published Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Locals praise plan for Georgia's new congressional district

Georgia U.S. House lines
Georgia U.S. House lines
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DALTON, Ga. -- The newly created 14th U.S. Congressional District in Northwest Georgia joins counties with similar interests and creates a compact district, local leaders say.

State legislators released the proposed U.S congressional district map Monday afternoon during their special session.

The district includes 11 counties and part of a 12th -- Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Polk, Paulding, Walker, Whitfield and part of Pickens. All the counties in the new district belong to the 15-county Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.

The 9th District moved east and now begins at Fannin and Gilmer counties and stretches to the South Carolina line.

Georgia earned a new House seat after the 2010 census because of its growing population, most of which has been in North Georgia. Southern Georgia lost population and saw district lines redrawn into larger districts.

"It's not quite what we were hoping for, but it could have been a lot worse," Whitfield County Commissioner Mike Babb said of the new district. "We've got something we haven't had in more than 50 years -- a Northwest Georgia congressional district."

The map will need federal approval under the Voting Rights Act before it is official.

At a June redistricting meeting in Dalton, Babb told state officials the area shares highways, rivers and similar economic issues that would benefit from being in the same district.

The change also means counties such as Dade, Walker, Catoosa and Whitfield no longer will be lumped with Hall and Forsyth counties. With a combined population of more than 350,000 and tied to an Atlanta metro area, Hall and Forsyth had different needs than Northwest Georgia, Babb said.

He still is somewhat concerned about Paulding's inclusion in the district, Babb said, because the county is more linked to Atlanta. With a population of 142,000, it is the largest county in the district. Whitfield ranks second at 102,000.

Ed Painter, a Dalton businessman who helped form the organization Northwest Georgia for the Northwest Georgians, called the proposed map an "excellent district."

In the last few months, Painter addressed local governments throughout the region and asked them to pass resolutions supporting the new district.

"A lot of people actually listened to our ideas," Painter said. "It [the new district] is compact, keeps together a commonality of interest and broke up only one county. And it is a competitive district. No single county will dominate."

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, represents the 9th District and would live within the new district. Graves is on a congressional trip to Israel this week and could not be reached for comment.

But in a statement released by Graves' office, he said "it will be an honor to run for re-election in the 14th District and continue working on behalf of Northwest Georgia as I bring the message of less government and personal freedom to the new counties joining our community."

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about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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