A Trump co-conspirator’s fast-changing district shows why Republicans are freaked out about Georgia

Alongside the many familiar names indicted by Georgia prosecutors on Monday night were a number of lesser-known figures who also stand accused of conspiring with Donald Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 elections. One person in particular, though, merits more attention: Shawn Still, a former finance chair for the state Republican Party who served as a fake elector in the sprawling scheme to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in seven key swing states.

But that doesn’t cover Still’s complete resume. Despite being unmasked as secretary for the false electors in March of 2021, Still went on to run for an open seat in the state Senate last year. And with fulsome support from his fellow Republicans, he defeated his Democratic opponent by double digits. That means he’s the only sitting office-holder who, to date, has been indicted for his alleged role in Trump’s plot to stay in office despite losing his bid for a second term.

You might expect someone like Still to hail from an especially conservative part of the state—like, say, rural Coffee County, the site of a successful Trump-backed effort to breach voting equipment the day after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Several of the individuals accused of masterminding that intrusion were in fact also indicted on Monday.

But Still actually represents a district in the Atlanta suburbs, one that tells the tale of a rapidly changing state whose flip from red to blue put it on the target list of Trump and his co-conspirators.

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The 48th Senate District was once a Republican stronghold, so much so that Sen. David Shafer won reelection seven straight times without opposition. But when Shafer left the seat open for an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2018, shifting demographics and Trump’s alienation of many once-loyal suburbanites helped Democrats flip his district in that fall’s blue wave. And the region writ large was instrumental in making Biden the first Democratic candidate for president to carry Georgia in two decades. (Not coincidentally, Shafer, who went on to become chair of the state GOP the following year, also got indicted on Monday.)

Republicans, however, were determined to reclaim Shafer’s old seat, but not by figuring out how to better appeal to voters there. Rather, they drew on the same anti-democratic playbook that motivated Trump and his accomplices and simply gerrymandered the district following the most recent census, grafting on conservative turf to ensure they could win it back without a sweat.

After they were done, their new lines barely resembled the old ones. Only a third of the district remained intact, and whereas Biden had carried the prior version by 18 points, Trump would have won the new iteration by 4. Democrat Michelle Au, who became the first Asian American woman in the Georgia legislature after winning the old 48th in 2020, knew she’d been targeted by the GOP and instead decided to run for a winnable seat in the state House. Still stepped into the gap and prevailed easily.

But Republicans cannot hold back the tide in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area forever. The region is home to a large and growing Black middle class, lots of young people, and huge numbers of college-educated voters—the sort who always show up at the polls. A glimpse at the very recent past shows us just how quickly things are changing: In 2016, Trump would’ve carried the revamped 48th District by 19 points. Just four years later, his support had cratered by 15 points, a massive drop.

And the bleeding has yet to stop. According to calculations by analyst Eli Spencer Heyman, Democrat Raphael Warnock actually won the district 51-49 en route to his victory in last year’s Senate runoff—a victory powered by a fast-shifting Metro Atlanta that Republicans seem unable to reckon with.

Even without his new legal woes, Still would have been vulnerable at the ballot box next year. If he chooses to run again despite his indictment, he definitely will be. But even if Republicans replace him, they can only hope to keep the future at bay for so long. And that future looks like Biden and Warnock and Au, not Shawn Still.

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