Last November, after Democrats surged in Virginia’s statewide races and won 15 seats from the GOP in the House of Commons, the competition for 2018 was on: Which state would become “the next Virginia”? Where else would a female-driven, multiracial coalition of voters and candidates face the extremism of Donald Trump and his enablers—and win?
It’s looking like that state could be Georgia. In a Republican gubernatorial primary in which all the competitors went to great lengths to show off their racism, gun lunacy, and anti-immigrant bona fides, Secretary of State Brian Kemp defeated Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle on Tuesday. Worried about Kemp’s profile as a Mike Pence–style social conservative who could damage the state’s efforts to attract business, moderate Republican business leaders, along with sitting Governor Nathan Deal, backed Cagle. But Kemp, who branded himself as “the politically incorrect conservative” and ran to Cagle’s right, was endorsed by Trump. He’ll take on former state representative Stacey Abrams, the African-American leader who won her May primary with 76 percent of the vote.
In Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, which saw the first stirrings of the 2017 resistance when newcomer Jon Ossoff almost won a seat that hadn’t gone to Democrats since the 1970s, Moms Demand Action champion and racial-justice crusader Lucy McBath won her runoff against South African immigrant businessman Kevin Abel. McBath will take on Representative Karen Handel, the scourge of pro-choice groups everywhere, in November. The mother of Jordan Davis, a black teenager who was murdered for playing his music too loud in Florida in 2012, McBath won support from gun-reform groups, along with Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood.
Next door, in Georgia’s seventh, Emily’s List endorsee and Georgia State professor Carolyn Bourdeaux won her runoff against self-funded businessman David Kim. She’ll face GOP incumbent Rob Woodall in the general election. Although the Republicans are somewhat favored in both races—Handel less so—a blue wave could carry McBath and Bourdeaux into the House.
McBath was not a shoo-in to win the runoff. She entered the primary late, and many progressives had already chosen between Abel and former television anchor Bobby Kaple, who courted local activist groups led in large part by mothers who had worked to elect Ossoff. When I talked to them in April, some of them were irritated that McBath had left a campaign for a State Assembly seat to go for Congress. But when she made it into a runoff with Abel, most progressives quickly coalesced behind her. Abel turned off many when he claimed in a debate that “in this 6th District, I am the best candidate to defeat Karen Handel and represent our demography.” The choice of the word “demography” rankled a lot of women, not just black women.