Journal-Constitution: "Redistricting Plan Still Has Hurdles."
September 30, 2001
The state Democratic Party got what it wanted in congressional redistricting --- a plan designed to return control of Georgia's delegation to Democrats.
This map, approved by the Legislature late Friday after weeks of wrangling, is fueling Democratic expectations of winning seven of 13 seats in next year's election. Since 1994, the GOP has been the majority in the 11-member delegation, which will grow by two districts because of Georgia's population boom in the past decade.
The plan would cede three regions to Republicans: the South Georgia coastal area, North Georgia to the tip of Atlanta and a 15-county area northwest of Macon. The rest of the state is expected to favor Democrats for Congress.
Significant hurdles to the plan remain far beyond its review by Gov. Roy Barnes, who has given every indication he will sign it into law.
First, the federal government must approve the plan after checking for compliance with the Voting Rights Act, ensuring that minority voters were not illegally manipulated to benefit either party. That will be done either by a three-panel federal court in Washington, D.C., or by the Justice Department.
In addition, Republicans also are considering filing a federal lawsuit against the map. "This map is very vulnerable to legal challenge," said state GOP Chairman Ralph Reed, who was at the Capitol when the Legislature approved the plan.
But in a historic first, the largely black metro Atlanta legislative delegation had a powerful hand in how the metro districts were drawn. By threatening to withhold their vote from any plan they did not help draw, they forced Senate leaders to adopt their approach.
Midway in the negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker (D-Augusta) resigned as a conferee to make way for Sen. Nadine Thomas (D-Ellenwood). Behind the scenes, Sen. David Scott (D-Atlanta) was brought into Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor's office to work with the cartographers in an effort to create a new district, the 13th, cutting across the southern metro area while also protecting districts designed for incumbent Democrats Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney.
"This was a very important step for Atlanta to take," said Scott, who pressed for Atlanta representation. "The population growth is in the metro area. Ten of the 13 districts touch metro Atlanta. We made it clear that Atlanta must have a seat at the table."
The political landscape of the new map is taking shape.
U.S. Rep. Bob Barr said Saturday he will challenge U.S. Rep. John Linder for a new Republican seat in Atlanta's northern suburbs. Both Republicans now represent a portion of the new 7th District.
A new northwest Georgia district taking in some of Barr's current territory, the 11th, was drawn to favor election of a Democrat. An early name suggested by some party leaders is Roger Kahn, who lost a campaign last year to unseat Barr. Kahn brings some name recognition and a personal fortune, which he used last year.
Two Republican incumbents appear to be in the same Republican district down along the coast --- U.S. Reps. Saxby Chambliss and Jack Kingston. Democrats expect the two to square off against each other, with Chambliss winning because of his new role as chairman of a congressional subcommittee on terrorism.
In a Middle Georgia district that House Speaker Tom Murphy (D-Bremen) worked hard to create, two names have popped up. One is the law partner of House Majority Leader Larry Walker (D-Perry), Chuck Byrd. Byrd has not held public office, but his father, Garland T. Byrd, was elected Georgia's lieutenant governor in 1958 and served through 1962.
A second name that emerged late Friday is former Macon Mayor Jim Marshall. Some Democrats tout him as a decorated Vietnam War veteran with proven fund-raising ability.
In the new 13th District on metro Atlanta's Southside, several high-profile Democrats have expressed interest in running. Sen. Greg Hecht (D-Morrow) has already formed a campaign committee. Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) has formed an exploratory committee. Thomas, who served on the conference committee, said she is considering a run.
The name most mentioned is David Worley, chairman of the state Democratic Party. Worley lost a campaign against former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a fight over a south Atlanta district a decade ago, but has proven his fund-raising abilities and reportedly has some early support.
Still, Worley is white and the district favors a black candidate. And if the Republican primary election is competitive next year, Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor, said minority voters could nominate one of their own.
Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this article.
Moments after the Georgia General Assembly approved a new congressional map late Friday night, the politicians most affected by the plan had already begun gauging its impact and plotting their next moves.
For the state's eight Republican congressmen, the map - crafted by majority Democrats to maximize their party's influence - could mean deciding whether to face one of their GOP colleagues for re-election, run in a new district or seek higher office.
The General Assembly voted largely along party lines to adopt a new congressional map for Georgia. The legislature redraws political districts every 10 years to account for population changes that show up in the U.S. census.
The vote capped a testy mapping session that dragged on for more than a month and came on the heels of a separate session, begun Aug. 1, to redraw state House and Senate districts.
The House supported the plan 99-59, getting just eight more votes than the bare minimum the majority Democrats needed to pass it. More than two hours later, the Senate followed suit, 30-23, with just a single vote to spare.
The map must now be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, which will ensure it doesn't illegally dilute minority voting strength, and withstand an expected lawsuit by Republicans, who say Democrats illegally carved up the state at the expense of communities of interest.
''Georgians will not be used as political pawns by arrogant politicians,'' said Senate Republican Leader Eric Johnson of Savannah, who called the map ''political apartheid,'' dividing whites and blacks to predetermine political performance.
But Democrats argue that it's unfair to send eight Republicans and three Democrats to Washington from a state that has never elected a Republican governor, has two Democratic senators and is usually considered a battleground state in presidential elections.
They say the new map, which adds two new seats because of Georgia's population growth, would more accurately represent the views of the state's voters.
