“We did not want to redraw these districts,” state Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, said on the Senate floor this week. “We are doing this because we were sued by Democratically affiliated groups.” Other Republicans, including state Sen. Shelly Echols who chairs the committee that passed the maps, insisted their only goal was to meet the judge’s order.
But by forcing McBath to pick a new district to run in, Republican leaders may also inadvertently make her a stronger candidate for a statewide office down the road by putting her in front of more voters in more places in metro Atlanta and beyond.
Instead of having 765,000 voters knowing her as their congresswoman, that number will jump to roughly 2.3 million if she wins in a third metro Atlanta district in 2024. A third set of constituents would mean 2.3 million people will have had McBath at their neighborhood events. Many more will get campaign mailers at election time and see TV ads for her campaign. When people say they hate Congress but like their congressman or congresswoman, it’s a connection that matters.
Adding to the potential McBath advantage is the fact that her voters so far have been many of the suburban swing voters that statewide candidates most want to court. Between the old 6th District and her current 7th District, McBath represented 13% of the state’s population but 19% of the voters who could be open to candidates from either party.
If she were to run in the new open 6th District that includes west metro Atlanta, Chris Huttman, a longtime Democratic pollster, estimated that the percentage would jump to 28% to 30% of the state’s swing voters across the three different territories.
McBath hasn’t announced what she’ll do next. That will wait until federal Judge Steve Jones decides whether he’ll accept the new Georgia map or push for changes. But McBath wrote in a note to supporters that she sees in Republicans’ new lines “another blatant attempt to make me lose my seat.”
Would McBath consider a statewide run down the road? She turned down the chance to run for Senate seats in 2019, 2020 and 2022, saying she wanted to stay in the House to push for gun legislation at the federal level.
But she didn’t reject the idea of a 2026 governor’s race when Axios asked her about the possibility over the summer. McBath was at the Aspen Ideas Festival at the time on a panel on gun safety and said that for gun laws in Georgia to change “political dynamics have to change in the state Legislature” first.
After that, “It’s just common sense and reason. Georgians are just as concerned about gun violence prevention as anybody else in the country.”
The gun issue is among the reasons that Josh McKoon, the chairman of the Georgia GOP, says it doesn’t matter which district McBath runs in next. He thinks she’ll be out of step with the majority of Georgia voters on guns and other issues.
“(U.S. Sen. Raphael) Warnock had the advantage of basically being a blank slate, being able to say, ‘Look at my CV and things like that,’” he said. “McBath wouldn’t be able to do that.”
But McKoon did say that putting McBath in new territory ahead of a 2024 run could help her in a potential statewide Democratic primary later on.
“I think she would have some advantage over a new candidate in the Democratic primary because she’d have some name identification advantage to begin with,” he said.
If anyone knows what it’s like to be in McBath’s shoes, it’s John Barrow, the former Democratic congressman whose district was redrawn not once, but twice by Republican-controlled legislatures. Barrow ended up living in Athens, Augusta and Savannah as a result before eventually running for secretary of state in 2018.
Although he didn’t win against Brad Raffensperger, Barrow won the Democratic primary and outperformed Stacey Abrams in 130 counties in the November general election, He also forced Raffensperger into a runoff, which he lost by about 57,000 votes.
Barrow said he “absolutely” thinks all the extra territory Republicans gave him through the redistricting process made him a better statewide candidate. “I’d run in every media market in the state except the Atlanta media market by then,” he said. “That 40% of the state.”
Having to start over with new voters in new places more than once was difficult initially, but he also got to know more communities’ issues, leaders and voters.
All of this is based on hypotheticals — assuming the maps the Legislature passed this week survive further legal action and assuming McBath is indeed interested in eventually seeking higher office in Georgia.
But her campaign manager, Jake Orvis, said one fact is established. “She refuses to let extremist Republicans decide when her work for Georgians in Congress is finished.”
Whatever she chooses to do, Republicans may have made a statewide run after Congress easier all the same.