2020 Democratic Primary: Georgia 7
GA7: Nabilah Islam
Nabilah Islam is one of the most savvy and effective politicians that the progressive movement has this cycle. The “AOC of Georgia” has been around campaigns for nearly a decade and knows what it takes to win races like this, a difference between Islam and most first-time progressive candidates. She has done well to consolidate the entire progressive lane in the race, with endorsements from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. Notably, an endorsement from Bernie Sanders never came which surprises me given how today, he seems to be willing to hand out more endorsements to progressives in upcoming races.
That leads us to Islam’s fundraising which is good: 620k raised total, 52k cash on hand. Honestly, you’d like to see that COH number be a bit higher but it’s enough to compete. It’s worth emphasizing that if Islam were to miss the run off, it would not be because of money. Institutional support is where Islam lacks the most, only capturing a handful of endorsements from state officials.
Georgia’s 7th is a good chunk of the exurbs of Atlanta to the northeast. Unfortunately for Islam, the district’s density is not favorable for progressives. Only about 36.4% of the district is high or medium density (with only 1.6% high). That’s out of line with what we usually want to see for a progressive district. No Squad members of Sanders endorsers have that low a percentage of density except Mark Pocan in Wisconsin. Islam will have to turn out those denser areas if she’s to have any chance of making the runoff.
There is no major university in the district. Demographically, there are large Asian-American, Latinx, and Black populations; the average age is 36.4, about on par with the national average. Luckily for us, we have a fairly similar district to compare this race to.
Donna Imam’s race in TX31 should give Islam hope for her race tonight. In a contested primary with 6 people in it (like Islam’s), 2 people pulled away, the main moderate and the main progressive, Donna Imam. Imam had the money to compete, a racially diverse district (though not as diverse as Islam’s), and the progressive lane largely to herself. On top of that, Imam was also in a sparse suburban district with a current Republican incumbent, though Imam had slightly more density to play with. She was never showered in the progressive endorsements that Islam has but she did have union support, something Islam hasn’t been able to consolidate.
Ultimately, Imam and her main moderate opponent ended up with 30.7% and 34.7%, respectively. Imam actually lost in the first round but did well enough to make it to the runoff on July 14th. I could easily see Islam coming in second, advancing to the runoff, and garnering the endorsements necessary to beat Bourdeaux. I have her slightly edging Bourdeaux in the first round, but even if that doesn’t happen, it could be a good night for Islam.
While the Left and the progressive movement has gotten behind Islam, Bourdeaux has snagged endorsements from members of the Georgia delegation to Congress, including John Lewis. That said, she doesn’t have many organizations behind her. In contrast, Zahra Karinshak, a current state Senator, is endorsed by major organizations like VoteVets PAC, NOW PAC, and Serve America PAC. Brenda Lopez Romero is also running, a state representative; she lists no endorsements. John Eaves was a commissioner on the Fulton County board, a notable position; he also lists no endorsements. Finally there is Rashid Malik, who hasn’t submitted an FEC report but who is running on a progressive platform. Here’s how fundraising breaks down:
- Bourdeaux- 1.7mill raised total, 645k COH
- Karinshak — 782k raised total, 350k COH
- Islam — 619k raised total, 52k COH
- Lopez Romero- 164k raised total, 27k COH
- Eaves: 145k raised total, 54k COH
Keep in mind that these reports were finalized on 5/20. Islam has surely raised more money so this number is only one indicator of how much money she’s working with now. It’s pretty obvious who the juggernaut is in the race: Bordeaux. She’s run before, people know her, she came incredibly close to winning, and she announced her candidacy in early 2019. Karinshak may be the actual threat to Islam, given she has roots in the community as a state senator and just as much raised.
A Review of Pros and Cons
- Consolidated progressive lane
- Last minute help probably gave her a jolt of fundraising
- Raised a considerable amount on her own
- Roots in the community
- Knows how to run an effective race
- Average age
- Sparse suburban district
- 2 formidable fundraisers
- 2 elected officials
- Not much COH
- No union support
- No major university in district
Nabilah Islam is one of the great hopes of the 2020 election cycle. Even given how weak the district is in terms of density, the fact that several moderates are dividing that vote and Islam has consolidated the progressive organizations and national endorsements, I have no problem projecting a slight edge for Islam over Bourdeaux. Just remember, it may be fool’s gold. If Islam makes it to the runoff and can’t consolidate more support across the district and from other major organizations, she may stick at about 30–40%.
Islam — 31
Bourdeaux — 29
Karinshak — 18
Lopez Romero — 12
Eaves — 8
Malik — 2
Chance of advancing to runoff: