Originally created 03/27/04

Map reflects new terrain

When the landscape shifts significantly, it's time to make changes to your map.

That's certainly the case with the Georgia General Assembly - the makeup of which has not kept up with the roiling political landscape of the Peach State.

Despite the fact that Georgia's largely conservative electorate has been abandoned by an increasingly liberal Democratic Party, Democrats were in control of the ship of state from Reconstruction until just two years ago when the Senate shifted to the Republican side.

Even so, Democrats were hoping to cling to power through legislative district maps drawn in 2001 to minimize Republican numbers in the General Assembly. That cynical effort was declared unconstitutional by the courts, which finalized new, fairer and more politically accurate maps this past week.

Because of that, it's quite possible the GOP will not only hold on to its slim 30-26 lead in the state Senate this November, but may go a long way toward eliminating Democrats' 108-71 lead in the House.

If so, it will be because voters choose it.

Up to this point, they haven't gotten that kind of choice.

All over the country, but especially in the South, the Democratic Party has abandoned moderate and conservative voters. It was only a matter of time before that fact started showing up in the Georgia Assembly.

Thanks to the ascension of GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2002 - and Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes' self-immolation over the flag and education - the timetable for real representative government in Georgia was greatly accelerated.

The new legislative districts have done the same thing.

Of course, when the landscape shakes like this, there's bound to be collateral damage.

Despite the fact that they probably shouldn't have, the courts took into account some of the damage their new maps would do to incumbent lawmakers. Thus, changes were made to reduce the number of incumbents who were forced into running against other incumbents from 87 to 48.

In Augusta, the result is that two of the area's most powerful forces are on a collision course: Republican Sen. Don Cheeks and former Democratic Sen. Charles Walker, who has designs on recapturing his seat after a stunning defeat to Randy Hall in 2002.

The truth is, the political landscape already had shifted, long before these maps were redrawn. Georgians simply were more conservative than their formerly Democrat-run state government reflected.

It's nice to have a map that accurately captures the political terrain.


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