Suburbs to soybeans: New 8th District stretches from metro Atlanta to South Georgia. Collins to let us know by June if he will run against Marshall.
The 8th Congressional District candidates want their support.
A new congressional map, drawn up this year by a Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly, puts much of the Macon metro area in a district that stretches from the outskirts of Atlanta's suburban sprawl to the farm flatlands near the Florida line.
At this early stage, when the ink is barely dry on the new map, it might not matter much to anyone but the political junkies.
The incumbent, Democrat Jim Marshall of Macon, has said he intends to seek re-election in the new district. And former congressman Mac Collins - a Butts County Republican who mounted an unsuccessful campaign last year for U.S. Senate -- has said he expects to announce in June whether he will seek the 8th District seat.
The District 8 representative will serve a diverse territory, from affluent Newton County - where suburbanites enjoy lunchtime jazz concerts on the town square, and the median household income is $45,180 - to Turner County, where one out of four people lives below the poverty line.
It includes counties like Bibb, with 2003 retail sales of more than $2 billion, and Colquitt, which topped the district's row-crop production that year with $65.4 million sales.
Professor Mike Digby, chair of the department of government and sociology at Georgia College & State University, said the hardest hit [with the redistricting map is Democrat] John Barrow of Athens. He is moved out of the 12th District that elected him and placed in the new 10th District now served by popular Republican incumbent Charlie Norwood of Augusta.
Marshall's prospects may be much better, Digby said. Although Marshall will see his district's black voting age population drop from 37 percent to about 30 percent - and black voters tend to vote Democratic - he still serves a population that is heavily weighted toward his Macon stronghold.
Taken together, the population of Bibb, Houston and Laurens counties makes up nearly half the district.
"The only three counties that are somewhat metropolitan are Newton, Butts and Jasper, and Jasper is quite small," Digby said. "Collins' home county of Butts (County) is only 3 percent of the population."
But Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Marshall faces challenges in the new district. The new territory does lean a bit more Republican than the old 3rd District.
"(It) does make Jim Marshall's future less certain," Bullock said in an e-mail from South Korea, where he is teaching this month. Bullock said the loss of black voters puts the district at "the upper limit of what increasingly the GOP dominates" in Georgia.
He added, "(M)uch of the district is new and in those areas, Marshall lacks the advantages of incumbency. He has not run in those areas and has not provided casework service to those constituents."
(5-22-05, The Macon Telegraph.)