According to some analyses, the new map would create six Democratic-leaning seats, six Republican seats and one toss-up.
''It just depends on who runs and who works the hardest,'' said state Sen. Tim Golden, D-Valdosta, chairman of the Senate's redistricting committee. ''It's a very fair map.''
Among the 13 proposed districts, the majority of voters in four districts voted for Democrat Al Gore for president in 2000, and he received more than 47 percent of the votes in three others.
Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes received the majority of votes in eight of the proposed districts.
Kingston and Chambliss face perhaps the toughest task among incumbent Republican congressmen under the map.
The new 1st district includes half of Kingston's home county of Chatham and all the coastal counties he currently represents. But it also takes in much of the middle south Georgia district Chambliss speaks for, including the military bases he represents as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
A spokesman said Chambliss, like Kingston, is considering challenging Gov. Roy Barnes or U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, both Democrats, instead of facing a GOP colleague for re-election.
''He's going to do what's in the best interests of the people of Georgia ... and do it on their terms and his terms, not the terms of the Democrat Party,'' Rob Leebern, Chambliss' chief of staff, said late Friday. ''We'll see how it turns out.''
Kingston, who was on his way to Tattnall County -- which is currently in his district but would not be under the new map -- on Saturday, said the two representatives would before making their decisions.
''The only message we got to each other is that we'll sit down and look at our options and probably make a coordinated move,'' Kingston said. ''We both feel like we've got friends in southeast and middle Georgia and we've both got money in the bank.''
Kingston said the real losers under the new map will be his constituents in Savannah, west Chatham and other counties who have known him for eight years and now likely will be represented by someone from Augusta or Athens in the new 12th district.
''To tell a 68-year-old widow from downtown Savannah she's going to have to call Augusta to get her Social Security straightened out -- I'm not going to do that,'' Kingston said. ''It's going to be one of those things where I'm going to do everything I can for Chatham County, but there are going to be limits.''
Rep. John Linder, a Republican who currently represents the Athens area, had similar comments about a plan that pulls Athens into the 12th.
''Athens is the economic driver of northeast Georgia,'' Linder said. ''It deserves to be the center of a district.
''It is a travesty for northeast Georgia, and the Democrats don't care.''
The following is a look at the area's U.S. House of Representatives districts under a map approved by the Georgia General Assembly late Friday night.
District 9: Where is it?: Covering most of northeast Georgia, the new 9th District runs south along the South Carolina border down to Columbia County and includes Jackson, Barrow, Banks, Oconee and other counties surrounding Athens.
Current representative: Republicans Charlie Norwood and John Linder represent parts of the new district.
What happened: The new map moves rural northeast Georgia out of Mr. Linder's old suburban Atlanta district. With Athens out of the district, it becomes even more Republican and would be expected to elect Mr. Norwood.
District 12: Where is it? Based in Augusta, this narrow district runs north to take in Athens and Clarke County and south to take in west Chatham County and most of downtown and midtown Savannah. Bulloch, Effingham, Screven, Jenkins and Burke counties would be included, as would the north half of Bryan County.
Current representative: New district
What happened: The Democrat-controlled legislature crafted 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.
When state Sen. Nadine Thomas (D-Ellenwood) stormed angrily away from the table in the wee hours of Friday morning, the weekslong effort by House and Senate conferees to draw a new Georgia congressional map seemed doomed to failure.
By mid-afternoon Friday, the conferees had shaken hands on a deal that seemed to please nearly all the Democrats (and even some of the Republicans, although none of them voted for it).
How did this deal --- which the Democrats desperately needed to head off a major embarrassment --- get made?
Desperation was a key motivating factor, according to those who took part in the final negotiations.
A tumultuous meeting of the Black Caucus was a critical turning point. And the last part of the deal to fall in place involved a few DeKalb County precincts which have been a sticking point since the beginning of the special redistricting session.
Part of what led to the post-midnight blowup was Thomas' displeasure with the new 13th District skirting the south metro suburbs.
When they got back together early Friday morning, said House Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tommy Smith (D-Alma), the conferees agreed to put their differences over geography aside and approach the map in terms of the numbers --- Democratic performance in recent elections and black voting age population.
With rank-and-file Democrats growing increasingly nervous about the political fallout from this session, the conferees were aware their backs were against the wall.
"We all knew the plan we brought up [Friday] was our last shot, and that helped bring everybody together," Smith said.
The session almost collapsed the previous Friday, when Gov. Roy Barnes balked at a plan that would have split Cobb County among four congressional districts. Since midweek, House conferee Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) had been on the phone with civic leaders in Columbus selling a compromise which offered the best hope of completing the complicated jigsaw puzzle of Democratic interests south and west of Atlanta.
Barnes would accept a three-way split in Cobb, and Columbus-Muscogee County would be divided three ways in order to push up the Democratic numbers in the West Georgia district which House Speaker Tom Murphy insisted on.
Late Friday morning, Smyre was called from the speaker's office to a meeting of the Black Caucus.
"Up to that point, there had not been much discussion between African-Americans in the House and the Senate," Smyre said.
Senate conferee Paul Brown, a key figure in the final round of deal-making, went over a compromise plan with the caucus. Smyre warned that black Democrats would be blamed if the Legislature got this close to a compromise and didn't come up with a map.
None of the state's three African-American members of Congress were at this meeting, but their agreement was crucial to the final deal.
