The biggest political questions surrounding Georgia’s redistricting

Georgia Republicans have released a new political map of the U.S. House districts, redrawing congressional lines to reverse Democratic gains in Atlanta’s suburbs while trying to sideline U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, one of the party’s leading stars.

The districts could be tweaked over the next few days, but legislative leaders say they expect few significant changes to a map designed to increase the Republicans’ 8-6 majority by at least one more GOP member.

Here are some of the most pressing political questions surrounding the map that will shape the 2022 elections.

What will Lucy McBath do?

In 2018, McBath defeated Republican Karen Handel to flip one of the most competitive suburban seats in the nation, capturing a former GOP stronghold once represented by Johnny Isakson and Newt Gingrich. In 2020, she beat back a Handel comeback bid.

Now McBath has a momentous decision awaiting her. Her district once stretched from east Cobb to north DeKalb. The new boundaries span from north Fulton to rural Dawson County. Republicans weren’t just drawing the lines to keep it in GOP control for a cycle or two. It was crafted with 2030 in mind.

In a tweet Wednesday, McBath wrote that the GOP map only “strengthens my resolve to stay in Congress” and push for gun control restrictions to honor the memory of her son Jordan. But she pointedly didn’t specify which seat that she would run in.

To many Democratic officials, the subtext is clear. The new district could force McBath to challenge Georgia’s other suburban Democratic rising star to stay in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux narrowly flipped the neighboring 7th District in 2020, and the GOP map transforms her district from one of the swingiest in the nation to a Democratic stronghold. It has shed portions of deep-red Forsyth County and now encompasses much of Gwinnett and parts of Fulton.

But while Bourdeaux’s centrist views might have helped her narrowly defeat Republican Rich McCormick, they could be a liability in a Democratic primary. Some party insiders have already pledged to support McBath in a challenge, others have talked about ways to entice Bourdeaux to stand down in 2022.

As for Bourdeaux, she’s signaled she’s preparing for a tough reelection campaign. She said in a statement she will “look forward to being a voice for everyone in this new district as I continue serving our community.”

Caption
The 6th and 7th Congressional Districts could see significant changes according to a Republican proposal.

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

The 6th and 7th Congressional Districts could see significant changes according to a Republican proposal.
Caption
The 6th and 7th Congressional Districts could see significant changes according to a Republican proposal.

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

ExploreMaps: How the proposed maps for the 6th and 7th districts could affect other metro Atlanta district lines

Will more Republicans join the 6th District race?

For months, the Republican race against Lucy McBath has featured three young contenders: Military veteran Harold Earls, attorney Jake Evans and former state Rep. Meagan Hanson.

But the friendlier conservative confines of the 6th District might attract new candidates looking for a safe Republican seat.

Caption
Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician and Republican candidate for the U.S. House’s 7th Congressional District, told the Gwinnett County school board on Sept. 23 that children can be so careless and unsanitary with masks, a mask can become a "disease-spreading organism." McCormick could offer no evidence to back up that claim.

Credit: Special

Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician and Republican candidate for the U.S. House’s 7th Congressional District, told the Gwinnett County school board on Sept. 23 that children can be so careless and unsanitary with masks, a mask can become a "disease-spreading organism." McCormick could offer no evidence to back up that claim.
Caption
Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician and Republican candidate for the U.S. House’s 7th Congressional District, told the Gwinnett County school board on Sept. 23 that children can be so careless and unsanitary with masks, a mask can become a "disease-spreading organism." McCormick could offer no evidence to back up that claim.

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

Chief among them is Dr. Rich McCormick, who narrowly lost to Carolyn Bourdeaux last year. He lives a short distance from the redrawn 6th District, and notes that a chunk of the voters who backed him in the 2020 election now live in McBath’s district.

Other potential candidates include state Sen. Brandon Beach, a former 6th District contender who is courting Donald Trump’s support; and state Rep. Will Wade, a Dawsonville banker and former school board member.

Is U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in trouble?

As Georgia lawmakers were hashing out the new maps, the National Republican Congressional Committee expanded its target list to include U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop.

Republicans have long tried to topple Bishop, a Democrat who has represented a southwest Georgia seat since 1993. And each time, GOP challengers have failed, some miserably. Bishop’s majority-Black district has also meant its harder to overhaul the lines without a legal challenge.

Caption
House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), center, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) hear testimony from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottleib about the Trump Administration's proposed federal budget during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), center, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) hear testimony from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottleib about the Trump Administration's proposed federal budget during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)
Caption
House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), center, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) hear testimony from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottleib about the Trump Administration's proposed federal budget during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Mapmakers this cycle didn’t aggressively target Bishop, upsetting some local Republicans, though they made the territory slightly whiter by adding conservative precincts in Muscogee and Thomas counties. A legal challenge from Democrats targeting those changes seem a certainty.

Regardless, Bishop sounded confident about his chances with the new map. So did Republicans aiming to score an upset.

“We’re ready to take on Bishop with this new map,” said Brandon Phillips, the 2nd District GOP chair. “All counties are organized and ready to go.”

Possible contenders include state Rep. Mike Cheokas of Americus, Dougherty County GOP chair Tracy Taylor and veteran Chris West of Thomasville. (Former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler, who is now a U.S. Senate candidate, has family ties to Bainbridge but said he’s staying in the Senate contest.)

Will the northeast Georgia districts become an even bigger free-for-all?

About a dozen candidates have already lined up to compete for the deep-red 10th District seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who is running for secretary of state. The race could draw even more interest with the new contours of the territory.

The reconfigured district now shifts northward to include Athens-Clarke County. And it also includes the Jackson County home of U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, who represents the neighboring 9th District and must decide whether to run in his old seat or compete in the vacant 10th.

The 9th, meanwhile, could be open for a potential comeback bid by former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a Gainesville attorney who stepped down last year to run for Senate. Though some of Collins’ allies say he’s not interested in another bid, others expect him to at least kick the tires on a new run.

Caption
11/05/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — U.S. Congressman Doug Collins speaks during a Republican rally in the parking lot at the Georgia Republican Party Headquarters in Atlanta’s Buckhead community, Thursday, November 5, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

11/05/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia —  U.S. Congressman Doug Collins speaks during a Republican rally in the parking lot at the Georgia Republican Party Headquarters in Atlanta’s Buckhead community, Thursday, November 5, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
11/05/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — U.S. Congressman Doug Collins speaks during a Republican rally in the parking lot at the Georgia Republican Party Headquarters in Atlanta’s Buckhead community, Thursday, November 5, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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