The congressional redistricting plan enacted last week by the Republican-controlled state legislature in Georgia and signed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, is a case in point for why Republicans should retain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives—no matter what happens in the presidential contest at the time of the ballot.
In state after state where Republicans control the local legislature as well as the governorship, they have played hardball in the redistricting of congressional seats. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, Democratic congressional districts were merged, diluted in terms of Democratic strength, or eliminated outright. The result will almost certainly be a net gain for Republican ranks in the U.S. House.
The same has happened in Georgia, whose U.S. House delegation will grow from 13 to 14 Members thanks to the 2010 census. The chief victim of the redrawing of the congressional district lines is Rep. John Barrow, the last white Democratic House Member from the Deep South.
“John Barrow is a walking dead man politically,” Phil Kent, former Editorial Page Editor of the Augusta Chronicle, told HUMAN EVENTS last week. “With the Republican parts of Augusta and Columbia County added to the 12th District he represents, any Republican will win.”
The Peach State’s newest district was created in North Georgia and is considered a safely Republican one. State Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of Gov. Deal, has already announced for the new district. An intriguing prospect for the seat is popular radio talk show host Martha Zoller, who is well-known for securing some high-powered guests on her program. Should Zoller run, one of the more interesting stories in Georgia will surely be whether, like Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.), she can transfer the fervent following she has on the airwaves to the voting booth.
While some fans of conservative Republican Rep. Tom Graves grumble that Gilmer County (which he has never before represented) has been added to his district, the freshman lawmaker appears in strong shape for 2012. Moreover, Rep. Phil Gingery, who represents the suburbs of northwest Atlanta, had his 11th District reconfigured into the city of Atlanta. This will mean physician-congressman Gingery will become the first Republican to represent parts of the city of Atlanta since Fletcher Thompson, who served in the House from 1966-72 and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in ’72. (A stalwart conservative like Gingery, Thompson also campaigned hard among Atlanta’s black community, appointed blacks to his staff and to West Point, and also did well with African American voters).
Are Democrats playing political hardball in states where they control legislatures and governorships? Sure. New plans for districts in California and Illinois are likely to cost Republicans some House seats. But thanks to the work they did in races for the legislatures and governorships last year, there are more states in which Republicans control the “works.” That means a likely net gain in the redistricting process for Republicans—and, in all likelihood, a Republican majority in the House in 2012.