The Democratic numbers for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop's southwest Georgia district were better than in some previous maps, and he agreed to the Muscogee split. U.S. Rep. John Lewis made several concessions, reflected in a more irregularly shaped 5th District than the current one.
All that remained --- as Murphy urged the increasingly impatient House members to stick around for the final vote --- were a few precincts north of Emory University, which state Rep. Doug Teper had been working since the session started to get moved out of U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney's 4th District.
With Brown, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, and her father, state Rep. Billy McKinney, on the phone, Cynthia McKinney at last agreed to let the precincts be moved into Lewis' district.
The conferees met not long afterward to seal the agreement with a handshake.
There remained a little last-minute juggling of district numbers --- the 3rd swapped with the 8th, and the 7th with the 11th --- and a few Augusta precincts were moved to place the residence of Charles Walker Jr., son of the Senate majority leader and a likely congressional candidate, into the 12th District.
But with the handshake, the deal was done.
After a lengthy and contentious session of Democratic infighting, Georgia legislators approved a Congressional redistricting plan Friday night that was designed to reverse the Republican majority in the state's House delegation.
Georgia has 11 Congressional seats, and Republicans hold eight of them, with the other three held by Democrats. The state is one of four to pick up two seats as a result of the 2000 reapportionment, and the plan approved Friday would put majorities of Democratic voters in seven of the 13 districts. Before the 1990 redistricting, Democrats held all but one of Georgia's seats, that of Newt Gingrich, and they have been eager for 10 years to reclaim control.
Under the new map, both of the new seats, one of them encompassing a large swath of suburban Atlanta and the other stretching from Augusta to Savannah, were designed with majorities of Democratic voters. In addition, two sets of incumbent Republicans could be forced to challenge each other, with Bob Barr facing John Linder and Saxby Chambliss facing Jack Kingston.
Republicans have vowed to challenge the plan in federal court, possibly on the grounds that it would dilute minority voting strength, which would violate the Voting Rights Act.
Though both houses of the General Assembly are controlled by Democrats, the lawmakers had labored in fits and starts since Aug. 22 to devise the new map.
While there was never much question that the new districts would be drawn to favor Democrats, there were feuds over whether certain districts would be drawn to assist specific prospective candidates and which incumbent Republicans would be harmed. There were also regional disputes about the placement of districts and the division of counties.
Gov. Roy E. Barnes, a Democrat, had threatened to send the General Assembly home and suspend the redistricting effort until January if a plan was not passed by midnight Friday.
With a 99-to-59 vote in the House and then a 30-to-23 vote in the Senate, the legislators made their deadline by two hours. The governor is expected to sign the plan next week.
With Republicans holding a majority of only 10 House seats in Washington, Democratic gains in states like Georgia could have a significant effect on the party's chances to take control in 2002 after eight years in the minority. Redistricting is expected to help Republicans in several other states, so the Democrats' ability to pick up seats in Georgia and a few other states could be critical.
Touting a proposed set of political maps that bind communities of interest, a local business group released the city's first - but likely not last - local redistricting plan Friday based on 2000 U.S. Census data.
The Citizens Committee for Progress will present its redistricting maps next week to Augusta commissioners in hopes of seeing the proposal passed and sent to the General Assembly for approval.
''It is a start, and it is a beginning for our community,'' said Don Grantham, a spokesman for the group.
Although the group is optimistic that its lines are the most logical and equitable, they acknowledge that it is unlikely it will be approved without amendment.
''What we are saying is we are not the final author of a final map the commission will use,'' Mr. Grantham said. ''We know that there will be changes.''
The Citizens Committee for Progress - a decade-old group made up of local business professionals - has spent the past six months drafting a map of new Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education districts.
Census figures show that although Augusta has not grown significantly during the past decade, there have been some major population shifts, mostly people moving from the inner city to outlying suburban areas in the south and west. The Citizens for Progress maps reflect those shifts, with commission Districts 1 and 2 losing the most residents and Districts 8 and 3 gaining the most.
''We're looking at this more as an economic and geographic map and not a political map,'' Mr. Grantham said.
Using a computer software program that committee members declined to identify, they were able to determine how 2000 Census figures affected existing commission districts. Based on population of voting-age residents, each commission district should have 18,271 people of voting age.
But four commission districts - 1, 2, 5 and Super District 9 - have deviated from that ideal number by more than 10 percent, largely because of population loss.
''Our population has moved around, and that's what this map takes care of,'' said committee member Braye Boardman.
When redrawing the lines to make districts more equal in size, the group focused on creating what it is calling ''communities of interest.'' Under the committee's proposed map, District 1 would no longer stretch to Augusta Regional Airport, but instead would be made more compact to encompass the downtown area.
District 2 would pick up the industrial corridor that includes Sandbar Ferry Road, currently in District 1. Districts 7 and 3 would share the northwest Augusta area - the fastest growing part of the city.
Districts 6 and 8 were made smaller because of substantial growth in the south Augusta area, but Districts 4 and 5 - which have a high concentration of manufacturing businesses - increased in size because of population loss.
''It was drawn strictly by geographic borders and numbers,'' Mr. Boardman said. All commissioners' seats would be preserved under the proposed lines, with the exception of south Augusta Commissioners Andy Cheek and Ulmer Bridges, who would swap districts. Three school board members would be displaced by the proposed lines.
