McBath faces competition in bid to return to redrawn metro Atlanta congressional district

One of the most anticipated primary races this year is in the 6th Congressional District, a newly redrawn majority-Black district.
The Georgia House of Representatives votes on a new state House district map, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Georgia voters head to the polls Tuesday for the final day of this primary election cycle to determine who makes it to November’s general election for Georgia’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of the most anticipated races is in the 6th Congressional District, a newly redrawn majority-Black district with a Democratic primary featuring three elected officials who are all Black women. The incumbent, Republican U.S. House Rep. Rich McCormick, is switching districts to run in the now-heavily Republican 7th district.

Lawmakers were forced to redraw Georgia’s political maps approved during the 2021 redistricting cycle after a federal judge found that they violated the Voting Rights Act by illegally diluting the power of Black voters. Last December, the Republican majority proposed and approved a congressional map that creates the new 6th district on the west side of metro Atlanta.

Georgia Rep. Mack Jackson, D-Sandersville, looks at a map of proposed state House districts before a House hearing, Nov. 29, 2023, at the state Capitol in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

In late December, on the day a judge upheld the newly-revised maps, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath announced that she would switch from the 7th district to run in the 6th.

It would be a return to the 6th for McBath, who pulled off a surprise victory against the Republican incumbent Karen Handel in 2018. She quickly became an outspoken figure in Georgia politics for her push for gun reform and abortion rights policies.

U.S. Representative Lucy McBath attends a closed roundtable with voting rights activists in Atlanta, Ga on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

McBath served two terms there before switching to the 7th for one term, and now she’s back in the running for her original district seat.

The decision places McBath in the running against state Rep. Mandisha Thomas and Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson.

Richardson, a Marietta resident who has served Cobb since 2020, said that she also felt compelled to run in the district after the congressional remapping.

When going into campaigning, Richardson said she made it her mission to be an active presence in her community.

“Every two weeks I do virtual community huddles … I have a cabinet that I’ve stood up out of my community office and that keeps me very engraved in the different organizations in our community as well,” she told WABE.

While she acknowledges that she may not have the name recognition of her opponents, she said that those she’s represented as commissioner have faith in her and her track record.

“When I jumped in [to the race], there was certainly a lot of excitement and interest in supporting my efforts, because people know what it means to be represented by me. They know what that brings.”

She also credits her participation in a televised April 26 debate with making her more visible to potential voters in her district. Thomas was also present, while McBath was represented by an empty podium, declining the Atlanta Press Club’s offer to appear.

Despite this, McBath has dwarfed Richardson and Thomas in fundraising for the race. She’s raised $1.6 million and has $1.3 million in cash left on hand, as of the latest campaign report filing period ending May 1. Richardson has raised about $110,000 and has spent it all. Thomas raised about $18,000 and has $4,500 left.

Thomas said that her main focus has been expanding on the work that she has done while serving in the state legislature, something she feels will be taken into account by voters.

In addition to her role in office, Thomas also serves as a chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus’ Agriculture & Environmental Committee.

She has introduced legislation that would have created education farming programs for urban youth and a study committee on public water systems serving disadvantaged communities.

“The campaign is centered around eradicating hurt and pain of Georgians through federal policy … and I’m excited about doing just that. Whether it be policies that just weren’t there at all or loopholes in policies,” said Thomas, spotlighting AI healthcare and fraudulent deed transactions as examples.

The state representative, who has held office since January 2021, believes that her experience serving large portions of Fulton and Douglas County will be a benefit for residents of the 6th Congressional District.

“And I live in the district … it makes a difference,” added Thomas. “You’re able to work on the issues because you’re there. You can see them. Not to mention you have the pulse of the people and the connections of the local government.”

Thomas said her visibility in the community has been crucial in showing voters her dedication to serving the district.

“I’ve actually been out campaigning,” she said. “And I haven’t seen McBath campaigning in the district. Maybe at large events or galas, but I haven’t seen her come into the communities and campaign at all.”

When asked for comment on Thomas’ criticisms, McBath campaign manager Jake Orvis responded with the following statement: “The Congresswoman is solely focused on her work.”

In a statement to WABE, McBath reiterated her focus on holding her spot as one of Georgia’s U.S. House members despite Republican legislators’ tactics to remove her.  

“I ran for Congress to honor my son Jordan’s legacy after he was murdered. I refuse to allow extremist Republicans in the state legislature decide when my time fighting for our communities is through,” she said.

The district’s nearly 500,000 registered voters will finish making their decision Tuesday on which Democratic candidate to send to the general election and a near-certain win in November.

Although Richardson hopes for a victory, she emphasizes the well-being of Georgia residents as the priority, no matter which candidate.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about representing the community.”

Patrick Saunders contributed to this report.