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Monday, September 11, 2006

GOP Redistricting & Other Myths in the GA 12th District Congressional Race

The Congressional Race in Georgia is so hot right now, that even the Los Angeles Times is covering it. Unfortunately, the article by Richard Fausset contained some factual errors and some misleading statements. Since the race between John Barrow and Max Burns involves my district, I am going to correct the record. For full disclosure purposes – I am a Max Burns supporter and donor.

LA TIMES: The districts were redrawn by the GOP majority in the state legislature to facilitate the election of Republicans to Congress.

"Bolstering their chances are new district boundaries drawn up by the first GOP-dominated Georgia Legislature since Reconstruction.
Democrats grumbled when the ascendant Republicans redrew congressional maps, which were introduced last year. Republicans said they were correcting years of Democratic gerrymandering."

TRUTH: The districts were initially redrawn after the 2000 census. At that time, the GA state legislature was under the control of the Democratic Party. The 12th district ran almost the entire eastern length of the state of GA.

The 12th Congressional District, newly created by the Democratic redistricting of 2001, combines almost all of Savannah (but only some of its suburbs), four-fifths of Augusta (but not much of its suburbs) and all of Athens into a long slim district that extends some 230 miles.

TRUTH: It is common knowledge (and cited in numerous articles) that the Democrats had one specific purpose for the expansive 12th district – elect more Democrats.

"The Democrat-controlled legislature designed this new district to elect a Democrat. Urban centers in Savannah and Augusta were joined with the majority Democrats in the university town of Athens."

"After the 2000 census, the Democratically controlled state legislature drew the 12th District to elect Charles "Champ" Walker, Jr. (D), son of then-state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker (D)."

"After the 2000 election, Georgia picked up two new Congressional seats. The 12th was drawn by the Democratic general assembly to grab the minority sections of Savannah and Chatham County; most of Augusta-Richmond County, excluding the wealthiest neighborhoods; and Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia and a liberal outpost in a conservative part of the state. In addition to these three urban areas, a large swath of rural Georgia, running from Savannah, up the South Carolina border to Augusta, and finally reaching to grab Athens-Clarke County completed the 12th. The district was drawn specifically to provide the Democrats with another seat."

LA TIMES: GA GOP candidates are helped by the GA GOP Redistricting.
TRUTH: The recently redrawn 12th district is closer to the federally mandated Congressional district requirements. Yes, it was drafted by the GOP controlled state legislature. Yes, it is slightly more Republican friendly. However, it is far from a gerrymandered district. If anything, the district is a 50-50 split.

"The General Assembly drew the 12th to be more Republican friendly by pulling some counties from Norwood’s heavily Republican district, as well as pulling some counties from Republican Jack Kingston’s heavily Republican 1st District. The 12th District has moved from a sure-thing Democratic seat to essentially a toss-up seat."

LA TIMES: Barrow had to move to Savannah because of the redistricting.
TRUTH: John Barrow did move from Athens after the district was redrawn. The inclusion of Athens in the 12th district was a farce. Athens is approximately 4 hours from Savannah. It was included in the 2001 redistricting plan because of the University of GA and its inherent liberal bent. It did not hurt the Dems chances that Athens was John Barrow’s hometown.

"Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia and a liberal outpost in a conservative part of the state"

"John Barrow’s home county of Athens-Clarke was removed from the 12th and placed in the newly drawn 10th District, a heavily Republican district represented by Charlie Norwood. In fact, Congressman Barrow was forced to purchase a new home within the new 12th District so he could run to keep his seat."

LA TIMES: Max Burns "served in the House for one term before being defeated by Barrow in 2004.”
TRUTH: Max Burns’ win in 2002 was quite an upset.

"The 12th District was one of Georgia's two new House districts in 2002 that was seemingly safely Democratic, but Max Burns, a Republican, won the district following the Democratic candidate’s poor campaign."

: Max Burns is a “conservative farmer”.
TRUTH: Max Burns is much more than just a "conservative farmer". Burns was a professor of Information Systems at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro before his election to Congress in 2002. He served 20 years on the faculty of the University System of GA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering, a Masters in Business Information Systems and a PhD in Business Administration. Burns also served in the US Army and the Army Reserve. In his “spare” time, Burns refereed high school football for 20 years.

As a Georgian, I appreciate the interest in our Congressional races. The 12th District race does promise to be a close one. Thanks to the 2005 redistricting, it will not be a slam dunk for either side. And that’s the way it should be.

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