemic. The group has also released polling that shows McBath receiving more support from voters.

Bourdeaux said she plans to raise enough money so that she stays competitive, even if she can’t match McBath dollar for dollar.

But she will also have to answer to liberals who became disillusioned with her during debate in Washington on two of Biden’s priorities: the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the now-stalled Build Back Better social spending and climate change package.

Bourdeaux was among a handful of moderates who pushed to decouple the two initiatives. The infrastructure bill passed Congress and was signed into law. But some liberal lawmakers and groups say severing the measures made it harder, if not impossible, to pass Build Back Better.

Bourdeaux said she supports Build Back Better and is continuing to work for its provisions, such as Medicaid expansion, clean energy tax credits and universal pre-kindergarten. She said her push to separate it from the infrastructure bill was prudent.

“If we hadn’t decoupled the two, which I would point out almost the entire Democratic caucus agreed with in the end,” she said, “we would still be sitting here with nothing.”

7th Congressional District Democratic primary

When the Republican-led General Assembly completed redrawing its congressional maps in November, it made Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s 6th Congressional District much more conservative while turning U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s 7th Congressional District into far more friendly territory for Democrats.

McBath chose to run against Bourdeaux in the Democratic primary in the new 7th District, which includes most of Gwinnett County and parts of north Fulton County.

State Rep. Donna McLeod also entered the primary set for May 24.

Learn about the candidates

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, https://www.carolyn4congress.com/

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, https://lucyforcongress.com/

State Rep. Donna McLeod, https://donnamcleod.com/