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Democrats capture Georgia US House seat held by Republicans since 1995

Carolyn Bourdeaux pulls off a surprising upset in Atlanta’s suburbs.

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux (seen wearing a black mask in the background) has defeated Republican Rich McCormick in the race for Georgia’s Seventh District.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he focuses on the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the decline of liberal democracy in the United States. He received a JD from Duke University and is the author of two books on the Supreme Court.

Republicans have held Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District, which stretches over Atlanta’s northern suburbs, for a quarter-century. That will change when the new Congress is sworn in this January, however. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Democrat, defeated Republican Rich McCormick, who was running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Rob Woodall.

Bourdeaux, who also ran for the seat and narrowly lost in 2018, benefited not just from the lack of an incumbent, but also from the district’s changing demographics and an emerging shift toward Democrats among white suburban women.

Though the Seventh District has historically been quite conservative — Woodall, the outgoing representative, once led the Republican Study Committee, a caucus for conservative Republicans — it is no longer dominated by white Southerners who typically support the GOP.

Indeed, according to the Lily, the Seventh District “is now a majority-minority district with 25 percent of its population born outside the United States.” Stacey Abrams, an African American Democrat who ran for Georgia governor in 2018, won the district during her ultimately unsuccessful statewide race.

Bourdeaux, who is white, focused much of her campaign on white women voters — a demographic that has trended toward Democrats since President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.

Women from traditionally conservative demographic groups played a significant role in the 2018 wave election that placed a Democratic majority in charge of the House of Representatives. As Vox’s Dylan Scott wrote shortly after that election, “Democratic pollster Celinda Lake showed me polling that had married men voting 51 percent Republican and 48 percent Democrat, but their wives voted 54 percent Democrat and just 44 Republican, a notable marital break from prior elections.”

As it turns out, these two shifts — the district’s increasing diversity and the overall trend among many women voters — were enough to elect Bourdeaux in a district that Republicans used to be able to take for granted.