Georgia State Professor Carolyn Bourdeaux pulls off upset in Georgia’s 7th District

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux won Georgia's 7th Congressional District. Photo from Carolyn Bourdeaux's campaign website

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux has flipped Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, defeating Republican Rich McCormick.

After incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall announced his retirement, the open seat became a top priority for Democrats seeking to expand their majority in the House.

She grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and the daughter of public school teachers.

Just like many others during the 1990s, Bourdeaux’s family suffered during the recessions. 

Thanks to federal loans and public grants, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in public administration with a focus on public finance from Syracuse University.

“My dad told me when I graduated, ‘Carolyn, this country has invested in you. Now, you must give back to your country,’” the Bourdeaux campaign website stated.

Early in her career Bourdeaux had a nonpartisan role in helping the state balance the budget during the Great Recession.

For four years, Bourdeaux worked as a political aide to Ron Wyden when he served in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate

Bourdeaux is a two-time Democratic candidate and became a college professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State in 2003. 

From 2007 to 2010, she served as director of Georgia’s Senate Budget and Evaluation Office. Following her time there, she returned to the Andrew Young School, founding the Center for State and Local Finance, because she wanted to teach the next generation of leaders about responsible and compassionate public policies.

As a top issue in her campaign, she emphasized expanded health care and used the momentum she built two years ago to push past McCormick.

“I got into this race because I believe all Georgians deserve affordable, quality health care and because we need to get control of COVID-19 to get our children back in school and our economy back on track,” according to an official press release.

McCormick is an emergency room physician and Marine veteran making his first-ever bid for office. His campaign has yet to concede and says it will seek legal options after his team noticed a glitch in a batch of ballots in Gwinnett County. 

“Dr. McCormick has no plans to concede this election until all votes in the [7th] District are tabulated, reported and certified,” the statement stated. 

Carolyn Bourdeaux narrowly lost her 2018 bid for Georgia’s 7th District, by fewer than 500 votes against Woodall. 

The district includes parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties that had once been fertile ground for Republicans. Since President Donald Trump took office, suburbs across the nation have become increasingly diverse and have been shifting toward Democrats. 

Woodall held the seat for five terms. Woodall is one of the thirty-three Republicans who are leaving the House, an increased amount correlating with the president’s unpopularity in the suburbs.

Bourdeaux faced six other candidates for the Democratic Party nomination in her previous bid for office but came in first place in the May primary. She went on to win the primary runoff on July 24 and won the Democratic nomination. 

She then faced Woodall in the Nov. 6 general election, in which she received more attention after raising over $1 million, and Democrats picked up momentum nationwide.

The election continued to be close through Election Day. On election night, the race was too close to call, and the winner of this race was still unclear. Just a few hours after the Bourdeaux campaign filed it on Nov. 15, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May denied an emergency motion to force Gwinnett County to count previously rejected absentee ballots in the razor-thin 7th District race.

After a recount on Nov. 21, 2018, Bourdeaux conceded defeat.

It was the first time a Democrat has won the seat since Democrat Buddy Darden lost to Republican Bob Barr in the 1994 GOP House takeover

On Feb. 7, 2019, Bourdeaux announced that she would run again for the same seat in 2020. Key Georgia politicians endorsed her early in the race, including the late Congressman John Lewis and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams

Within months of her campaign announcement, she out-raised all other congressional challengers in the country, with a total of over $350,000.

“I’m excited [about] the overall progressivism of [Bourdeaux] for winning spaces that often haven’t been won,” community organizer Evan Malbrough said. 

Malbrough is an alumnus of the Andrew Young School, and he also attended a few of Bourdeaux’s campaign events this year. 

Democrat Lucy McBath was re-elected Tuesday in the neighboring 6th District, defeating Karen Handel in a rematch of the 2018 election. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, was the incumbent in the district, which covers parts of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties. 

Georgia saw another challenging senate race as Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock and Democrat Jon Ossoff entered battled for district 13 two senate seats. 

In January, both will run-off against incumbents Rep. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. David Perdue.

The Democrats’ “red-to-blue” program targeted 38 Republican seats as potential pickups.’ Bourdeaux’s seat was their first win. 

Bourdeaux gathered other key endorsements from President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., former President Barack Obama and civil rights activist Andrew Young

Georgia became a focus state for many candidates this year. As the polls showed a tight race between both presidential candidates, analysts expect it to remain a critical state for both parties.