Political Insider

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Internal poll suggests tight congressional race in Atlanta’s suburbs


An internal poll released by the campaign of U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall’s opponent showcases just how bullish some Democrats are feeling this year about flipping congressional seats long held by Republicans in the Atlanta suburbs. 

Funded by Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, the poll shows the Georgia State professor in a dead heat with the four-term GOP incumbent and a relatively high unfavorability rating for President Donald Trump in the 7th Congressional District, which includes portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. 

Like any internal poll, the results should be taken with several grains of salt. Campaigns typically leak such surveys to show their candidate in a favorable light, and Woodall as the incumbent enjoys considerable political and organizational advantages. But they can also help provide insight into a campaign’s strategy and the political tides in a district where few other polls have been conducted to date. 

The mid-August poll of 400 likely general election voters by Tulchin Research shows the race within the margin of error: Bourdeaux logged 46 percent support and Woodall 44 percent, with 10 percent of voters undecided. 

It also estimates that opinions of Trump have soured in the district, with 55 percent of voters viewing the president unfavorably, compared to 43 percent who approved. The president carried the district by 6 percentage points in 2016, even as Hillary Clinton turned Gwinnett blue for the first time in a generation. 

The ex-director of the Georgia Senate Budget office, Bourdeaux was a political unknown before entering the 7th District race last summer with a health care-focused platform. She defeated businessman David Kim in last month’s fiery Democratic runoff after emerging as the top fundraiser in her party’s crowded primary. 

But Bourdeaux has ground to cover as she seeks to rebuild her team – she recently hired a new campaign manager – and catch up to Woodall, who’s been able to build up his bank account after facing only a token primary opponent in May. A low-key lawmaker with a love for congressional procedure and fiscal issues, Woodall has easily cruised to reelection since winning his bid to replace his former boss John Linder in 2010. 

Democrats think that demographic changes in the district, paired with frustration over Trump’s temperament among some well-educated GOP voters, could put suburban seats in play and help them recapture control of the House. 

Much of Washington’s attention so far has been trained on Georgia’s 6th District, where U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, is looking to secure a second term in the House after winning last year’s blockbuster special election.

Most political analysis sites have put that DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb-based district in a more competitive column than the 7th, although every major outlet still predicts Handel and Woodall will win reelection. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee snubbed the 7th District race earlier this month when it chose to pour additional resources only into the 6th.

Unlike Handel, who has taken early jabs at her Democratic opponent, Woodall has effectively ignored Bourdeaux since she became her party’s nominee. He’s focused much of his early campaign messaging on the local benefits of the work he’s done in Washington, particularly on taxes and transportation, and positioned himself as a willing and pragmatic partner to Trump.

Bourdeaux has vowed to fight Trump on major issues from women’s health to immigration but has stopped short of endorsing the impeachment path being pushed by some Democratic donors

“The people here want a representative who cares about us and will fight for us,” Bourdeaux said in a statement. “We are fed up with the dysfunction in Washington, and we are ready for change.”

Read more: 

Runoff wins boost female presence on Georgia’s ballot in November

The 7th Congressional District race: What you need to know

Dem congressional contests take fiery turn ahead of runoffs 

Georgia’s congressional candidates split over President Donald Trump

Dem candidates steer clear of Trump impeachment debate

Federal tax overhaul a hot topic for Georgia candidates, pro and con

Why Georgia Democrats are zeroing in on Atlanta’s suburbs

Congressional challengers scramble for dollars ahead of primary


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.