Although school board districts must be drawn by the legislative delegation, Augusta commissioners have the authority to draw their own lines. Once a map is approved locally, new lines must be approved by the General Assembly and the U.S. Justice Department.
A packet detailing the citizens committee's proposal was delivered to the the Richmond County Board of Elections office Friday.
For the first time, a computer program will be loaded onto a city computer that allows local officials to experiment with district lines and come up with their own map by clicking a mouse.
The citizens committee's proposal likely will be one of many proposals, once commissioners start getting involved, said Lynn Bailey, the executive director of the local election board.
''I would imagine that this (map) would perhaps get the ball rolling a bit,'' Ms. Bailey said.
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Just hours before a midnight deadline, the Georgia Legislature stopped bickering and finally approved a redrawn congressional district map.
After an all-Democrat committee of legislators agreed Friday afternoon on new political boundaries for Georgia's 13 congressional districts, the state House and Senate adopted them Friday night, ending the special legislative session.
In the process, they created a map of winding shapes that placed far-flung Rome and Columbus together in a single district, and Athens and Savannah in another.
The Legislature also likely increased Democratic representation in Georgia's congressional delegation. The map was redrawn to increase the number of Georgia Democrats in Congress from three of 11 seats to seven of 13.
The House approved the map, 99-59, and the Senate followed suit, 30-23. The new political configuration still needs the signature of Gov. Roy Barnes and federal approval under the Voting Rights Act. Barnes was in Gainesville on Friday and could not be reached for comment.
State Republican Party Chairman Ralph Reed said the GOP probably will file a federal lawsuit challenging the makeup of the districts. "This map is very vulnerable to legal challenge," Reed said.
House Speaker Tom Murphy (D-Bremen) dismissed Reed's comments. "Is he a lawyer?" Murphy said. "I don't really think they have a legal reason" to challenge the plan.
Among the highlights of the redrawn map:
Republican U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston and Saxby Chambliss may have been placed in the same South Georgia district. And Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Barr's 7th District seat, now residing in a new 11th District, is subject to a Democratic voter majority. Barr is expected to challenge U.S. Rep. John Linder in a metro Atlanta seat. Other Republican incumbents appeared to be unharmed by the boundary shifts.
Democratic U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney retained the core of their districts in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Lewis honored a promise to do what was necessary to bolster the chances of Democrats in the state by agreeing to give up friendly areas of south Fulton and pick up new voters as far north as Roswell. McKinney surrendered the exclusive Druid Hills neighborhood and offered to keep Republican precincts in Gwinnett County.
A new 13th District will be anchored by Clayton County and cover portions of 10 other metro Atlanta counties, including Gwinnett, Walton, Rockdale, Fulton, Butts and Spalding. Earlier dubbed the "I-285 district" because some versions of it virtually circled Atlanta, the district's lines were moved out of Cobb and Douglas counties. Sen. David Scott (D-Atlanta) said it is as compact as it can be while still meeting Democratic objectives.
South Georgia will have four congressional districts, including a narrow territory spanning from Savannah to Athens. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor accomplished his goal of keeping three districts in deep South Georgia.
A new Middle Georgia district will run generally from Buena Vista to Reidsville to Sparta. It was one of two major demands by Murphy, who said it was high time the state's central region had its own member of Congress. Murphy's other principal concern was to create a Democratic district for Barr, the conservative Republican from Cobb County.
The special legislative session, which began Aug. 22, focused mainly on congressional redistricting made necessary by population shifts reflected in the 2000 census. Georgia's congressional delegation is growing by two seats because of population growth in the last decade.
Republicans, in the minority and shut out of the decision-making, heaped criticism on the map and the process used to devise it. Linda Hamrick, who coordinated the GOP redistricting team, said the map is the product "of a group of Democratic candidates drawing districts for themselves."
Some Democrats also grumbled about the process, which at one point produced a stunning vote by the Senate to disband while the House refused to shut down.
Amid the fear of defection from some of their own members and harsh criticism from Republicans, Democrats left nothing to chance in the hours preceding the House vote.
"It's much more intense than the flag vote," said Rep. Tommy Smith (D-Alma), the chief House negotiator on redistricting. "We're putting on a full-court press like I've not seen us do on any piece of legislation in my memory."
Taylor, president of the Senate, said he was pleased the Legislature agreed on a map so the state can move on.
"We got a vote that brings this special session to an end and gets us focused on job creation, getting the economy moving forward and dealing with some of our security issues here in Georgia," Taylor said.
Georgia Democrats survived racial fights, political bickering and regional conflicts to give final approval yesterday to new congressional district lines that could give the party as many as four new House seats in a crucial victory in the national redistricting struggle.
The national redistricting -- which really involves a collection of state-by-state battles, most involving marginal shifts of one seat -- is roughly one third complete. For Democrats, Georgia offered the best chance to make a substantial gain and, until yesterday, the prospects for success had appeared slim as the state legislature approached a deadline of last night.
"It matters not whether the road is straight, but just that you get where you want to go," said John Kirincich, executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party. Under the plan approved by the legislature last night, the new lines could result in one of "the single biggest pickups from redistricting that any party has gotten," he said.
Ralph Reed, the Georgia Republican chairman, acknowledged that the Democrats had produced a plan that on paper looks like a major setback to the GOP, but, he argued, incumbent Republican House members have shown an ability to win in Democratic-leaning districts. "I've had members look me in the eye and say, 'I will take the $750,000 to $850,000 I've raised, move to a district across the state, and I'll win it,' " Reed said.
