Lucy McBath
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) is running in the newly redrawn 6th District this fall — and it could. Andrew Harnik/AP

Are Georgia Republicans’ Maps Actually Helping Lucy McBath?

New congressional maps caused the Georgia Democrat to change districts — but there could be an upside for her.

When Republicans redrew Georgia’s congressional districts, putting Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s chances in the 7th District in peril, they may have also done something unexpected: boosted her political future.

The third-term lawmaker announced plans last month to leave her current district to pursue election in Georgia’s new 6th District on the west side of Atlanta. McBath holds a safe seat in the 7th, but Georgia’s new congressional map is expected to shift the district red. This will be the second time Republican-drawn maps have been the catalyst for McBath to jump districts in the Atlanta area.

And while McBath has condemned the new map, which the courts upheld late last month, some allies believe it could position her well for a future run for statewide office.

A former McBath staffer who remains close to the representative told NOTUS that the redistricting benefits McBath by keeping her in the minds of millions of voters.

McBath has proved popular among Democratic voters in the past. She defeated former Republican Rep. Karen Handel by 9% in 2020 to retain a 6th District seat that was rapidly turning blue, then arrived in the 7th District with a decisive 33% primary victory over incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux in 2022 after new congressional maps returned the 6th District to a safe Republican seat. She went on to defeat Republican Mark Gonsalves by 22% in the general election that year.

If McBath wins in 2024, she will have represented roughly 20% of Georgia — not bad for someone first elected in 2018.

“It puts McBath in a unique position of guaranteed name recognition,” said Melissa Clink, the former 6th District Democratic chair.

Joon Suh, McBath’s former chief of staff, said the redistricting news keeps her on Atlanta TV screens.

“I think the logic is that she continues to represent new territory and she’s got a larger base to run statewide,” said Suh. “Being in that Atlanta media market is just so important, and she’s going to be able to leverage that and continue to grow her fundraising base. I think it’s really going to set her up as a formidable statewide candidate in ‘26.”

Redistricting Georgia
Democrats attempted to stop the Republican effort to break up districts, including the one currently held by McBath, but were unsuccessful. Jeff Amy/AP

Since 2017, McBath’s campaign has raised over $17 million. During the 2020 and 2022 elections, she outraised her top opponents by over $10 million.

The staffer close to McBath told NOTUS the two had discussed a possible run for the governorship, and McBath’s aware that decision-makers in Atlanta and around Georgia want her to run. McBath declined to comment and has not publicly discussed plans beyond the 2024 election.

But a statewide race requires tremendous effort and an enormous financial commitment; even then, victory remains uncertain. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams bet the farm in 2022, raising $113 million, only to be handily defeated by incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2003.

And despite assertions that McBath could end up having represented 20% of the state’s population, the reality is more complicated. Democrat Jerica Richardson, a Cobb County commissioner drawn out of her district by the General Assembly, announced on Jan. 9 that she would contest McBath in the May primary.

“I know that I am up for the challenge because my community is worth it,” Richardson said in her announcement.

Even if McBath wins reelection, a pollster who’s worked in Georgia told NOTUS that 20% is in many ways an artificial number. Some who voted for her have moved states; others may have voted against her. And some previous constituents may not remember McBath at all by 2026.

Most important, according to the pollster, is name recognition across the state. Possible gubernatorial candidates who’ve already held a statewide office will have an advantage over McBath, particularly Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger or Lt. Gov. Burt Jones. Each Republican claims a formidable media presence, a key ingredient for serious statewide candidates.

Though McBath has run three election cycles worth of ad campaigns in the weighty Atlanta media market, the size and cost of running ads make it difficult to break through.

Where the redistricting might help, said the pollster, is by giving McBath’s office and Democrats an easy opportunity to promote her to the many donors needed for a successful gubernatorial campaign.

She has already begun to fundraise off the newly redrawn map.

“A court just ruled in favor of GOP maps that blatantly target me,” a post from McBath’s official account said on X. “But I’m not going anywhere. I refuse to allow an extremist few decide when my work in Congress is complete.”

And right below her post: A donate button.

Ben T.N. Mause is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.