DALTON, Ga. - Northwest Georgia could get its own congressional district when it's time to redraw the lines next summer, a top political leader said.

In a recent visit to Dalton, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said the state could gain one or two representatives based on population growth. And there's been a "sentiment" in the state for a long time that Northwest Georgia should have its own district, he said.

Legislative redistricting takes place every decennial census. Results from the census will be finalized next spring, and the Georgia Legislature likely will call a special session next summer to redraw the lines, Rep. Ralston said.

Some say the 9th District, which spans from Lookout Mountain to Lake Lanier, could be split.

Rep. Ralston said redistricting has become a popular topic.

"Every time I come over the mountain (from Blue Ridge), that's all y'all want to talk about," Rep. Ralston said.

Newly elected 9th District Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, said he didn't have much insight into how the redistricting process would go, but said he would like to keep similar communities and industries together in one district.

Rep. Graves, who won a runoff in a special election to finish Nathan Deal's term, is hoping to win nomination Tuesday to serve a full term. Other candidates in the 9th District Republican primary are Chris Cates, Lee Hawkins, Bert Loftman, Bobby Reese and Steve Tarvin.

In the 9th District's special elections, candidates have campaigned heavily in Forsyth and Hall counties around Gainesville, where 43 percent of the registered voters live. But several candidates have mentioned the challenges of representing the poultry-based economies on the eastern side of the district with the rural tourism-based central area and the manufacturing-centered northwest.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he hopes to play a major role in the redistricting process and said a new district would give the region a stronger voice.

Some political insiders have suggested Sen. Mullis would be a logical choice to run for the potential seat, but he said he's not interested in cutting a district "for me."

He said he favors a district that would include Northwest Georgia counties but exclude counties in Atlanta's metro area.

In that layout, Northwest Georgia's textile and carpet industries could be bound together with one representative, he said.

"We don't want any Atlanta metro area influence in it," he said.