Because of population growth recorded in the 2000 census, Georgia will pick up two new House seats. Currently, the Georgia delegation has eight Republicans and three Democrats. Democrats contend that the post-2002 delegation could be 7 to 6 Democratic.
They note that in the new configuration, seven of the 13 districts have Democratic voting histories, or a "performance" of 55 percent or more, leaving only six secure GOP seats.
The Georgia setup would balance the solid Republican redistricting victory in Michigan, where a 9 to 7 Democratic majority delegation is likely to become a 9 to 6 GOP majority. Michigan lost a seat because of its shrinking population.
California has already proven to be a disappointment to many Democrats. Pressures to protect incumbents and avoid a referendum challenge prompted Democrats in control of the process to adopt a plan with only a one-seat Democratic pickup, frustrating those who saw an opportunity to gain as many as four seats because of the state's population growth.
With Republicans hoping to make gains of two to three seats each in Pennsylvania, Ohio and perhaps Florida -- where the GOP controls the legislature and the governorship -- Georgia has been viewed by Democratic Party strategists as an essential linchpin to their national plans.
Nationally, Republicans say they are likely to pick up eight to 10 seats as a result of redistricting, while Democrats contend that the outcome will be a wash. Democrats note that the expected GOP gains in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be countered by a collection of one-seat Democrat pickups in North Carolina, New Mexico and Iowa, along with Republican losses in Oklahoma and Indiana.
Republicans bolster their prospective numbers by arguing that Democrats are likely to suffer single-seat losses in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and, perhaps, Utah as the lines are redrawn.
There are strong incentives for Democrats and Republicans to exaggerate their prospects of redistricting success: The party that is expected to control the House after the 2002 elections will have a much easier time recruiting strong candidates and raising money.
One of the most striking trends has been a reduction in the number of competitive seats. Mark Gersh, Washington director of the National Committee for an Effective Congress, has estimated that out of the 137 districts that have been redrawn, the number of marginal seats has fallen from 23 to 15.
If this pattern continues for all 435 districts, there will be a number of significant consequences. The national outcome of House elections will be less reflective of overall political trends, and the "coattail" effects in presidential election years will be weakened because fewer seats will change hands.
The state where there is a potential for the largest partisan swing of seats is Texas, where legislators failed to agree on a plan and the issue is before a Democratic state judge in Austin.
Texas Democrats control the delegation by a 17 to 13 ratio. They have proposed protecting all incumbents and giving each party one of the two new districts that must be added because of population growth -- one a Democratic Hispanic seat in South Texas and the other a Republican seat north of Dallas.
The GOP, however, contends that the state has moved dramatically toward the Republican Party and has proposed plans that would add from four to eight Republican seats, while eliminating a number of seats held by white Democrats.
The state court is expected to issue a ruling early next week, which will then go before a federal court in East Texas for review.
In Georgia, both local and national Democrats had been worried that this year could turn into a repeat of the post-1990 census redistricting, when state House Speaker Tom Murphy (D) was determined to use redistricting to defeat then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The Murphy plan not only failed to force Gingrich out of office, but it set the stage for the 1994 elections, when the Democratic losses in Georgia were among the most severe in the nation.
This year, Murphy sought to end the House career of Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.), undermining, in the view of Democratic strategists there, the larger goal of creating the maximum possible number of Democratic-leaning districts. At one point, black Democrats in the House voted against the 2001 Murphy plan.
The plan approved by the legislature, according to Democrats, puts Republican Reps. John Linder and Jack Kingston most at risk, while Barr and Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss, another Republican viewed by Democrats as a threat in a Democratic district, are both likely to choose to run in Republican-leaning districts.
Georgia lawmakers approved a redistricting plan Friday designed to give Democrats a majority of the state's congressional delegation for the first time since 1994.
The plan would create seven districts with a majority of Democratic voters and six with a majority of Republican voters.
Republicans currently hold eight of 11 congressional seats; the state gained two seats because of population increases.
The new map still requires the signature of Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes and faces potential lawsuits from Republicans.
Democrats, including Barnes, went into the session intent on reversing GOP gains during the last decade. The two new districts were drawn for Democrats, and others were changed to make it difficult for incumbent Republicans.
Republicans fought the new districts, arguing they may be struck down by the courts because they dilute minority voting strength.
But black Democrats, who broke with their party during redistricting after the 1990 census, refused to join Republicans this time.
Democrats have long acknowledged that the map was drawn for partisan reasons. Still, Republican leaders said their candidates may be able to win some of the districts drawn for Democrats.
"We're not going to be intimidated by people who want to stack the deck to try to gives us odds we can't beat," said Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.
Senate Republican leader Eric Johnson called the map "partisan apartheid."
"The Georgia Democratic party is stealing the election for the next 10 years, or trying to," he said.
The shape of proposed congressional districts in Northwest Georgia and metro Atlanta was keeping House and Senate negotiators from agreeing on a redistricting plan for Georgia's 13 U.S. House districts late Thursday.
"The thing that's holding us up now is the configuration of the 7th (Northwest) and 13th (metro) districts," said House Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tommy Smith, D-Alma.
The House and Senate are to meet in session today for the first time in a week, and leaders in both chambers have said if a plan is not adopted, they will end the session.
