‘Musical chairs’: Democrats clash over shifting boundaries in Georgia’s 7th District

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, from left, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and state Rep. Donna McLeod are seeking the Democratic nomination in Georgia's 7th Congressional District. They debated Sunday.

Credit: Shannon McCaffrey

Credit: Shannon McCaffrey

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, from left, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and state Rep. Donna McLeod are seeking the Democratic nomination in Georgia's 7th Congressional District. They debated Sunday.

Lucy McBath’s Democratic rivals on Sunday accused the congresswoman of deceiving voters and helping to hand control of the U.S. House to Republicans.

The sharp attacks came during Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club Democratic primary debate for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.

McBath, who switched districts after her own was made more conservative by state legislators, did not address the criticism directly but countered that she has lived in Atlanta’s suburbs for more than three decades.

“People know me. They know the work that I’ve done,” McBath said.

McBath’s decision to run in the neighboring 7th District has pitted her against fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who won the seat in 2020.

McBath and Bourdeaux are seen as rising stars in the party. Each made headlines by flipping a northern metro Atlanta swing district; McBath in 2018 and Bourdeaux in 2020. In the 6th District, McBath represented portions of Cobb and north Fulton counties while Bourdeaux covered a large swath of Gwinnett County in the 7th District. But when the Republican-led state Legislature redrew congressional lines in 2021, they made McBath’s seat far more friendly to the GOP, adding in parts of Cherokee and all of Dawson and Forsyth counties. Now, the onetime allies are battling for political survival in a battle that has become increasingly bitter.

State Rep. Donna McLeod of Lawrenceville, meanwhile, is seeking to play spoiler. She noted Sunday that she is the only candidate who can currently vote for herself in the race because she’s the only one who actually lives within the boundaries of the new district. Bourdeaux’s home in Suwanee was carved out when the lines of the 7th were redrawn. McBath lives in Marietta.

Bourdeaux said that the current front-runner for McBath’s former district is Republican Rick McCormick, whom she defeated in 2020. McCormick opposes abortion and gun control measures.

“How can you say you’re fighting for choice or gun safety reform when you’re handing your seat in Congress to a Republican like him?” Bourdeaux asked. “Everything we have worked for you are undermining by coming over and fighting me here.”

Realistically, it would have been difficult for McBath to have won in the newly redrawn 6th District. Nine Republicans are currently jockeying for the seat.

McLeod, the first Jamaican-born person to serve in the Georgia Legislature, also unloaded on McBath, suggesting that her mailers didn’t make clear where she was from.

“It seems to me you’re deceiving the people in the 7th Congressional District,” she said. “Can you please let them know if you are playing musical chairs with them and whenever the music stops that’s where you’re going to sit down and so any seat will do for you?”

McBath returned repeatedly to her own personal story. McBath became a gun control activist after her son, Jordan, was killed in 2012 at a shooting at a gas station.

“At the end of the day, I’m just a mom on a mission,” McBath said.

While much of Sunday’s debate centered on geography, Bourdeaux also faced questions about whether she was sufficiently liberal enough for the diverse district.

Bourdeaux was among a group of moderate Democrats who pushed to decouple President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and his Build Back Better social spending and climate change package. The infrastructure bill passed Congress and was signed into law, but Build Back Better has not. 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 also stressed Sunday that she is pushing for voting rights and has signed onto a measure that would study reparations for slavery.