Map Approvals Ensure Republican Majorities

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Late last Friday, on the eve of Christmas Eve, the Department of Justice quietly approved Georgia’s newly redrawn Congressional and State House and Senate maps. Thus, the legal voice of the Obama administration has chosen not to object to the Republican drawn maps, nor to codify arguments made by Georgia Democrats that the process was inherently unfair, illegal, or discriminatory based on race.

The way announcements are made in Washington says a lot about the message that an administration is attempting to make – or to hide. The announcement was made just before 5pm leading into a long holiday weekend. Most of us were frantically looking for final Christmas gifts or engaging in holiday related travel. Many of us likely skipped the entire weekend news cycle.

For those of us that didn’t avoid news Friday, the DOJ primed the pump hours before the Georgia decision with notice that it would object to South Carolina’s voter ID law. This ensured that the message from a Democratically controlled DOJ would not be that it chose not to battle in Georgia, but that it was actively opposing a Republican backed measure in South Carolina to ensure that those who show up to polling places are actually who they say they are. South Carolina will likely contest the DOJ’s decision.

Back in Georgia, the DOJ decision likely ends the once in a decade process of redistricting which is among the most divisive in politics. Though court challenges may still occur from individuals, the lack of an objection from the DOJ removes the largest legal obstacle to implementation of the new maps for the 2012 elections.

Republican political consultant Mark Rountree estimates the new maps will give Georgia a constitutional majority in both the House and Senate, with at least 2/3 of each body held by Republicans. He estimates 122 of 180 Georgia House seats will be held by Republicans, while 37 of Georgia’s 56 Senate seats maintained by the GOP. In Congress, John Barrow’s 12th district will see the largest change, with the district now drawn to heavily favor a Republican challenger.

The officials elected from these new maps will most likely reflect the new racial realities of Georgia politics. Using Rountree’s estimates, the number of elected white Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly will likely be measured in the teens. Should the power of incumbency not outweigh the partisan math of the redrawn 12th district, Georgia’s Congressional delegation will be composed of 10 Caucasian Republicans and 4 African American Democrats. The coalition of urban African American and rural white Democrats which ruled Georgia for decades is now officially a relic of history.

This transition was exacerbated by several mostly rural white Democrats switching to the Republican Party in advance of the redistricting session. Salt was poured into this wound when Rep Doug McKillip, recently elected Minority caucus chairman, bolted from the Democrats to join the GOP. The raw irritation of remaining Democrats was conveyed during many floor speeches during the August special session, where frequent cries of racism marked a stark break from an air of cooperation that had existed between both parties in the House during the prior session.

With Democrats having no immediate path to majority status in the near future, they will need to develop a strategy for relevance and influence. In doing so, they may wish to consider a strategy similar to that employed by Republicans during the 80’s and 90’s, where Republicans formed coalitions with urban African American Democrats against rural Democrats to make occasional gains. Ironically, it was that coalition which has resulted in the maps and majorities we have today.

Despite the ongoing myth that there are “Two Georgias”, the members of the General Assembly reflect that there are effectively three: Urban Democrats, Suburban Republicans, and Rural Republicans. Senate Democrats had some success in stalling reforms to the HOPE Scholarship by aligning with Rural Republicans against the wishes of leadership and the Governor. More coalitions should be expected on an issue by issue basis, with Democrats aligning with suburban Republicans on issues which may involve transportation and other regional issues, while aligning with rural Republicans when income disparity issues can be exploited.

The outlook for the next decade in the General Assembly has now been drawn. The issues and what ultimately passes for the Governor’s signature will ultimately be framed by how Democrats choose to use their minority status. Unlike the decision from the justice department, it is unlikely that their opinions will be released quietly late on pre-holiday Friday afternoons. Whether they choose to be the loyal opposition, or exploit differences within the Republican supermajority by forming temporary coalitions will ultimately determine their relevance.


  1. “With Democrats having no immediate path to majority status in the near future, they will need to develop a strategy for relevance and influence. In doing so, they may wish to consider a strategy similar to that employed by Republicans during the 80’s and 90’s, where Republicans formed coalitions with urban African American Democrats against rural Democrats to make occasional gains. Ironically, it was that coalition which has resulted in the maps and majorities we have today.”

    That sounds like a good strategy for a third party too.. With the R party (mostly led by former democrats) in firm control of the state, the old argument about wasting votes by voting for someone in a third party is basically nullified. The libertarians need to make alliances with social liberals, hippies, drug legalization advocates, etc. who hold similar values and give Georgia some options again other than the party of Cagle, Deal, Mullis, and Ralston.

    — LU

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      You left out folks who care about environment……..we are not radicals but do not want our rivers destroyed thru lake reservoirs intended for real estate development. Look at Jay Bookmans column today for a taste of what is to become of our state with these folks agenda.

      Lake reservoirs is a taxpayers rip off and does not solve any problems.
      We are the little guys out here that are tired of the Perdue now Deal insiders robbing us.
      This is a large group not just the few mentioned above.
      GA needs to clean house and running on their record is going to be tough as it stinks.