The composition of Northwest Georgia varied greatly in the House and Senate proposals. The House map had Chattooga, Floyd and parts Walker, Gordon and Bartow counties in the 7th District, with the remainder of the region, except for a portion of Bartow, in the 10th District.
The Senate map had Chattooga, Floyd and parts of Whitfield, Gordon and Bartow counties in the 7th District. Fannin and Gilmer counties were in the 10th District with much of Northeast Georgia. The Senate's 11th District included Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Murray and parts of Whitfield and Gordon counties. The remainder of Bartow was in the 9th District.
Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, said the conference committee may not agree on a plan. "I'll be surprised if we even have a vote (of the full General Assembly)," he said.
"I think it's still going to be tough to get the (91) votes in the House, but I would vote for the Senate map," Rep. Snow said. "It would keep Nathan Deal as our congressman, and I don't have a problem with that."
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said today's return to session of the Senate could be for naught. He said it's possible that the Senate Democrats might not be able to get 29 of their 32 members to vote for any congressional reapportionment plan. Thus far, all 24 Senate Republicans have opposed each state and federal reapportionment plan that has been presented.
"We've spent way over $1 million trying to pass a congressional plan so far," Sen. Mullis said. "If partisan politics had been left out, we could have been through with this process long ago."
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The special session on congressional reapportionment is over for the Georgia Senate, but the lieutenant governor may call senators back for one day only, said spokesman David Sutton.
"Legislative counsel has held that the Senate's adjournment resolution is valid," said Mr. Sutton, press secretary for Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, president of the Senate.
"The lieutenant governor has told the House he will bring the senators back for one day only this week to consider a final congressional map for passage," Mr. Sutton said.
"If the map that is presented is not satisfactory to the members of the Senate or the lieutenant governor, he will not bring the members of the Senate back," he said.
Gov. Roy Barnes asked Senate and House leaders on Friday to end the session.
The Senate voted for permanent adjournment Friday night, but the House voted down the adjournment resolution. A majority vote of each house is required to pass the resolution.
The House has set 1 p.m. Wednesday as the time its members will return to session.
The Senate has not set a time to come back. Mr. Sutton said Lt. Gov. Taylor will not bring members back to session on Wednesday.
By the close of business Monday, House and Senate conference committee members had not set a time for another meeting.
On Sept. 12, conferees began meeting to try to work out a plan that would define the boundaries and populations for the 13 U.S. House districts Georgia will have during the next decade.
The conferees continued to have differences when they last met Friday night.
Lt. Gov. Taylor said House and Senate members could "work informally" on a congressional plan until the General Assembly convenes its regular session in January.
"I think there's a possibility we can have a plan that will pass on the first day of next year's session," Lt. Gov. Taylor said.
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said lawmakers should end the session, because the terrorist crisis facing America is a far greater concern at this time.
"It's sad that we got nowhere in a session that's gone on this long," he said.
The special session on legislative reapportionment began Aug. 1 and ended Aug. 17. The congressional redistricting session began Aug. 22.
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, said the General Assembly has a duty to pass a plan.
He said the General Assembly is at an impasse because Gov. Barnes wants lawmakers to pass one plan, while House Speaker Thomas Murphy, D-Bremen, wants them to pass another.
"It's sad to have this put in the hands of two people," he said.
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Some lawmakers, frustrated with failed attempts to approve a new congressional map, said Saturday that legislators need a break from the job and perhaps it should be handed over to the courts.
''At this point, I'd like to see the courts draw up the plan, since it seems we can't agree. There are just too many chiefs trying to draw the lines,'' said Rep. George DeLoach, R-Hephzibah.
Lawmakers, legislative staffers and other longtime observers at the Capitol were stunned Friday night when the Senate abruptly voted unilaterally to adjourn a congressional redistricting session that had dragged on for nearly a month.
A few minutes later, a defiant House voted to come back Wednesday to take another stab at drawing a new congressional map for Georgia.
Though House and Senate members blame each other and both groups blame Gov. Roy Barnes for interfering with the resolution process, some say Democrats failed to unite their majority behind a common plan.
But Rep. Ben Allen, D-Augusta, who is making plans to run for a proposed Augusta-based congressional seat, said the spat is simply Democrats being Democrats. '
'It just shows we're a party of a number of factions,'' he said. ''That's always been a strong point for our party.''
The General Assembly redraws congressional districts every 10 years to reflect census population patterns. The Senate and the House previously approved separate versions of a new map, but have yet to approve a compromise version both factions can live with.
If the Legislature does not reconvene or does not address the map in January, federal judges would draw the map.
Rep. Alberta Anderson, D-Waynesboro, said she left Friday's session around 5 p.m. after getting a sense that the day would not be fruitful.
''It's just ridiculous,'' Mrs. Anderson said. ''I wish the courts would just go ahead and decide on this. My constituents need me more at home than up there (in Atlanta).
''I have neighbors who are on fixed incomes; children who are hungry in my community, and we're worried about a map? Come on!''
Sen. Don Cheeks said he didn't get home until after 1 a.m. Saturday.
Mr. Cheeks, who represents District 23, said the legislators need a break from the process.
''If you've had two weeks and several recesses to get the job done, maybe a month or two will let cooler heads prevail.''
Worn down by nearly two weeks of gridlock and distracted by concerns over the nation's prelude to war, the state Senate gave up on drawing a new congressional map late Friday and went home.
