Why Women Are Winning: The GA Primary Run-Offs as a Case Study (Jul. 25)

Update 287 — Why Women Are Winning: The GA Primary Run-Offs as a Case Study

Four first-time candidates competed in GA-06 and GA-07 last night in the Democratic primary runoff. In both races, a man ran against a woman and the woman won — a familiar story thus far in the 2018 Democratic primary season.  When a man and a woman have run for the same seat with no incumbent on the ballot, women have been the winners in 65 percent of the races.

Overall, more women are running and winning than ever before on the Democratic side.  More below on how and why, through the prism of the Peach State primaries.




GA-06: McBath vs. Rep. Handel

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 48/Clinton 47
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 61/Obama 38
  • 2016 House: Price (R) 62/ Stooksbury (D) 38
  • Cook PVI: R+8

In GA-06, the longest Republican-held district in the state (previously Newt Gingrich’s seat) and the district of the Jonathan Ossoff near-miss runoff last year, Lucy McBath defeated Kevin Abel, a local businessman, 54 to 46 percent to win the Democratic primary runoff.  McBath will face Rep. Karen Handel in November.

McBath is a gun control activist whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012.  McBath also advocates for decreasing the age of medicare eligibility, increasing investment in infrastructure, and raising the minimum wage — a progressive idea for a state that has long had sub-$4/hour jobs in its rural and farming communities.

GA-07: Bourdeaux vs. Rep. Woodall

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 52/Clinton 46
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 53/Obama 45.5
  • 2016 House: Woodall (R) 60/ Malik (D) 40
  • Cook PVI: R+9

Carolyn Bourdeaux, a professor of public policy at Georgia State University, defeated David Kim, a small business owner, 52 to 48 percent in GA-07’s runoff race last night.

Bourdeaux was previously the director of the Georgia State Senate Budget and Evaluation Office and also worked as an aide for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).  Bourdeaux has focused on increasing access to affordable healthcare through policies like expanding Medicaid and establishing a public option under the Affordable Care Act, making her progressive in Georgia terms. She also wants to increase investment in education and job training programs.

The Common Economic Thread

McBath’s campaign differs from the likes of Democratic nominees Kara Eastman of Nebraska and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in appealing to suburban Georgians. Rather than the national progressive hot-ticket items, like Medicare-For-All and a federal jobs guarantee, McBath focuses on progressive issues that challenge the local business community mindset that raising wages somehow kills job growth.

Both McBath and Bourdeaux’s campaigns emphasize the number one economic policy issue in the country—particularly for women—healthcare.  Georgia has seen rural hospitals decimated as a result of the state executive’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Bordeaux’s support for Medicaid expansion and a public option on ACA has earned her the support of local progressives and shows voter receptiveness to progressive policies in different districts around the country.

Disparate Districts: Nebraska to Georgia

It is clear that the strength of the female Democratic wave is due in part to its diversity of opinion among the candidates.  Female candidates are winning their primaries in disparate districts on the issues that matter most to their voters — a promising sign for Democrats in the lead up to November. The Democratic platforms in NE-02, GA-06, and NY-14 may be different, but they all share one thing in common — they are being delivered by a woman’s voice.

There are additional forces at work from Nebraska to Georgia that are pushing these women across the finish line. In NE-02, Eastman has been running a progressive race in a district that voted narrowly for moderate Democrat Brad Ashford in 2014 and Trump Republican Don Bacon in 2016. Eastman is winning with the progressive message she believes in, because she has found that her district responds strongly and identifies with her on issues like Medicare-For-All.

In the suburbs of GA-07, Bordeaux ran and won on a message that resonated for her district. Similarly, in GA-06, Lucy McBath focused on her personal past and a desire to make a difference that struck a chord with the voters in her district. Both of them promote progressive ideas, but they present them in language that makes their voters feel more comfortable than the way national progressives speak.  The GA nominees’ campaigns demonstrate that the surge of interest and involvement of women in this cycles’ elections transcend differences among districts in ways that some policy preferences do not.

The Year of the Female Majority

Headlines across the country have been focusing on the big surprises and upsets, the marquee names of winners and losers, and the advent of the socialist flank. Less read about are the people who are winning in moderate suburban districts. They aren’t going to be the big starlets because they don’t have the bold progressive label, but nevertheless, they are running in the most competitive races in the country and, thus far, they are winning.

The regional disparities of these candidates and their messages does not mean that the women who won last night aren’t progressive. They are, for their respective districts.  This comes with majority status and should be seen in this light as an auspicious sign. Across the country, D candidates are framing their messages in the language that makes their voters most comfortable, but they are not afraid to name and claim the policies that match the D next to their names. The wave is dominated by women candidates running to their districts and away from, say, Washington.


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