  2. drjay says:

    not to be a doomsayer for thr gop or anything like that, and i may be overstating the potential effect, but i have been under the impression the rapidly changing demographics of once gop stalwart areas like gwinnett and cobb are such that the dems will be in play in several of those districts in as soon as maybe the cycle after next…

    • Charlie says:

      I would agree, and I’m sure Huttman will be around eventually to provide some actual numbers. I don’t know that a super-majority can be maintained for the full decade, but I doubt the Dems will approach a majority in either the State House or Senate until after the next redistricting at least.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Maybe, just maybe, the GOP wouldn’t have to worry about the Dems eventually gaining on them and taking back the Statehouse and/or the Senate if they did a much better job of governing the state, you know, like the job that the voters actually expected them to do when they elected them?

        Republicans who, even without a Constitutional majority, still DOMINATE the Georgia General Assembly and state government, worrying about nearly-extinct Dems, possibly, maybe, eventually, encroaching on total GOP control of the State Legislature is sort of like Michael McDonald sitting on the far, far, FAR opposite side of a huge warehouse and screaming in fear that a ridiculously slow-moving steamroller is going to crush him in one of those farsical Austin Powers’ movies.

        In the case of Georgia Legislative Republicans, that slow-moving steamroller is sitting completely still and is being driven absolutely nowhere anytime soon by an almost totally hapless Georgia Democrat Party.

        A far-off and, at this time, completely improbable encroachment of a state Democrat Party in the deep, dark throws of an unforgiving political death grip wouldn’t even be an issue if Georgia Legislative Republicans had even the most remote slightest intentions of governing and managing this state competently moving forward.

        Just the fact that state political pundits and moderate voters and even conservative voters are even having to spectulate about the possible eventual rise of a state Democrat Party that is on political life-support unfortunately says a lot about how effectively everyone fully expects the Georgia GOP to govern (or not govern) this state.

  3. seekingtounderstand says:

    Charlie… are you tired of them expanding the Toll Authority and Hot lanes, Capcos, taxing food to give corporations tax relief, Republican style illegal worker welfare plantations, Lt. Gov. with his own car and driver with nothing to do but campaign full time? GA is highest ranking in home foreclosures and bank failures and the lowest in school graduation rates………….
    Republicans didn’t balance our budget and local governments will be raising taxes to off set falling home prices. T-SPLOSTS, and Splosts money which has spent our county into financial peril.
    Giving unqualified county commissioners the ablililty to waste millions on managing splost money for which they waste it or mismanage it……………shows GA needs a change.

  4. Based on existing political and demographic trajectory, the GOP would keep a “constitutional majority” in 2014 because, traditionally, demographics favor the GOP more in off-year elections. However, if the Governor were to become unpopular, or a national Democratic wave were to occur in 2014 (possible if the GOP picks up the triumvirate in 2012 — House/Senate/President), this could change.

    My prediction is that, assuming the GOP can win the constitutional majority in 2012, 2016 would be the year that the Democrats would likely pull the GOP back below a constitutional majority.

    (The-Trite-and-Obvious-Disclaimer-Everybody-Always-Wants™: we all already know: 2012, 2014 and 2016 is a long, long away and anything can happen, no one knows. It’s just a well-researched projection.)

  5. Yes, Dr. Jay, Cobb and Gwinnett have become more Democratic, but are still Republican. It will be instructive to see how the economic disaster we’ve all faced for the past four years plays out politically: some analysts believe it has actually slowed Democratic growth into the suburbs of Atlanta due to the loss of so many homes, particularly negatively affecting minorities. We shall see.

    Either way, Cobb and Gwinnett are decidedly more competitive than ten years ago, and have been pretty consistently moving that way (McCain only carried 54% in Gwinnett in ’08 for example).

    The Democrats will likely become more competitive in statewide elections based on demographics alone. However, similar to what the GOP is currently facing in the Presidential Preference Primaries, they do not have a candidate who can politically congeal the Party. Further, they don’t have a candidate on the horizon who can raise enough money to win and overcome the GOP political structure (such as Parties, political groups, Board appointments, local elected officials, donor base, etc) to win unless the GOP implodes. That’s just not on the horizon right now.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    The question is, will the GOP govern better with super-majorities or not?

    Or is the absence of a discussion because of a foregone conclusion that the GOP will govern better with super-majorities? If it’s foregone the GOP will govern better, what issues of the past few sessions were Dems detrimental to the GOP agenda?

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “The question is, will the GOP govern better with super-majorities or not?”

    If the way that the GOP has governed this state over the past nine years is any indication, the answer is, unfortunately, pretty obvious.

  8. cheapseats says:

    A lot of voters switched parties because they were tired of paying too much and getting nothing in return.

    Now, we’re still paying too much and we’re still getting nothing in return.

    It’s not about party or ideology, it’s about results.

    I didn’t switch parties – I said the equivalent of “a pox on both their houses”. Dems are spineless and inept. Republicans are bold, fearless, and inept. Dems putz about wondering if they’re doing the right thing and end up doing nothing; Republicans don’t waste any time wondering – they just leap forward with their agenda without thinking about the consequences at all. Georgia has been poorly served by both parties because they are basically the same old guys with different jerseys.

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