The move effectively ended the General Assembly's redistricting session, although the House voted shortly after 11 p.m. to return next Wednesday, leaving the fate of the process in confusion.
With harsh words for colleagues in their own party, Democrats disagreed over how close they were to agreeing on a plan.
The Legislature is now faced with either reconvening in another special session or taking up the map again when their regular session convenes in January. If they do neither, federal judges would draw the map.
The General Assembly redraws congressional district lines every 10 years, reflecting shifting population patterns that turn up in the census. Georgia has had 11 congressional districts for the past decade, but the number will increase to 13 starting with the 2002 elections because of the state's rapid growth during the 1990s.
The Senate and the House had approved different versions of a new map. A conference committee, made up of three senators and three House members, had been meeting since early last week to combine the two. But in the final hours, several sticking points remained.
Among them were whether Athens should be placed in a strong Democratic district stretching to Augusta and Savannah or anchor a more conservative northeast Georgia district.
Several lawmakers said Gov. Roy Barnes was unhappy with a plan that would split Cobb County, his home, into four different districts. And House Speaker Tom Murphy's insistence on drawing a northwest Georgia district that would hurt incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Barr siphoned off votes from supporters of Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Democrat whose southwest Georgia district would have become more Republican as a result.
Democratic leaders, who had guided the mostly closed-door process, turned their blame on one another as it became clear no consensus would be reached.
Mr. Taylor blamed ''people of my own party, people in the House, people in the executive branch,'' - the last an apparent reference to Mr. Barnes.
Mr. Murphy's comments aimed toward the governor, who left the Capitol at about 9:30 p.m. to attend to business elsewhere, were more pointed.
''It's a shame and disgrace that some people have mettled in the business of the General Assembly way beyond what's ever been done in my 41 years in this body,'' Mr. Murphy said. ''I think it was wrong, and I think there will be repercussions from it.''
On Friday afternoon, the governor sent a letter to both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Murphy saying the session had lasted too long and calling on them to vote on a map by midnight or adjourn.
''As the events of the past week and a half have made abundantly clear, we have far more important problems to deal with,'' Mr. Barnes wrote.
But critics said the letter appeared to be an attempt to shake off the blame after a session in which many say Mr. Barnes was actively involved in drawing maps that maximized Democratic gains.
''That's as hypocritical as they come,'' said Senate Republican Leader Eric Johnson of Savannah. ''The governor's fingerprints were all over the political tone of this session.''
While Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, the Republican minority in both was much larger than during redistricting sessions in 1981 and 1991. As a result, Democrats were forced to try to draw maps that didn't alienate significant pockets of their own party.
For example, there are 32 Democrats in the Senate, where 29 votes are needed for a majority.
''We were each other's opposition,'' said Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. ''Regionalism, some race and personalities - it was all those things and more.''
For the second consecutive day since returning to the Capitol from a weeklong recess, rank-and-file lawmakers cooled their heels for much of Friday, anxious for progress among their conferees.
Republicans had been more willing than Democrats to give up, go home and let federal judges draw the congressional map instead, as they did in the mid-1990s when the General Assembly failed to agree on a plan.
Presumably, any map drawn by judges would be less politically damaging to GOP members of Congress than a plan put together by Democrats, who control both legislative chambers.
''Our country is at war ... and we're in here arguing over half a point of Democratic performance on a map or what specific candidate is going to run in what district,'' said House Republican leader Lynn Westmoreland of Sharpsburg. ''I think we ought to be ashamed.''
Mr. Taylor acknowledged that last Tuesday's terrorist attacks and the ensuing preparations for war made the hardball politics of redistricting hard to stomach for many lawmakers.''Every member of the Senate, and every member of the House I've talked to ... has been traumatized,'' he said. ''It is a very difficult environment to work in.''
An apparent deal between the state House and Senate over congressional redistricting dissolved late Thursday night following 15 hours of sporadic negotiations.
State senators stormed out of the meeting room at 11:15 p.m., claiming the House was not negotiating in good faith.
"I don't know whether we're playing hide-the-ball, racquetball, or kickball, or whatever," said Sen. Robert Brown (D-Macon). "Where is the agreement?"
The disagreement threatened hopes for ending the special session, which cannot come quickly enough for some members, who left their jobs and families to draw new districts for the state House and Senate.
Lawmakers took a few days off after that process and returned Aug. 22 to discover that Gov. Roy Barnes had sent those maps back for more work. Lawmakers also faced a host of other thorny issues, including a ban on video poker, that Barnes included in the call for the second session.
Working late into Thursday evening, the joint House-Senate committee appeared to have settled on a congressional plan. It would create six districts favorable to Democrats, six tilted to Republicans and one a tossup. It includes an oddly shaped 13th District that runs around the outside of I-285 and juts into 11 counties.
Republicans were not happy that Democrats seemed to draw lines to help various Democrats win a congressional election. "These districts need to be won on issues and not predetermined candidates," said House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg).
The potential compromise appeared to satisfy key concerns of House Speaker Tom Murphy and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who is president of the Senate. The differences appeared so great at some points that conferees seemed deadlocked, raising the specter of having federal judges draw a congressional map, as happened in 1995.
Seemingly, Murphy had won the creation of a new district in Middle Georgia and held fast to his demand to draw U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) out of his district, which starts in Cobb County and covers northwest Georgia along the Alabama border.
