Originally created 01/10/01

Norwood: Split would have perks



Augusta may get split during the upcoming congressional redistricting, but that may not be such a bad thing, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood said.

Mr. Norwood also spoke about the incoming Bush administration Tuesday at Business @ Breakfast, put on by the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Because Democrats dominate the Georgia Legislature, they will control how the state's congressional districts are redrawn during a special session this summer. Because its population shot up in the past decade, Georgia will add 12th and 13th congressional districts. And Mr. Norwood said he had heard Democrats in Atlanta were contemplating creating one of the two new districts around Augusta, pulling Richmond County out of his district.

"Now that concerns me a lot. I'll go to war over that," Mr. Norwood said. "But in the end, if they're serious about a 13th District being in Richmond County, there isn't but one way they can do that and achieve their goal, and that is to split Richmond County."

That district would likely reach down south and pick up part of Savannah, Mr. Norwood said. Because each district will need about 630,000 people, the district likely would have to spread west also, maybe toward Macon, said Charles Bullock, political scientist at the University of Georgia.

Splitting the county could have its advantages, Mr. Norwood said.

"If you draw this kind of district, since Richmond County puts so much population into it, you're probably talking about a Democrat from Augusta," Mr. Norwood said. "I wouldn't be against that. I could use their help when it comes to Fort Gordon or SRS or stuff like that. That just helps me get votes on the other side of the aisle for Augusta."

And while it might create a Democratic district, a plan such as that would probably get bipartisan support because it would make Mr. Norwood's and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston's bordering districts more Republican by pulling out Democratic voters, Dr. Bullock said.

"That's something that both parties might look at and say, `Yeah, we can live with this,"' Dr. Bullock said. However, other areas of the state are likely to compete for districts centered around their major cities, such as Athens, he added.

If that new district were created, Mr. Norwood's district would likely extend north to pick up Athens, he said, which would be an advantage when working on the shared biomedical interests of Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia.

Mr. Norwood also talked about the Cabinet nominees put forth by President-elect Bush, in particular Energy Secretary-nominee Spencer Abraham, a former U.S. senator.

"I like him. He's a smart, energetic, good guy," Mr. Norwood said. "He's a real conservative, big on defense. Does he know anything about energy? Probably not. But does he need to? Well, these boys from Texas know a lot about energy. Bush I think is going to be very strong in that area, as will Cheney."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.