With the year that 2020 has been, many are hoping for big changes in the new year. One change for residents living in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which is made up of the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, will be a new member of Congress from a new party taking office.
Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Democrat who won the seat in the Nov. 5 general election over Republican candidate Rich McCormick, will be sworn-in on Sunday, Jan. 3 and will get to work the next day.
“It’s an extraordinary honor to be able to represent people and be given a role where I can help and hopefully be part of a coalition and provide leadership in solving some of the really pressing problems we face as a community,” Bourdeaux recently told Forsyth County News.
She is replacing incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Woodall, who has held the office since 2011 and did not seek re-election for a sixth term. Despite the party differences, Bourdeaux said so far, the transition between the offices is going smooth.
“We have reached out to Rep. Woodall to work on transfers of cases and casework, and he has been very collegial about that and very helpful,” she said. “I want to make sure that nobody slips through the cracks as we have that transition, so that’s a big piece of it.”
Bourdeaux, a professor at Georgia State University, said she has a history of bipartisanship dating back to her time working at the Georgia Senate Budget and Evaluation Office and as a legislative aid for Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who previously served in the House and wants to “bring that kind of bipartisan and problem-solving outlook to this current job.”
“I have talked a lot about how I am interested in bringing people together to solve problems,” Bourdeaux said. “My background, of course, is I have worked with people from both parties both when I was a legislative aid in Washington, I was working for Ron Wyden, he was a Democrat that had a Republican sponsor on every single piece of legislation that I worked on. Then, I worked with the Republican leadership in Georgia to balance the budget.”
Since the election, Bourdeaux has been working to step into the new role and recently attended orientation for new members of Congress, which she said involved a lot of Zoom meetings to keep up with social distancing.
Bourdeaux was also recently assigned to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which she said could help aid some of Forsyth and Gwinnett’s traffic woes.
“I think congestion, ensuring that we have good ways of getting around the district are incredibly important to economic development and to the business community, that’s one of the reasons it was one of my top pics for a primary committee,” she said. “Anyone who has set on [Ga.] 400 or [Int.] 85 during rush hour [traffic] knows that not only do we need to think about the capacity of roads, but certainly, in Gwinnett, there’s been a lot of interest in thinking about transit and where that is appropriate. We want to work with people on expanding alternative ways of getting around.”
Along with the transportation issues, Bourdeaux said she is also working to join other committees and caucuses and said some of the issues she hopes to focus on are eliminating COVID-19, helping small businesses and bolstering health care.
“A critical issue that I ran on is health care, and I am looking to work with a coalition to address some of the really serious health care issues that we face in the 7th District,” she said. “We pay extortionary rates for health insurance. We pay very high rates for prescription medications, and despite paying an awful lot for health care, we still have 120,000-plus people in the 7th District without health insurance. That was the number before the crisis, and now I would not be surprised if it was much higher as people have lost their jobs and just don’t have the money to pay for the health coverage that is so expensive here.”
With a newly-elected official representing the district, Bourdeaux said she is already making plans to hold events to meet the community and get input on upcoming legislation.
“We are getting ready to put together various events around the district,” Bourdeaux said. “and are working very hard on outreach so we can collect and understand what people’s needs are and are able to carry the banner of the people of the 7th District in Washington.