Gwinnett and the northern suburbs of Atlanta are also where Democratic strategists are hoping to flip state legislative seats. Adrienne White, the migrant from Virginia, is also the chair of Red Clay Democrats, a group trying to jumpstart Georgia’s progressive young professionals’ involvement in politics. She says this year is Democrats’ first chance to win seats that have long been Republican. Previously, Republicans had run unopposed for those seats, but this year, she said, Republican incumbents aren’t running again—perhaps because they see the writing on the wall in their majority-minority districts—and fresh Democratic and Republican candidates are running against each other. These seats include the Georgia 48th district Senate seat, the Georgia 51st district House seat, and the Georgia 79th district House seat. There are 14 districts, she told me, that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 but a Republican held the state seat. “That’s potential opportunity,” she told me. Georgia’s 7th Congressional District is also centered mostly in Gwinnett County, and Democrats are hoping to give Republican incumbent Rob Woodall a competitive race. Democrats are also running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District against Republican Karen Handel, who narrowly defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, 52 to 48 percent, last year. Two Democrats will face off in a runoff in July to see who will run against Handel; one of those two Democrats is projected to be Lucy McBath, a gun-control activist whose black son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed at a gas station by a man objecting to the music he was playing in his car.
That Democrats are even running in these districts is a sea change from a few years ago, and one that would not have been possible without the increasing diversity of these regions. Bianca Keaton, the Washington, D.C., migrant, said she got involved in politics in Gwinnett because she was surprised how few Democrats were on the ballot. (Despite its diversity, Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners is still completely white, and one of its commissioners caused an uproar last year when he wrote a Facebook post calling Civil Rights leader John Lewis a “racist pig.”) This year, though, Okoye told me, Democrats are running in all the state Senate district seats in Gwinnett, and also in all the School Board and County Commission seats that are up this year—previously, Republicans had run unopposed.
Of course, it could be a long time before Democrats regain control of the state legislature. Charles S. Bullock III, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, predicts that might not happen until the mid 2020s. But Republicans’ support is definitely eroding as the state gets more diverse, he said. “The situation is that the Republican Party has crested in Georgia and is now sliding downhill,” he said. “They’ve maxed out in terms of their share of the vote.” In 2006, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Sonny Perdue, got 58 percent of the vote—by 2014, the Republican gubernatorial Nathan Deal, an incumbent, won with just 53 percent of the vote.