Taylor, of Albany, seemed to have prevailed in his effort to keep three congressional districts in South Georgia. Taylor also pressed hard to create as many Democratic districts as possible, a move that at some points threatened Murphy's demand for a Middle Georgia seat.
The Legislatureís special redistricting session already has cost Georgia taxpayers $1 million, and it isnít over yet.
State lawmakers left the Capitol on Friday with no agreement in sight on new congressional districts. As the process drags into its eighth week, some Republicans again are complaining the Democrats are wasting taxpayer money.
ìItís just a big game played at the expense of the people,î said Linda Hamrick, redistricting director for the state Republican Party.
Legislators must meet after every census and redraw legislative and congressional districts to make sure they all have about the same number of people. The process is inherently partisan because lawmakers want to draw districts that will best help their party win elections.
Lawmakers are paid an allowance for each day theyíre required to be in Atlanta, but they donít get any money added to their $16,200 annual salary. The daily allowance is $128 for food and lodging, plus the lawmakers get reimbursed 28 cents a mile for one round-trip visit home every week.
Both houses of the Legislature have met 23 days this summer, at a cost of about $40,000 to $45,000 a day, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. The only days counted are when the full House or Senate convenes, not when committees meet. Legislators are not paid for days they donít meet or if theyíre counted absent.
Republicans are angry because the redistricting sessions this summer have lasted longer than similar sessions in the past. Ten years ago, the session lasted from Aug. 19 to Sept. 5. Redistricting took slightly longer in 1981, but still was shorter than this yearís promises to be.
ìThereís a group of legislators who just like being in Atlanta,î said Senate Republican Leader Eric Johnson, who spent Friday in his Savannah office. ìThey like the per diem. They like being in session. Thatís their life. This should not have taken nearly as long as it has.î
Democrats countered that redistricting takes time because itís so important. As a committee met last week to iron out House and Senate differences in congressional maps, Democratic negotiators said they kept in mind how tenuous the party balance is.
ìWhat we are doing could affect the leadership in the nation. We canít willy-nilly draw these districts,î said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Walker.
The six negotiators also have to tread cautiously because if both houses donít approve their comprise, the maps will be drawn by the courts, not legislators.
ìThe No. 1 thing is youíve got to pass this in each body,î said Democratic Rep. Bob Hanner, a conference committee negotiator. ìAnd it was so close last time, we donít have any votes to lose. Thatís why it takes a long time. Weíd rather draw it than have the courts do it for us.î
Committee members planned to resume talks Tuesday and hoped to have a compromise ready Thursday, when lawmakers return for the 24th day of redistricting session. Johnson said legislators may decide to go home next week ìwith or without a map.î
ìThis is growing frustration this thing has taken so long,î he said. ìThere are people saying, ëMy business is suffering. My wife is upset. I havenít seen my kid play soccer in six weeks. Letís give it up and go home.îí
The Legislatureís effort to draw new congressional districts for Georgia has come down to six men working to find a compromise between separate maps drawn by the House and Senate.
As usual, all six of the negotiators are Democrats. Whatís different this time is that half of them are black. One of them is Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, a lawmaker since 1975 and now the highest-ranking black in the House.
ìI think itís a sign of the times,î said Smyre, who chairs both the Rules Committee, which determines whether legislation reach the House floor for a vote, and the House Democratic Caucus. ìI think it shows that opportunity exists and that weíre mostly at the table now, not looking at it through a knothole outside.î
Another negotiator is Sen. Charles Walker of Augusta, Senate Democratic leader and the highest ranking black in that chamber.
ìI think itís very significant. Itís never happened before. But I donít think it should be overplayed,î Walker said.
ìThe fact of the matter is, the people on this conference committee are there because of their positions. Once you get in a position [of power] then certain things will happen automatically.î
The other black negotiator is Sen. Robert Brown of Macon, vice chairman of the Senate redistricting committee.
University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said the extraordinary influence that black lawmakers wield on the negotiating committee points to their increasing clout in the General Assembly.
Republican gains in the 1990s whittled the Democratic majority in both chambers. The math is such that when black and white Democrats split, their majority evaporates.
Presumably, black negotiators at the conference table will help ensure that the final map is one which black Democrats can support.
But at least one black Atlanta senator says heíll never vote for any plan drawn by the current conference committee. Sen. David Scottís argument has nothing to do with how many black lawmakers are at the negotiating table, but rather how many metro Atlanta lawmakers are there.
The answer: none. All the negotiators are from central and south Georgia.
ìItís time people in Atlanta stopped taking this,î said Scott, a Democrat from Atlanta.
Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who is black, also has complained of metro Atlantaís lack of influence at the table.
Senate negotiators contend the Atlantans will be happy with the final plan, but if four Democrats vote against the plan, negotiators will have to go back to the drawing board. Democrats can lose three votes and wield a majority in the Senate, but not four.
Whatever the final version of the plan, some think there may be a legal advantage to having a strong representation of blacks on the conference committee. They think the Justice Department may take note of that when it reviews Georgiaís plan to ensure the proposal does not dilute black voting strength.
ìIn the past, part of the objection has been that it looked like plans were not devised in an environment in which minorities could have input,î said Bullock. ìHere, youíve got some very visible and widely recognized leaders there at the table.î
ìIt plays in our favor,î said Walker, the Senate Democratic leader.
Smyre, the House Rules Chairman, agreed: ìIt gives us a leg up.î