Carolyn Bourdeaux, A Tenacious Advocate for Georgians
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Editor's note: A version of this article originally appeared on Democrats Abroad.
Who Is She?
Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) is originally from Roanoke, Virginia, and was raised by public school teachers. Her family endured a setback in the 1990 recession when her father’s business declared bankruptcy, so Carolyn understands the challenges many families face today in light of the epidemic and economic recession.
Carolyn began her career as an aide to Senator Ron Wyden. She worked on an innovative program to connect transportation with land use planning and design. She also worked on legislation to expand access to the Federally Qualified Health Center and the Women, Infants, and Children Program. Carolyn has also been a professor at the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University since 2003, where she founded the Center for State and Local Finance to teach children about responsible and compassionate public policy. She also served as the Director of Georgia's Senate and Budget Evaluation of Office from 2007 to 2010.
How has your career in public service inspired and equipped you to run for Congress?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “When I graduated from college, my dad told me, ‘Carolyn, this country has invested in you and gave you a world-class education. And with that comes responsibility to give back to your community.” Those words have guided me ever since.
I work as a professor of public management and policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, an institution that graduates more Black students than any other university in the country, and have served in a number of public service roles in my life. During the Great Recession, I was the director of the Georgia Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, where I worked with both parties to balance Georgia’s budget and get our economy back on track. In my early career, I served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) where I worked with him to successfully expand access to public health centers, women and children's programs, and crafted a policy to support marriage equality as he was running for Senate.
Our leaders have lost their line of sight to the people of this country and what we need. It's time for the people of Georgia's 7th Congressional District to finally have a representative who will be their advocate in Congress and fight tenaciously for the issues we care about.”
What is She Fighting For?
Carolyn believes in working towards an inclusive country that meets the needs of its diverse polity. This includes ensuring access to affordable healthcare and investing in a system of world-class healthcare.
What are the key voter concerns in your district, and how do you plan to address them?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “I’m a champion for quality, affordable health care — it’s why I got into this race, and now we’re seeing that it’s more important than ever. I saw this tragic health care reality shared by too many Americans firsthand as my parents struggled to pay for my father’s medications. For ten years, my father suffered from a debilitating, prolonged illness and my mother cared for him. They drained their bank accounts to pay for dad’s prescription medications.
I will fight for the millions of Georgians who are either uninsured, under insured, or struggle with the costs of insurance and prescription drugs. In Congress, I will fight to increase access and affordability of health insurance through strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA), create a robust affordable public option health insurance plan for individuals and small businesses, protect people with preexisting conditions, and end surprise billing.
I will also lead an economic recovery that puts working Georgians and small businesses first. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and have been decimated by the pandemic. In Congress, I'll support their recovery by funding existing programs and, if necessary, the creation of new programs to ensure the small business grants and loans are available to all that are in need. I'll also fight to get this virus under control so workers can safely return to their jobs, and until then, I'll ensure that the social safety net has the resources necessary to allow families in need to support themselves.”
What common issues and core beliefs do you believe Georgians and Americans are ready to rally around together?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “Even before COVID-19, I heard from Georgia families struggling with the rising costs of prescription drugs, insurance costs, and costs of medical care. Across our country, there are seniors who can't afford the care they need. Parents struggle to afford the insulin their children depend on to survive, and families and businesses are paying staggering sums for basic health insurance. This is a crisis.
No one wants to go bankrupt from a medical emergency, everyone wants their government to work for them instead of special interests, and every person who works hard deserves basic economic security and the opportunity to grow further. These aren't partisan issues, and I'll listen to Georgia families and be their advocate in Congress.”
It has been 100 years since women achieved the right to vote. The United States has come a long way since then; It is gratifying to see so many women on tickets for important federal races such as your own. However, there is still much to accomplish in terms of equality. How are Democratic women, such as yourself, uniquely positioned to represent women? In other words, why is it in a woman’s best interest to vote Blue?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “The current administration and the Republican Party have repeatedly shown profound disrespect for women — opposing the right to safe, legal abortion, Medicaid expansion, access to birth control, and equal pay for equal work, and more. Republican politicians in Georgia recently passed a law that would ban abortion before most women even know they're pregnant, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison for doctors and women. It’s time for a change.
I strongly support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. In Congress, I will work to pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade and protects a woman’s right to choose under federal law. I'll also ensure that insurance companies cover birth control and that we support crucial health care organizations such as Planned Parenthood with federal dollars. I'll work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act which would help break the harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthen the workplace protections for women. And it's one of my priorities to continuously advocate for and protect the Equal Rights Amendment as we work to finally ratify it.”
Carolyn ran for GA-7 in 2018. She gained major traction, having obtained significant endorsements and outrunning Republican incumbent Rob Woodall 3-1 in the third quarter of 2018. In the end, she lost by 0.2% (just 433 votes). Woodall is not seeking reelection. She is now challenging Republican opponent Rich McCormick. In the June primary, Carolyn inspired a record turnout of Democratic voters in her district. In a six-way primary, she earned nearly 53% of the votee. She is currently the best-funded candidate in the history of GA-7. This battleground race presents Democrats a critical opportunity to hold and expand their majority in the House of Representatives. With a career dedicated to creating public services and policies, Carolyn has the experience and passion necessary to put the people first and make our government work for us again.
Though Georgia is traditionally a red state, it is becoming more hospitable to Democrats. Several once-safe-red seats are now considered battlegrounds, including the seat you are running for. Given the current political climate in Georgia and elsewhere, why might traditionally Republican voters be ready to vote for you? Further, what is your leadership style, and how will you use it to unite our divided polity after the election?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “Georgians don't need a politician who is beholden to any party, special interest group, or donor — they need an advocate who is fighting for them. I’ve worked with both Republicans and Democrats before, like in the state budget office when I worked across the aisle to balance the state budget during the Great Recession. I was honored for my ability to bring both parties together with a special resolution for my significant service to the state of Georgia.
In 2018, I challenged a 4-term Republican incumbent who had never gotten below 60% of the vote. I believe my message of fighting for affordable health care, economic opportunity for our working families, and stepping up to do what is right for Georgia inspired record-breaking voter turnout in GA-07, and it's why I came within 433 votes of winning the seat, the closest race in the country. I know we can find common ground.”
What is the current state of your race, and how do you envision your path to victory?
Carolyn Bourdeaux: “If you looked at a map of districts in this country in 2016, Georgia's 7th Congressional District was a solid red. Nobody thought that this race could be won by a Democrat. Now, this district is considered one of the top prospects for Democratic pick-up in this country. In the last month, three nonpartisan elections analysts all moved my campaign in Georgia's 7th Congressional District from a "Toss Up" to "Lean/Tilt Democratic."
The ground in Georgia is changing, and the shifting momentum makes clear that Georgians are ready for a change in leadership. But we have a long way to go before Election Day.
On our primary election day this year, we saw record breaking voter turnout — but also unacceptable voter suppression. Many precincts in Gwinnett didn’t have voting machines, some lacked paper to print ballots, poll workers were confused, and 7th district voters stood in line for hours and hours — all to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Our team is building up a voter protection program, because we need to fight for every vote and fight for the very RIGHT to vote. We have grassroots enthusiasm at our backs, and we're hitting the ground running to ensure we make every voice heard this November.”