House Democratic candidates flipped all kinds of districts in every part of the country this week, but some stand out more than others. Take Georgia’s 6th, for example.
U.S. Rep. Karen Handel on Thursday conceded to Democrat Lucy McBath in the 6th District congressional race, a major upset that showcased Democrats’ strength in suburbs once dominated by the GOP.
“After carefully reviewing all of the election results data, it is clear that I came up a bit short on Tuesday,” Handel said in a statement. “Congratulations to Representative-Elect Lucy McBath and send her only good thoughts and much prayer for the journey that lies ahead for her.”
McBath declared victory in the race Wednesday afternoon after narrowly leading Handel by several thousand votes.
If Georgia’s 6th stands out as significant to a national audience, there’s a good reason for that. After Donald Trump tapped then-Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services early last year, there was a special election to fill the vacancy.
On paper, it didn’t look like it’d be an especially interesting contest: Democrats were running a young, first-time candidate against a Republican who’d already been elected to statewide office. This was a red district, in a red state, which hadn’t elected a Democrat – or even seen a competitive race – since the 1970s. Before Tom Price, it’s a district Newt Gingrich held for many years.
Jon Ossoff (D), however, did better than expected, losing the special election to Karen Handel by less than four points. Regardless, Republicans crowed: the White House’s Kellyanne Conway wrote on Twitter soon after, “Laughing my #Ossoff.”
A year and a half later, I guess she’s not laughing anymore.
Part of what makes Lucy McBath’s victory notable is the degree to which it represents Democratic success in suburban districts this cycle, but let’s not overlook the significance of McBath’s background. New York magazine explained:
McBath, a former Delta Airlines flight attendant, turned to activism after her son’s death. Jordan Davis, 17, was parked at a Jacksonville gas station the day after Thanksgiving five years ago when a white man named Michael Dunn began complaining about the loud music Davis and his friends were playing. An argument ensued, and Dunn drew a handgun and fired ten bullets into their vehicle, killing Davis.
He was later convicted on three counts of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison, but won a mistrial on the most serious charge, first-degree murder, due to jurors’ interpretation of Florida’s notorious “stand your ground” law. “I had never really heard of that law other than the Trayvon Martin case,” McBath told me in 2015. “Most definitely, now that has completely changed. My learning curve has gone straight up.”
McBath quickly devoted much of her life to advocating for policies to reduce gun violence. Now, she’ll take that message to Capitol Hill.