Atlanta suburbs become battleground for 2 congressional elections

Democrats are seeking further inroads into what were once Republican strongholds in two suburban Atlanta congressional seats, while Republicans seek to prove their brand still has life in those districts.

First-term incumbent Lucy McBath won the 6th District for the Democrats in 2018, unseating Karen Handel, a Republican and former Georgia secretary of state. Handel seeks a comeback Tuesday in a rematch with McBath in the district that covers a swath of suburbs in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties.

In the 7th District, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux is trying to close the gap after falling fewer than 500 votes short of winning a seat spanning parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties in 2018. Republican incumbent Rob Woodall is stepping down, with emergency room physician Rich McCormick trying to hold the seat for the GOP in his first-ever electoral race.

Republican support in both districts cracked under the unpopularity of Donald Trump among college-educated white voters and the diversification of the suburbs.


Republican physician and former Marine Rich McCormick.

Bourdeaux, befitting her background a public policy professor and former budget director for the Georgia state Senate, took a plan-heavy approach to her race. She barely paused after her 2018 loss to Woodall, winning a majority against a crowded Democratic field that smelled opportunity in the northeastern suburbs.

McCormick, backed heavily by the free-trade, anti-regulation Club for Growth, also posted an outright victory against heavy primary opposition. McCormick sought to appeal to immigrants and native-born Americans on a platform that emphasized growth and economic opportunity, dismissing government as a “necessary evil” in one debate.

Bourdeaux and McCormick clashed most on health care and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Democrat pushed for more expansive government support for health care, while McCormick called for deregulation and further loosening of the rules under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, a public policy professor at Georgia State University who was a former budget director for the Georgia state Senate.

Bourdeaux lambasted McCormick for what she called the Republican’s lackadaisical approach to pandemic precautions, while McCormick bristled at having his physician’s expertise called into question and said an approach that emphasized economic reopening was justified by declining coronavirus cases.

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The 6th District, with the state’s most affluent electorate, has a history as an incubator of high-profile Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Lucia Kay McBath (D) is serving as the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 6th congressional district.

But Jon Ossoff, who was running for Senate this year, nearly battered down the doors of the Republican fortress in 2017 in the nation’s most expensive U.S. House election. Ossoff fell short of Handel in the runoff, but McBath completed the takeover in 2018, edging out Handel.

Like in the 7th District, much of the debate revolved around health care, with McBath arguing that Handel wouldn’t make sure people with preexisting conditions could obtain insurance, while Handel argued she was in favor of such protections and saying McBath and other Democrats weren’t doing enough to guarantee protections but were choosing to campaign on the issue instead.

Karen Handel (R) is looking to reclaim her seat, which she lost during the 2018 midterm elections to Lucy McBath.

McBath also attacked Handel for her anti-abortion stance, including paid work she did for the Georgia Life Alliance, making a pitch that McBath would help guarantee abortion rights that could be threatened if the U.S. Supreme Court curtails current legal protections.

Handel in turn argued that McBath wasn’t doing enough to protect police in the wake of protests over police misconduct.

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