Political Notes – Will Broun run in a new district?

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One of consequences of the new congressional redistricting map that legislators will soon be adopting could be a significant shakeup in the race for the new open seat in northeast Georgia.

As was reported a couple of days ago, the new map takes 10 staunchly conservative counties in Georgia’s northeast corner, which are now part of Rep. Paul Broun’s 10th District, and moves them into the new “open” district centered around Hall County (which is numbered the 9th District).

Broun not only loses those 10 GOP-leaning counties that were the core of his support, his home county of Athens-Clarke County is split in two (part of it moves to the “new” 9th District) and parts of Columbia and Richmond counties are shifted to the 12th District.

Someone is obviously trying to send a message to Broun that he is not very popular with the Republican leadership that signed off on these new congressional maps.  The question is, what will Broun do to respond to that message?

Charlie Harper, who now runs the GOP website known as Peach Pundit, speculates that Broun just may decide to run for another term in that redesigned 9th District, which now includes much of the voter base that gave him his upset victory over Jim Whitehead in the 2007 special election.

Harper writes:

Upon quick inspection, it appears that more of Broun’s voters live in the new 9th district than the re-drawn 10th for which he is the presumed incumbent candidate.

With Hall County having been presumed to be the anchor of a new Congressional district since the end of the 2010 elections, local candidates have already been testing the waters and forming exploratory committees. State Rep Doug Collins and radio host Martha Zoller have already been building campaign teams for the expected district, thus dividing the home turf of Hall among two candidates. Broun, meanwhile, has already represented the vast majority of the remaining 9th district, including areas where he receives his strongest support.

In a late request for comment yesterday, Broun’s press secretary responded to a question clarifying under which district Broun intends to run from with the following: “Congressman Broun will release a statement regarding changes to Georgia’s Congressional map at a later time. He is currently with a Congressional delegation visiting Israel and has not yet had an opportunity to review this proposal.”

Hall County has been given their 9th Congressional district back. But if the proposed maps pass as drawn, they may very well stand a good chance of being represented by Congressman Paul Broun of Athens.

Needless to say, Broun’s entry into that 9th District race would make it the most entertaining of next year’s congressional primaries by far.

Another consequence of the new congressional district boundaries can be seen in Columbus, where the person who now represents that area on the State Transportation Board is retired banker Sam Wellborn.

Tim Chitwood of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that Wellborn, who holds the 3rd Congressional District seat on the DOT board, would be moved into the 2nd Congressional District under the new map, which would require him to leave the board:

Besides the precinct changes, the proposed border would move Columbus’ representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board, former bank president Sam Wellborn, into Bishop’s District 2. Board members represent specific congressional districts, and Wellborn currently represents District 3.

Worries that Columbus could lose a crucial seat on the transportation board and that voters might not care for the precinct shifts have some legislators wondering if the proposed district line can be moved back to near where it is now, said state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus.

State Rep. Richard Smith of Columbus, who serves on the House redistricting committee, said redrawing the line again could be a challenge, in the case of Bishop’s district, because under the federal Voting Rights Act that protects African-American and other minorities’ voting strength, District 2 has to maintain essentially the same demographics, yet expand to gain population.

A deal for Deal?

Gov. Nathan Deal still doesn’t like how the state House map splits up his home base of Hall County, but no changes were made to the House plan when the Senate adopted it on Tuesday and sent it to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Speaker David Ralston said in an interview with Georgia Public Radio’s Jeanne Bonner that the Hall County matter can be addressed during the regular legislative session that convenes in January:

House Speaker David Ralston says he’s promised the Governor that the legislature will amend the map to reduce the number of representatives.

“You know Hall County has grown in population. When a county grows in population, obviously you’re going to have more representatives,” The Blue Ridge Republican said. “The county is going to be divided up more ways. But I do understand his concerns and I have made a commitment to him that we are going to work with him and make sure that does get fixed.”

Hall County won’t lose the three representatives it has now but Ralston said the new number will likely be somewhere between three and seven. He says the change may be implemented during the special session or in January when the legislature reconvenes.

Whether those Hall County changes actually get made next winter remains to be seen, but one veteran lobbyist sounded a little skeptical.

“These are nothing more than the stories told by winners to get potential losers to go along with them, and while a few changes may come in the next session, it is quite apparent that the leaders of both chambers are perfectly happy with these maps and they are going to stick with them until some federal authority says they have to give them up,” he commented.

Praise for Thurmond

Michael Thurmond is no longer Georgia’s labor commissioner (he’s now with the Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer law firm), but the “Georgia Works” program he implemented in 2003 to try to help unemployed people find jobs is still drawing praise.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article earlier this week reporting that the Obama administration may even model a federal jobs program after the Thurmond initiative:

Georgia Works, which is voluntary, was created in 2003. Through July, more than 16,500 companies and 32,266 people have participated. Of the 23,084 people who completed the program, 24% were hired by the employer that trained the person. More than 60% found work somewhere.

Michael Thurmond, the former Georgia labor commissioner who created the program, said he has received inquiries from 33 states looking to replicate it.

“Employers are so risk-averse now, and because profit margins are so thin, the biggest mistake you can make is to make a bad hiring decision. This reduces the risk and lowers the cost of hiring new workers,” said Mr. Thurmond, who now works at an Atlanta law firm.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: 10th District , 9th District , congressional redistricting , DOT board , Michael Thurmond , Paul Broun , Sam Wellborn