published Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Political change in North Georgia

Georgians who expected the current special session of the General Assembly to produce political fireworks are bound to be disappointed. There was little noise and almost no heat generated at the session, mainly dedicated to the redistricting required every 10 years to line up the state's legislative and Congressional boundaries with updated census figures. Given the political realities in the state, that's hardly a surprise.

There was, to be sure, some public bickering about proposed new boundaries among legislators, but it was muted. Some individuals and groups turned up at the special session to make their views about redistricting known. Those presentations, too, were pretty tame affairs. Just about everyone involved, it seems, understood the iron rule of redistricting: The party in power rules.

This year, Republicans control the Legislature. Their proposals and redrawn maps, worked out before the special session opened, were almost certain to be approved. There might be a change here or there, but the new congressional and legislative maps were all but assured of passage followed by the signature by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Democrats did make some noise, but they didn't have the votes. The redrawn maps generally beneficial to Republicans across the state carried the day on party-line votes. Democrats shouldn't complain too much. When they controlled the legislative process, they took care of their own, too.

The new voting maps will govern elections in the state for the next decade. That does not mean everything about redistricting is said and done. The new maps still must win approval from the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act. And there's a good chance Democrats will go to court to challenge the newly drawn plans.

Redistricting means change for several high-profile politicians in Georgia. One of the more prominent in that category is U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who now represents the 9th district in North Georgia. Barring some unexpected action, it appears likely that he will have to seek re-election in the new 14th congressional district. It contains many of the same counties as his current district, but there's enough shifting of lines to somewhat alter the district's political dynamic.

Graves says he looks forward to representing both old and new constituents, but incumbency is no guarantee of election success. The new district is still solidly Republican, but the changes likely will spawn competitors for his seat. Indeed, there's already talk that he'll face primary opposition. That's one result of redrawing the political map.

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